Thursday, July 21, 2016 - Our parish family celebrated the feast day of our Patroness, St. Mary Magdalene. This year we had the special blessing of having her relics present for the Vesperal Divine Liturgy.
Fr. Gabriel gave the following address to the faithful from all over the Flint communities who had gathered to come and celebrate the Divine Liturgy:
Glory be to Jesus Christ! Glory Forever!
Dearest Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we greet you on this festive occasion in honor of our Patroness, St. Mary Magdalene. She is known as the Apostle to the Apostles, Equal to the Apostles, and one of the Holy Myrrh Bearers.
That’s a lot of titles for a woman living in a time where women were not held in the same regard as the men. Yet the Church in Her wisdom, honors her with so many titles. She honors this simple sinner who went against the grain of society and became a follower of Christ.
I spoke last Saturday at Vespers about a beautiful quote from St. Philaret, which I would like to repeat to everyone this evening.
We have all seen those beautiful Alaskan photos of a rushing river with fish trying to jump the rapids to swim upstream. St. Philaret uses this image and says to us:
“A fish that is alive, always swims against the flow of water, while one that is dead, floats in the water and is carried downstream. A True Christian goes against the current of a sinful age. A false one is swept away by it’s swiftness.”
We can use this beautiful imagery to describe St. Mary Magdalene. This analogy is even more profound when we read what some Church traditions say about her early life.
There is this mistaken and unbiblical idea that Mary was a prostitute before she met Christ. But through one of the oral traditions of the Church, we learn that Mary Magdalene, at a young age, led such a chaste life. The devil thought she might be the one who would bear Christ into the world. It was for this reason that the devil put upon her seven demons to torment her and lead her into a life of sin.
We hear in St. Luke how Christ freed her from these demons; she followed him thereafter. Even at our Lord’s passion, St. Mary was not swept away by the currents of fear and denial like many of the Disciples. She openly followed Jesus to Jerusalem and was steadfast at the foot of the Cross with the Theotokos…standing by Jesus in His darkest moments.
After Christ’s Crucifixion, she continued to swim against the current of society. St. Mary took courage with the other myrrh bearing women and went to the tomb that her Lord was laid in. Because of that courage, she was given the great gift of being the first person to see the Risen Lord and announce the Resurrection. What would happen, dear brothers and sisters, if we were able to consistently swim against that stream of sin which
we find ourselves in the fallen world? The personal relationship that St. Mary Magdalene had with the Savior is one that we spend our entire lives trying to achieve. Through her life, our patroness shows us the path that we must follow. Her life shows us that no matter what wrongs we have done in our lives up until now, there is still a chance to turn things around.
Until the day which we breathe our last on this earth, we have the opportunity to do as St. Mary did…and flip the switch.
Our 21st century minds have a hard time grasping just how big of a deal it was for St. Mary to be the first person to see Christ resurrected. In that time, women were not considered credible witnesses. They were not allowed to give testimony, because only the men were considered believable. Yet to Jesus this didn’t’ matter. He trusted St. Mary to deliver the greatest news in the history of the world. He saw her love for Him at the foot of the cross where she shed tears of sorrow.
Christ saw St. Mary’s dedication to Him. When the myrrh bearing women went to the tomb, they were prepared to ask the Romans to move the stone away so that they could anoint Jesus’s body. He forsaw that Mary would travel without fear to Rome and announce the Resurrection to the capital of the Pagan Empire. Christ admired her struggle against the streams of a sinful society, and chose her to be the FIRST to see the Risen Christ!
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we have a unique situation in our Church today because we are blessed with the presence and relics of this great “switch flipper”. In our little home of Fenton, Michigan, we have a piece of the bone from the very first person to see our Lord Resurrected. This represents an undeniable and physical link to our Lord Himself and I hope that everyone present this evening takes a few moments to whisper a prayer into the ear of St. Mary Magdalene herself. Ask her to pray to God for the courage to make the changes in our own lives, allow us to struggle against the streams of sin, and come into the loving embrace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Glory Be to Jesus Christ! Glory Forever!