by Fr. James C. Meena
from The Word, April 1983
On the Fifth Sunday of the Great Fast, the Orthodox Church honors the memory of Our Righteous Mother, St. Mary of Egypt, the prototype of St. Mary Magdalena who repented of her sins and became a deeply dedicated ascetic, going into the Egyptian desert and living there the rest of her life in piety and in prayer, offering prayers of repentance to Christ and of intercession for the people of the world. She is commemorated by the Church as an example for all of us. The life that is exemplified by people like St. Mary of Egypt, while carried to the ultimate of asceticism and almost a super monasticism, should be kind of a pace setter for those of us of the Orthodox Faith who usually make exceptions of things.
For example, this morning I was admonishing a young man who was talking in Church, and he asked, “What’s the difference! It isn’t important!” This seems to permeate our attitude until finally nothing seems to make a difference. It doesn’t make a difference if we fast, if we pray, if we go to Church regularly; and what’s the difference if we go to the hospital to visit the sick or simply send a fifty cent get well card or ask the relatives of the sick person, how that person is getting along. What’s the difference? The life of St. Mary of Egypt as the lives of all the great ascetics say there is a difference because these people have been glorified by God. Their memories live. Mary of Egypt lived centuries ago. The events of her life have long since been absorbed into history and yet here we are hundreds of years later talking about her because the virtue of her asceticism, the beauty of her understanding that it does make a difference in our commitment and devotion to Christ that her memory has indeed become eternal.
Now you and I don’t really care much whether the Church remembers us one hundred years down the road or not but certainly we care if God remembers us and that’s what we’re after, that we become an everlasting part of the Divine Memory. That He will inscribe our names in His Book of Life and that He will deem us worthy of receiving the gift of salvation that has been promised. But we can’t achieve that if nothing makes a difference. Giving alms to the poor, worrying about those less fortunate than ourselves, uplifting the Church, glorifying the congregation, being supportive of one another, praying for one another, loving one another. All of these things make a big difference. Above all, coming together as a community, praying together, offering and receiving the Sacraments regularly and in faith makes a difference.
The other day someone commented to me, “Hey Father, what about all these people who take Communion every time you have a Liturgy?” And I asked, “What about them?” He said, “Isn’t that a little bit much?” My reply was, “no it isn’t,” because that’s like saying, “what about these people who eat two or three times a day.” If your wife or mother prepares a meal morning, noon and night, she expects you to eat thereof. And when the people of God come together to offer up this Eucharistic sacrifice, this Lord’s Supper, the Lord expects us to partake thereof, frequently, regularly and in faith. Now there are people who have not taken the Sacraments in years.
I ask you then, what is your share in the life of the Church. Is it simply to pay dues or to come to Church picnics? No it is not that. Your primary function as members of the nation of God is to come and to partake of this Lord’s supper in faith that you might be sanctified. Out of this grows all other things. Receiving the Body and Blood of Christ strengthens us when received in faith and with repentance. Jesus said, “whosoever eats of my flesh and drinks of my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day”, (St. John 6:54). It’s quite clear and I think we ought to understand that Jesus is saying by these words, you bet your boots it does make a difference! It makes a difference if we come to confession! It makes a difference if we come to Church! It makes a difference if we receive the Sacraments! It makes a difference if we are a part of the praying, spiritual community because all of these other things that are required of us become empty vanities unless they grow out of the faithful reception of the Sacraments with understanding and with dedication.
St. Calliopios the Martyr - April 7
Thou didst blossom like an unfading rose and gladden Christ's Church by thy contest and the fragrance of thine exploits; by thy witness in the stadium thou didst share in thy Master's Passion, O blessed Calliopios.
Kontakion of St. Calliopios, Tone 3
When thy mother saw thee adorned with the sacred wounds of martyrdom in conformity to the Lord's holy Passion, her will was one with thine. Together with her entreat Christ our God to grant us His great mercy.