April 7, 2020

The Life of Saint Mary of Egypt as a Response to the Trials of the Faithful Due to the Pandemic

Human life is characterized by various fluctuations, from joys and sorrows, to optimism and despair.

Events revolve around us with dizzying speed, while we are called to stand up and manage them.

This management is very difficult, due to the large number and especially the suddenness of certain events. However, we are called upon to manage them in the best possible way, for the benefit of ourselves, our family and society as a whole.

In the effort we make, we seek some models, which will strengthen us, give us answers, convince us to keep trying.

One such model in human life is Saint Mary of Egypt.

Today, the Fifth Sunday of the fast, approaching the end of Great Lent, the pre-eminent stage of our personal struggle, our Church honors Saint Mary of Egypt as a model of repentance.

Repentance is the opportunity that we gives ourselves, acknowledging our mistakes and putting a new beginning to our life.

The life of Saint Mary is full of messages for every human being, for the monk, the priest, and the layman.

One of the greatest prostitutes on earth (so deeply immersed was she in sin) has become an eternal model of repentance. Her repentance made her worthy, from a former prostitute, to be in the choir of the virgins, in the company of the Panagia, according to wondrous visions of holy fathers.

While she had become accustomed to living in sin, she found herself in Jerusalem. As she wanted to enter the Church of the Resurrection out of curiosity, as did her other fellow travelers, some invisible force prevented her from passing through the temple door, no matter how many times she tried.

This event shocked her and, feeling for the first time her sinfulness, she promised the Panagia, after allowing her to enter the temple, to live the rest of her life in repentance.

That's how the miracle happened.

A turning point in the life of the Saint was her obstruction from entering the temple, which shook her and led her to repentance.

Is the current situation we live in with closed churches such a turning point in our lives?

Is it a turning point that God has allowed to awaken us from our spiritual slumber?

Is everything in our lives and our faith done out of habit?

Has our church attendance become a habit?

Does our participation in the mysteries of our Church take place out of habit, because we take them for granted?

Are we, perhaps, indifferent and our spiritual state is not changing?

Should we view the present situation as an opportunity for repentance, in order to draw God's grace?

What is seen in the crisis and trial that all humanity is going through today, we, although Christians, can we not set a good example to other fellow human beings, to those who do not believe or are indifferent? This test is common to all of us.

Saint Mary was shocked and she repented.

We remain hard-hearted, full of anger and rage against those who disagree with our views.

Is God's grace in angry hearts?

The Church synodically decided and calls on all its members to obey for the sake of the love of their neighbor, by abstaining from worship services, in order for the storm to pass as soon as possible.

At this stage we must obey the Church and be patient, as Saint Mary was patient in the desert.

The phenomenon of the existence of reactionaries to the decisions of the Church, who even do so with fanaticism, who sow anger and discord, proves that for some they have never been conscious of their presence within the Church.

Personal interest has always prevailed for some, as has the personal display of the so-called "good Christian", with this image remaining until egoism is affected.

The situation we are experiencing today is a unique opportunity to come to our senses, acknowledging our mistakes and passions.

By awakening the heroes from "eternal sleep", trying to touch the emotions of others, putting "prophecies" in the mouths of saints, each time adapted to the object we want to fight, we achieve nothing more than to upset our fellow people, sowing anger and confusion in their mind and heart, leading to divisions with disastrous results.

Brethren, let us remain steadfast in our faith, let us have as guarantors the Panagia and all our Saints, as Saint Mary of Egypt did. Let us put a beginning to repentance in our lives, saying that God allows temptations due to sin our lives, and let us stay away from divisions and religious fanaticism.

Let us all unite our prayers to the Merciful God, with a broken heart and not an angry one.

Anger does not suit the Christian.

Then we will truly experience true Resurrection, through the voice of the brother, who will shout to his brother full of resurrected joy and light ... Christ is Risen!

A Good Resurrection to all of you,

+ Archimandrite Bartholomew,
Abbot of Esphigmenou Monastery

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.