The Church calls tomorrow’s Sunday the Sunday of the Samaritan, that is, the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman, because at the Divine Liturgy the Gospel narrative is about how our Lord Jesus Christ spoke at Jacob’s Well with the Samaritan woman, turning her to the light [of truth] and towards a good and pious life. In this moving narrative we all see, above all, a lesson for us about how careful we ought to be in judging our neighbors, and to avoid all condemning judgment of them, remembering what the Gospel tells us.
Today’s Gospel reading confirms us more and more strongly in the divinity of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
The Gospels for the last two Sundays told us about the appearances of the Risen One. They were as if filled with the light of Christ’s Resurrection: the wonderful appearances to the disciples, to Thomas, to the myrrhbearers. But today’s Gospel starts with a dismal, horrible picture: there is no brightness, no light. At the Sheep Gate there was a pool which had five porches. "In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered.... For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years" (Jn. 5:2-5).
"And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint Him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulcher at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulcher?" (Mk. 16:1-3).
Brothers and sisters! Can you imagine the state of mind these Myrrhbearing women were in? For those who lived through Soviet times in Russia and through the persecution of the Church, it is so understandable. In some churches, as in the outskirts of Kiev, this service (the Burial of the Savior) was performed at night. People made their way to such a church through dark streets. Anything could happen, you had to be careful of everything. Neighbors might hear that you went somewhere at night; and you could be stopped on the street. And the service itself in church and the carrying of the Shroud around the church could be interrupted by the authorities. One did not know if tomorrow, on Holy Saturday, this already semi-Easter Liturgy would be performed, because the priest might be arrested.
Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ!
Christ is Risen!
With what joy and even exultation, the soul of every Orthodox person responds in the victorious exclamation: Truly He is Risen! The Resurrection of Christ is the Victory over death, it is Pascha, it is the way to life everlasting, where there is neither sorrow, nor disease, nor death. Who is found in eternal joy with all the heavenly beings? All believers who seek the Truth - find it in Christ, for Christ is the Way and the Truth. Yes, the Truth is crucified, it can be denied, it is in the minority, but Truth can be defeated by no-one, by nothing - not even death. And if the Truth of Christ is in us, if we confess intact Orthodox Christianity, then we are the victors, no matter how small the last remnant of truly Orthodox Christians may seem. Remember this, beloved in Christ, brothers and sisters! And don't let the enemies of the Risen One bother you! Their days are numbered, they are "as smoke disappears, let them disappear," for our life is only one moment in a world damaged by evil. And the Pascha of the Lord opens the door to eternal life and everlasting joy. Therefore, the church hymns are overflowing with joy today: “Pascha, Lord's Pascha! Pascha, most honorable has shone for us. Pascha, we hug each other with joy. Oh, Pascha! The deliverance from sorrows, for from the tomb this day, Christ has shone forth from the hall of Christ. " Therefore I say to you again and again: Christ is Risen!
☦ Metropolitan Philaret.
We have read various discussions about the apparent lack of accord among the Gospel narrations of Christ's Resurrection. There have been a number of attempts at demonstrating a concordance among the Evangelists in this regard, but not all have been successful.
I wish to offer some considerations on the subject, and I wish to begin by mentioning the most obvious point of seeming lack of accord.
In Matthew's Gospel, we read that upon being greeted by the risen Lord with the word "rejoice," Mary of Magdala and the other Mary immediately embraced His feet. Nevertheless, we read elsewhere [John 20:11-17] that, when Mary of Magdala was weeping at the empty tomb and did not recognize Christ, but thought that He was the caretaker of the garden. When she did finally recognize Him, she was forbidden to touch Him.
"And when the centurion, who stood near Him,
saw that He so cried out and gave up the spirit, he said,
'Truly, this man was the Son of God'." (Mark 15:39).
Thus began the faith of the centurion. It is clear that this cry of Christ expressed a treasure of moral content in a spirit which the centurion understood. Such a connection between a tormenting cry of the soul and the beginning of a new grace-filled life in one who has heard it, is found repeatedly in the Holy Scripture. We will begin a survey of these places in the Scripture with the most dramatic one, found in the Book of Esdras:
I lifted my eyes, and on my right hand I saw a woman, and behold, she mourned and wept with a loud voice, and was deeply grieved in heart, and her clothes were torn, and she had ashes upon her head.
Then I let my thoughts go and turned and said to her, "Why are you weeping? Why are you so grieved in heart?"
IF ONE WISHES TO UNDERSTAND the most essential events of the earthly life of the Savior and the people that surrounded Him, in particular the events connected with His trial or with the taking of anyone into custody, it is indispensable to acquaint oneself with the seventeenth chapter of Deuteronomy. There one can recognize the following rules by which society was guided in the arrest and punishment of offenders.
Today we prayerfully and solemnly remember the Royal entrance of the King of Glory, the Lord Jesus Christ into His “royal capital,” the holy city of Jerusalem.
Noisy was the crowd of Judeans when Christ entered the city before the beginning of Passover. Millions flocked to Jerusalem during those days, and it was already overfilled with people when the ceremonious, royal greeting of the long-awaited Messiah, Savior of the world commenced.
Have you ever noticed, dear reader, that in all of Christ's parables there occurs but one proper name? If you have noticed, have you ever attempted to ascertain why the Lord calls only this Lazarus by name, while even his rival during his earthly sojourn remains under the general title of the Rich Man? Evidently, the Divine Teacher wished His followers to keep firmly in mind both the earthly and the eternal lot of poor Lazarus, although the main idea of the parable is concentrated nonetheless in the person of the Rich Man: Lazarus remains silent in the parable, while the Rich Man speaks and prays for himself and his brethren. The Savior's wish did not go unfulfilled: Lazarus has become a favorite theme in the songs of good Christians! The poor are comforted by such hymns amid their misfortunes, the hearts of the rich are turned from greed thereby, and all are taught to be mindful of death, the judgment of God, and generosity towards the poor. Yet, our problem remains unresolved. The parable of the Prodigal Son is also a favorite topic, if not for folk songs, at least for ecclesiastical hymns, and there are others as well in which mercy and repentance are extolled; but there are no proper names therein. Furthermore, in songs about Lazarus the singers do not draw inspiration from his name, but from the depictions of heaven and hades, the hardheartedness of the Rich Man on earth, and his belated repentance in hades.
"This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting (Mk. 9:29). So if you will remember, last Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Great Lent, the Gospel proclaimed to us: "This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting." What is "this kind’? If you will remember, brothers and sisters, we were told there about a youth who was possessed and sometimes fell into fire and sometimes into water, as his father said when he brought him to Christ. And Christ said, ‘This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting." This is what kind. The kind which possessed the youth and was casting him down. This unfortunate youth not only knew no rest, but not even life itself. And Christ said, "can come forth/’ This means that it was something separate. Now do we understand this or not?
Brothers, if you just open a newspaper, you will at once understand what "this kind" means. See how many people who, in a state of despair, jump into water in order to end their lives, thinking there is no eternal life. And into fire. Here you find so many who again, out of despair, throw themselves into fire, become human torches in order to burn themselves. It is the same thing: a state of insanity or despondency, or on the contrary, a state of mind which almost reaches madness — human pride. And how many people become victims of those terrible excesses of sex. How many terrible mental conditions there are in which a person commits robbery, murder, which are connected with the terrible greed for money, for power. What is this? It is precisely "this kind." We seem not to participate in it. Oh, if only we would not participate!