Commemoration of Saint Mary of Egypt

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Let us keep our Eyes on the Lord and on His Love
(Commemoration of Saint Mary of Egypt)
5th Sunday in Great Lent
5 April, 2009
Hebrews 9:11-14 ; Mark 10:32-45

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

As you know, our beloved Metropolitan Jonah expected to be here today but an emergency arose and stopped him from coming. When I was at the Holy Synod meeting last week, I told him that there was much disappointment because he was not coming to Montréal. He said : “Yes, I understand, and I also am disappointed”. He really very much wanted to come. It is a pity, too, because when he comes the next time, it will not be so relaxed and like family as this could have been. Perhaps we can pray and the Lord will provide an occasion in a year or two when we can bring him to Montréal, and we will be able to give him a good visit to this mother-city of Canada. I mean it when I say that Montréal is the mother-city of Canada because almost everything west of here comes from this city. In my opinion, Montréal is the only city in Canada that can truly call itself a “metropolis”. I say this because meter and polis are Greek words meaning “mother” and “city”.

We can see from the Metropolitan’s absence today that not even the head of the Church is able always to exercise his own will. This is because he (like all bishops) is what is called in Latin servus servorum Dei. Servus means a slave, or a servant, and servorum Dei means “of the slaves of God”. The bishop is the servant of the servants of God, and these servants of God are every Christian. In this experience, we have the application of what our Saviour is saying to us today : “Whoever of you desires to be first shall be slaves of all”. He Himself gives us His example. We will participate with Him in this in a very short time when He will wash the feet of His followers. As we heard in the Gospel reading today, the Lord is correcting the apostles who want to sit with Him on thrones in the Kingdom. The way of Christ, the way of Orthodox Christians, is the opposite of the way of the world.

In the world everything is focussed on “me”. In the way of Christ, in the Orthodox Church, everything is concerned with everyone else, and not with merely “me”. Therefore, it has always been the Orthodox Christian way to care about other people first. In the love of Jesus Christ, this is the root of our famous Orthodox hospitality. In the world, most everyone is saying : “Who is going to serve me ?” In the Orthodox Church, everyone ought to be saying : “How can I serve you ?” This is the way of Christ. This is the way of His love. It is not easy to do this. It never has been easy. This is one reason why Orthodox countries and nations are often suffering at the hands of other people. The Orthodox way may have its difficulties, but our Saviour says : “‘My yoke is easy and My burden is light’” (Matthew 11:30). If we turn to the Saviour and ask for His help in everything, He will give it. I know very many families who can recount wonderful stories about how the Saviour has met their needs. We do not have time to hear all these stories this morning, but understand that I have heard very many accounts of how the Saviour has met the needs of people who were desperate.

That is why it is important for us all to be constantly asking the Lord for help. It is not easy to be a servant, but with the Lord’s help we can do it well. If we truly want to follow in the footsteps of our Saviour, then it must be in the way of being a servant. It is possible to be a king or a queen and still to be saved, but the head that wears the crown does not sleep very well. This is because there is so much concentration on “me” in such a position. If anyone has this sort of political, secular, civil responsibility, then the focus tends to be very much on the self, the ego, the “I”. It is, therefore, death for the ruler and death for the subjects, also. On the other hand, if the ruler’s self-understanding is being a servant of the people (servant of God first, and servant of the people second), then there is life. When there is any authority at all amongst human beings, there must also be responsibility.

Let us keep our eyes on the Lord and on His love. The Lord is the Lord of Saint Mary of Egypt, too. She is a person who led a terrible, ugly, twisted life. Yet, because of His love for her, the Lord moved her heart and she did listen. She turned about, enabled by God’s love. She used to like to take people down with her into sin, and instead she became a sign of God’s love and life. Because of such a complete change in her life, Saint Mary of Egypt shows us the meaning of repentance. In the first place, she did not make the change all by herself. She made the change with God. In the second place, she turned about from darkness to light. Now, Saint Mary of Egypt is a sign of hope for you and for me, because she shows us that no matter how bad we have become, no matter how darkened our hearts have become, it is still possible to find salvation in Christ. The Lord is always with us in His love. He is always patiently waiting for us to accept His help. As in the case of Saint Mary of Egypt, He is always calling us to Himself.

When we remember Saint Mary of Egypt, let us ask her to pray for us. By her prayers may we be able to live in the Lord as she lives in the Lord. By her prayers may we be able to come to the celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection truly living a life of repentance as she did. With her and with all the saints, let us glorify the All-holy Trinity : the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.