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Wonders of the Small Church

The small church has incredible importance and value, although it may not carry the pomp of churches in Europe and elsewhere. I have one particular small church in mind: ours.

“Saint Mary Magdalene, on the first day of the week and in the darkness of early morning, thou didst bring myrrh unto the tomb of Christ. However, the tomb had been opened and Christ was not there.
In bewilderment, thou didst run to the Apostles Peter and John, saying,
‘They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulcher, and we know not where they have laid Him.’
Whereupon everyone went forth to the tomb, saying with faith in the Almighty God: Alleluia”

These words offered in the Akathist to Mary Magdalene undeniably affirms us that death has been swallowed up by the Christ’s victorious Resurrection. On Holy Pascha we celebrate this great and final triumph where everything has been restored to its original beauty, and no one remains in the grave. Let us bask in the abundant warmth and the resplendent brightness – a night without end - that only Holy Pascha can bring and enliven.

At the epicenter of Christ’s resurrection, this explosion of love, is the person of Mary of Magdala, a small fishing town on the shore of the sea of Galilee; today we pause to reflect on Mary’s importance to the Christian faith. Mary has unfairly been the object of confusion, and at times, derision; certainly she has been mischaracterized. Mary was rejected, as was the Lord, during her earthly life. Some see her only as a person as being demon possessed (Luke 8:2), and other researchers declare that Mary was a harlot as well. As a sign of redemption perhaps, it was Mary Magdalene, and not one of his apostles, who was the first to encounter the Risen Christ. “I have seen the Lord” (John 20:11-18), she exclaims boldly and eagerly, as she shares the eternal cry of victory of life over death to the other apostles. Orthodox Christians embrace Mary as a messenger of Christ, and as an authentic evangelizer. The church does not deride her, nor does it succumb to widely held popular Western theories as to who she was, and as she is often portrayed in film and books. Nowhere is this belief stated in church hymnology, or the gospel. Church tradition only states that the Lord cast out seven demons from her. Because she was the first to proclaim the resurrection of the Lord to the entire cosmos, Mary is fittingly called in the Eastern Church as “Equal-to-the-Apostles”, and in the West, since 2016, “the Apostle of the Apostles.” Both are accurate descriptions of Mary Magdalene

Other Scriptural references speak of the importance of Mary Magdalene. The evangelists record that she followed the Lord from Galilee (Mark 15:41), financially supported Christ’s ministry (Luke 8:3) and that it was Mary who anointed the Body of Christ prior to his burial (John 12:3). Finally, in the tradition of the church, Mary continued Christ’s ministry by travelling the world preaching the Good News of love; she is, quite simply, an apostle of new hope to those who seek Him. We honor Mary Magdalene every time we perform an act of service to the church, and not seek the vanities of the world, but in faith pursue the living and Risen Christ. Any service to the church is a service to Christ, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, if it is carried out in love and steadfastness.

Let us pause to reflect that this year’s journey to Pascha has intersected with the war in Ukraine, where sadly Orthodox Christians are killing other Orthodox Christians. We grieve for the families who have lost loved ones, and for those who have been exiled into a different country. For those who have perished, we beg that our Risen Savior will grant them eternal rest in His Kingdom, inaugurated by His own death and resurrection. He has opened the tombs so that all may journey, unencumbered, into the new life, which is eternal and without end.

With love in the Resurrected Christ,

Father Marc

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