It is Sunday today, dear brothers and sisters, the day of Resurrection of Jesus Christ and this day in itself is big enough holiday. Today, however, besides the Sunday, we also celebrate the feast day in memory of St Mary Magdalene – Blessed Mary, as our Serbian people call her. I think you know that the feast of St Mary Magdalene – Blessed Mary – in many of our Serbian lands is the day when vows are taken and when no work is done, no matter how large a field work is at this time of year that needs to be taken care of, thus pressing farmers to rush and toil.
Rarely do we hear sermons about this saint, so today I have decided, since it is Sunday, needless to say – the day of Resurrection, the day that was first announced by Mary Magdalene, that we dedicate our thoughts at this hour to this holy and courageous woman, a myrrthbearer, with a reflective prayer asking Blessed Mary to shield and protect us with her empathic intercession.
One truth we must not overlook. No matter how much we, men, with the power of our will and muscles have imposed, and still impose ourselves, as “bosses” and “masters”, if we just think more and sincerely about it, we realize that our status of “masters” and “bosses”, that is, prominent people, we solely owe to our women. Everyone knows that a person to whom his wife, or sister, or mother does not do honor, but instead is being bashed and tarnished, turns all his bossing and one-upmanship to no avail. No wonder our people say, “The house does not stand on the ground, but on the lady of the house”. As a priest I may freely say that no church stands on the earth but on women who sacrifice themselves for their church. If our virtuous and honest-to-goodness great women, sisters, wives and mothers, too tired, exhausted, from their household worries and chores were not coming to the church and then carrying on into the church halls, preparing, cooking, serving, and later when we, dined and wined, praise and compliment each other, walk out to our homes, while they still remain there until everything is tidy and spotless, we, men, would neither be willing to, nor perhaps may be able to preserve and cherish the Church, as our pride and joy.
This, about women and their enormous service to the Church, I shall say today, on the day of St Mary Magdalene, for it is this Saint that inspires me for such thoughts and assumptions. When we read the Gospel, often do we come across citations of Mary Magdalene? We cannot but compare the similarities between her and our virtuous and devout women. She is as brave as our Serbian women, for the most part, are. Hasn’t Serbian Church been sustained by our old women and mothers and grandmothers who have remained faithful to it, at times when few others dared get anywhere near the church? Have they not, on their shoulders, then carried out the upbringing of their children and grandchildren so that now, thank God, we have mature generations of, to the Serbian Church, devoted people? St Mary Magdalene believes more than the Apostles, men, as our women, too, believe much more and stronger than us. Full of love, she is faithful to Jesus, just as Serbian women through love and humility submit themselves to the teaching and the Church of Jesus Christ.
Why don’t we, dear brothers and sister, try to get to know her a little better?
St. Mary Magdalene is the biological sister of St Lazarus who was, as you know, resurrected by Jesus, after he had lain in his tomb for three days. Saint John, the Apostle, says “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister (referring to St Mary Magdalene), and Lazarus” (John 11, 5). It is that Mary, Martha’s sister, who “also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word,” (Luke 10, 39), while Martha “was cumbered about much serving” (Luke 10, 40). For her, Jesus says that she “hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10, 42). It is Mary Magdalene, who as the Gospel points out “anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped His feet with her hair” (John 11, 2).
All this is important, brothers and sisters, but even more importantly St Mary Magdalene expressed her great love for the Lord, faith in Him, and a great willingness to make a sacrifice for the sake of that faith. When nearly all the Apostles had fled, after Peter had denied Christ three times, Mary Magdalene together with the Mother of God, and with several other women, followed in the footsteps of Jesus Christ and experienced His suffering as their own. These courageous women were with Christ on His Calvary road; with Him while He was being crucified; with Him as He was going through His crucifixion suffering; at no time leaving Him while Joseph was burying Him; and later, crushed by pain, loyal “beheld the sepulchre (Luke 23, 55)”, powerless to part with their Teacher.
So, what do you think dear brothers and sisters, who was the first witness of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? Had it been the Apostles, who had spent with Jesus His earthly days and had been living witnesses of all His divine miracles? No! Not the Apostles, none other than these saintly women, among whom St Mary Magdalene stands out. They were the first brave heralds of the most joyous news in the Universe. Well, why? For they were the bravest, despite the grave danger to their own lives, to make it to the tomb of Jesus Christ. The Apostles at that time were hidden in some room in the Galilee. Here’s how it happened: Following the tradition, they had bought fragrant oil, myrrh, therefore they are Myrrhbearers, to anoint Jesus. They came and found the empty tomb and at the tomb stone there stood the angel of the Lord. “Fear not: for I know that you seek Jesus, who was crucified” – angel said to them – “He is not here: for He is risen, as He said” (Matthew 28, 5-6). “The angel commanded them to go and tell His disciples” (Matthew 28, 7), and they were happy “with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word” (Matthew 28, 8).
“Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene … And she went and told them that had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. And they, when they had heard that He was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not” (Mark 16, 9-11). Although Jesus had stressed it out that He would be resurrected, and even though they had enough evidence that it would happen, they were still doubting. This good news of Christ’s Resurrection seemed to them “as idle tales and they believed them not” (Luke 24, 11). Even when Jesus Christ came and showed up in front of them, some of the Apostles “worshiped Him: but some doubted” (Matthew 28, 17). Nevertheless, these venerable women, with the purity of their hearts, received the truth of Resurrection and spread it at the cost of their lives.
The Church, dear brothers and sisters, through its history, in large part, has been sustained on the fragile backs of our venerable brave sisters, wives and mothers. We, Serbs, can see that without their tender words, Serbian words, from our Serbian mothers we shall not survive. For, who’s going to teach our children sweet, honey-flowing Serbian language if not the mothers? Who will teach them to put three fingers together in prayer unless they do – the mothers? To the Serbian Church, Orthodox, who will bring them along, unless they do – the mothers? Moreover, we can see even today how huge responsibility lies with Serbian women, as it did with the myrrthbearing women too.
Dear Lord, give all of them fervent faith and love for their Church and their families and let them all look up to St Mary Magdalene, whose memory we celebrate today, for the salvation of our souls. Amen.