August 11, 2019

Homily on the Eighth Eothinon Gospel - John 20:11-18

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

In the Eothinon Gospel we heard today, my beloved brethren, it speaks of the appearance of the Risen Christ to Mary Magdalene, who visited the tomb of Christ at dawn, according to the description of the Evangelist John. What we notice is that she first saw the angels inside the tomb and then she saw the Risen Christ. We will examine some interesting points about these appearances.

It should be noted first of all that Mary Magdalene had a great zeal and love for Christ. Christ had expelled from her seven demons and was a pure being. What some atheist literary writers say, who attribute to Mary Magdalene sinful feelings for Christ, are blasphemous and sick, and certainly show the passionate and sick state of those who write them. Mary Magdalene was a saintly woman, she had reached a great spiritual state, and so she was made worthy to see the Risen Christ. After all, it is known that Christ appeared to those who had reached a high level of spiritual life and were able to see Him.

Her zeal and great love for Christ was expressed in her tears. The Evangelist John writes that she stood before the tomb of Christ and wept. Then she saw two angels dressed in white who asked her why she was crying. And when she told them that she was crying because they had stolen Christ and did not know where they had put Him, she turned abruptly and saw Christ Himself, who asked her why she was crying and who she was seeking. Mary Magdalene, feeling that this was the gardener of that place, asked him to tell her if he had put Christ's body elsewhere so she could go get it. And then Christ called her by her name, "Mary." She then recognized Christ and He commanded her to go and announce to His disciples that He would ascend to His Father, who is also the Father of the disciples, and to His God, who is also their God. Then Mary became an apostle of the Apostles, saying "I have seen the Lord."

The case of Mary Magdalene shows a path towards the Risen Christ, which must also become our path. This is the method followed by the saints of our Church and is indeed an experience of the Church.

The Church is a memorial of the Master, especially the Holy Altar on which is celebrated the bloodless mystagogy. Anyone who has great love for Christ and sits in the church and in the Divine Liturgy and even expresses their love with weeping, which is the weeping of repentance, because they want to gain communion with Christ, but also the weeping of love, because repentance is made in the climate of love, then they will be made worthy to see the luminous angels comfort them. Then Christ will also be there. Mary Magdalene turned at that time without anyone telling her, but she had a great attraction, a great feeling, and she saw Christ, though did not yet recognized Him, and understood Him to be a gardener. So we too will see in the Church saints, angelic people, who will comfort us, and at some point Christ, like another fiery and bright sun, will come to us and draw our attention to Himself. And just as Mary heard her name, so we also will hear our name, but through the voice was transmitted divine energy and through it she recognized Christ. But even then He will not let us touch Him, that is, He will not give us the fullness of communion with Him, because He wants to increase in us the desire for greater progress and ascension.

The Orthodox Church, my beloved brethren, is a Church of the Resurrection and a Church of the resurrected people, which is why it is a Church of surprises and experiences. Anyone who truly lives within the Church and not superficially, encounters ever-increasing surprises, spiritual ascents, bright beams of light.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.