My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
On the 22nd of July, Our Holy Orthodox Church Commemorates
the holy Myrrh-bearer and Equal-to-the-Apostles
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. First Tone
WHEN Christ God had been born for our sakes from the Virgin,
thou faithfully didst follow Him, keeping His statues and
heeding His sacred laws, O august Mary Magdalene. Hence,
as we today observe thy holy remembrance, we receive the
loosing of our sins and transgressions through thy holy
prayers for us.
Kontakion Hymn. Fourth Tone
WHEN God, the Mighty, the Transcendent in essence, came in the
flesh into the world, He received thee, O Mary, as His true disciple
as was meet. For thou hadst thy whole desire and thy love set upon
Him; wherefore, thou didst bring to pass many cures for the ailing;
and now translated to the Heavens’ heights, thou ever fervently
prayers for all the world.
Mary, the glorious Equal-to-the-Apostles, was A LIVING EXAMPLE OF FAITH, HOPE, AND LOVE, which she bore toward The Christ. She is one of our Savior’s most famous disciples, not to be confused with either the mystical Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, who anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair, or the penitent woman whose sins Jesus pardoned for anointing Him with perfumed ointment in the house of the Pharisee. There is a widespread mistaken notion that has prevailed in Western countries, saying that Mary Magdalene was a woman of bad character. Now Mary, who had come to be known as the Magdalene, was named after the city from which she hailed. She was also given this appellation to identify her among the several women named Mary in the Gospels.
Magdala of the Galilee was situated on the Lake of Gennesaret. This body of water is also known as the Sea of Galilee or the Sea of Tiberias. The place of Saint Mary’s nativity, Magdala, is mentioned only once by the Evangelist Matthew. In the parallel passage of the Evangelist Mark, this place is called Dalmanutha. Magdala was on the West shore of the Lake of Tiberias. Presently, it is probably the obscure village of el-Mejdel, about three miles northwest of Tiberias. Our Lord not only stood on the shore of this lake but also walked and sailed upon it, stilling its tempest. From among the many fishermen who plied their calling on its waters abounding in fish. Jesus chose two sets of brothers–Peter, and Andrew, and Iakovos (James) and John–to be His Disciples. He sent them forth to be "fishers of men."
With regard to the lake, we find that "subterranean fires of nature prepared a lake basin, through which a river afterward ran, keeping its waters always fresh. In this basin, a vast quantity of shellfish swarmed and multiplied to such an extent that they formed the food of an extraordinary profusion of fish. The great variety and abundance of the fish in the lake attracted to its shores a larger and more varied population than existed elsewhere in Palestine, whereby this secluded district was brought into contact with all parts of the world. This large and varied population, with access to all nations and countries, was where the Lord had His Public Ministry and where Mary of Magdala grew up.
During the time that Mary lived, Magdala, on the borders with Syria, was exceedingly wealthy with beautiful views. Mary’s father’s name was Syros. Her mother was Efharistia. They were respected and liberal with their wealth. The maiden Mary of Magdala was raised and thoroughly educated in the law and Prophets by her parents, especially her father. Though such studies were not the custom for daughters, yet, her enlightened father wished his only child, and exceptional little girl, to know her letters and her heritage. While the lass was orphaned of her parents at ten years of age, yet, she continues, and like a bee collecting the honey of virtues. During her adolescence, she could be found either at home or in the synagogue. She NEVER SPOKE TO MEN. She did, however, have female companions of like mind, who would visit and minister to the infirm and sick. Her manner of life was ascetical. She never laughed in a disorderly manner, but would just smile modestly when the occasion demanded it.
"Was she the virgin that Esaias spoke of?" wondered Satan. Believing her to be, she was ASSAILED BY SEVEN EVIL SPIRITS that they might cause her or fall into grievous sin and destroy her virginity. Therefore, her early life was one of fierce struggle and spiritual warfare. Seven demons assailed her: PRIDE, FORNICATION, JUDGING OTHERS, LYING, STEALING, MURDER, AND UNBELIEF. But she valiantly withstood them and never opened the door to any of them, that they might take her captive. She persevered IN SPIRITUAL WARFARE until Christ came and expelled those wicked spirits.
