April 28, 2021

The Repentance of the Sinful Woman

By Metropolitan Kallinikos Karousos of Piraeus

"She who was engulfed in sin found You, the port of salvation."

The Parable of the Prodigal Son and the scene that the Church reminds us of today have the same lesson. With the difference, that in the parable the theory of repentance is expounded upon, while here we have in practice the manifestation of the compassion of the merciful God.

From the moving scene, which I will present to you, the noblewoman of Byzantium, Kassiani, was inspired and composed her wonderful hymn. Kassiani was not a sinner, as some unhistorically say. In her hymn she describes with unattainable breadth and power a scene that happened when the Lord was on earth, a scene which is the focus of today's worship service of our Church.

What was the scene and where did it unfold?

Someone named Simon invited the Lord to a meal. Not to honor Him. Not out of reverence and respect for the Master. Nor because he believed in His divine mission. But rather for reasons of show. He wanted people to see that he was hosting Him, since He was known as a great healer and teacher. And that's why his hospitality was cold. He does not wash the feet of the Lord, as they used to do to every eminent guest. He does not compliment Him. He does not show his enthusiasm for his Great Visitor.

The Lord accepted and went to Simon's house. Many other guests were there. The house was full of people, of Simon's friends, and perhaps of some who were curious.

A sinner approached the door. Everyone knew her. Everyone looked at her with contempt. It is the wayward one of the neighborhood.

The woman hesitated to enter. A struggle took place in her heart. Her legs staggered. But yes, she overcame her hesitations. She made the decision and entered.

Everyone's eyes were now on her. Some laughed sarcastically. Others were guarded so she doesn't touch them and they become unclean. While others whispered something to their neighbors. The unfortunate one trembled. She had her eyes down. Her heart was beating loudly. Her face was pale. But she moved forward. She walked towards the Master.

He looked at her full of pity, compassion and sympathy. Did not He come to earth for sinners?

The sinful woman could no longer be restrained. She started crying loudly. She defied the witty comments of the guests and knelt before the Lord. She embraced His feet and washed them with the tears of her repentance. And with the hair of her head, which she used to attract her victims, she wiped the feet of the Lord. And then she took out of her basket a vessel full of precious myrrh, which she had hidden, and poured it on the holy feet of the Lord.

The scene is unimaginably moving. The Lord accepted the repentance of the sinful woman. He forgave her and healed the wounds of her soul. "Your sins are forgiven" are His comforting words.

The others looked on with indignation. "How does He," they thought, "who comes off as a Prophet, forgive sin?"

But the Lord who knows the hearts of men taught them the proper lesson. "Simon," He says, "I came to your house. You did not give me a kiss, while this woman with contrition kissed my feet. You did not smear my head with oil, while she poured myrrh on me. You did not wash my feet, while she washed them with her tears. For this reason her many sins are forgiven her, for she loved much."

A great lesson of repentance.

We are guilty too, my brethren. Another more and another less, yet we have soiled our souls. Our garment is not white. Delusional sin has swept us away.

Do you doubt? Take an honest look at your inner world. Make a self-criticism of your actions. O! "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" cries out the Apostle James to us.

And God may have protected us from deadly falls. But even these, which we consider to be small and insignificant mistakes, create guilt before God. Guilt, which if we do not wash it away with sincere repentance can separate us eternally from the embrace of our Heavenly Father. Therefore, since we have more or less imitated the sinful woman in perversions and sins, let us also imitate her in her repentance. Our Savior is waiting for us. Do not postpone even for a moment. Since we are immersed in sin, let us find near Christ the port of salvation. So that we, too, may feel the relief that the sinful woman felt when she heard from the mouth of the Lord: "Your sins are forgiven."

Source: From the book Η Εβδομάδα των Παθών, Δ΄ έκδ., Αθήνα 1983. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.