Saint John Chrysostomos (354-407 A.D.) praises the women who followed Jesus in His Public Ministry and who showed their quality, especially by fidelity in His Passion. Mary Magdalene ministered to Christ in His Ministry and did not abandon Him when He died. "These things the women see done, they who were most inclined to feel for Him, who were most of all bewailing Him. And mark how great their assiduity. They had followed ministering to Him and were present even unto the time of danger. Therefore they saw all: HOW HE CRIED OUT; HOW HE GAVE UP THE SPIRIT; HOW THE ROCKS WERE RENT; AND ALL THE REST." But who were they? His Mother, for she is called "Mother" of Iakovos (James) (actually stepmother), and the rest.
THE THEOTOKOS AND
Before the first day of the week, the women disciples determined to meet at the sepulcher. Coming from various points in the city, they proceeded in two or more groups. This explains why in holy icons of this scene the number of myrrh-bearers varies from one to six or more. It happened that there was an earthquake when an Angel of the Lord descended and rolled back the stone [Matthew 28:21]. Saint Gregory Palamas , in his homily, entitled "On the Sunday of the Myrrh-bearing Women," believes that Mary Theotokos, together with Mary Magdalene, were first to arrive and witnessed the descent of the Angel who rolled back the stone at the time of the earthquake. At that time it was still dark, but beginning to dawn [Matthew 28:1; John 20:11]. The Myrrh-bearers Mary Magdalene, seeing the stone taken away from the sepulcher [John 20:1] and the soldiers [Matthew 28:4], ran immediately to notify Simon Peter and John [John 20:2], leaving the Virgin at the sepulcher that her Son appeared to her first.
While the women departed to disclose what they had seen and heard, Mary Magdalene, who earlier had hastened from the sight of the rolled away stone [John 20:3], told Simon Peter and John, "They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulcher, and we do not know where they laid Him" [John 20:2]. She said this because she had not heard the words of the Angels, nor had she seen the Lord yet. Saint Gregory Palamas also brings this observation about Mary Magdelene.
Now after Mary Magdalene notified Simon Peter and John, she went along but at a slower pace. After Peter and John departed, she was still weeping. She stooped to look into the sepulcher. She beheld two Angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. They said to her, "Woman, why weepest thou?" She answered, "Because they took away my Lord, and I know not where they laid Him" [John 20:13]. Having spoken thus, she then turned herself back. She beheld Jesus standing, though knew not that it was Jesus. He said to her, "Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou?" She, supposing it was the gardener, said, "Sir, if Thou didst bear Him away, tell me where Thou didst lay Him, and I will take Him away" [John 20:15]. Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned herself, and saith to Him, "Rabbouni," that to say, "Teacher, Jesus said to her, "Cease touching Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father, but go to My brethren and say to them, "I ascend to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God" [John 16:17]. Mary then hastened to report to the other Disciples those things she had seen and heard from the Lord.
The majority of sources recorded that she reposed in peace. Since she was mortal, the time came to fulfill the common law of nature. Mary succumbed to a short illness and peacefully commended her holy soul into the hands of God. Upon her repose, certain Christ-lovers interred her most precious body fittingly and honorably by the entrance of the cave where the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus had come to rest. [The Seven Sleepers are commemorated by the Holy Church on the 4th of August. The seven youths fell asleep for almost two centuries at Mount Ochlon, where their bodies nor their raiment decayed.]. From the moment that her holy relics were laid to rest, they were shown to be a wellspring of miracles. She still performs miracles to this day in many places. Let us now make mention of the recovery of her honorable relic, together with that of Saint Lazarus (the friend of the Christ), which event is commemorated by the Holy Orthodox Church on the 4th of May.
With Saint Theophanes, we chant: "Succeeding to God-given divinization, thou delightest in the torrent of grace, receiving the rewards of thy pangs at God’s command, being among the ranks of the Apostles, O Magdalene, disciple of the Logos. Do thou, by thine entreaties, preserve those who with longing honor thee." [Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church].
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God