We read the life of St. Mary of Egypt in church on the threshold of the Passion of Christ. The life we live is bland; it has no salt. We know everything in advance, we plan everything, we calculate everything. In such a life, there is no miracle of meeting God, no repentance, which we heard about today in the life of St. Mary. It seems as though it was a very long time ago…
But how can this happen today, in the modern world? How can this happen with me personally, when I already know everything and understand everything, and it seems as though God is somewhere very far away? That’s the thing—God is near, but we are far away! And that’s why the drops of spiritual dew that the Church offers us today—the full reading of the penitential canon of St. Andrew of Crete and the life of St. Mary of Egypt—are so important for us. This is a wonderful service. It should strengthen us. We’re used to living commensurate with only our own experience, and we dare not speak of the battle and victory over sin, which are beyond human strength; but we see that God and the grace of the Holy Spirit exist, strengthening and restoring the repentant man.
We hear the words of St. Symeon the New Theologian about how genuine repentance restores a man to chastity. Indeed, it is a miracle when a man renounces sin and completely belongs to God—and this miracle can happen in the life of every man. But we see a different picture today: arguments, rude words, insults, reproaches, self-pity—no awareness of our guilt before God. In our repentance, we see not Christ, but only a human priest, and so we have mere human conversations—words are spoken, but there is no beauty of repentance in them. After all, repentance is a change, a transfiguration worked in us by the Lord.
I really want us to learn to stand in church, to learn to participate in the Divine services, in the Mysteries of Christ in which the soul is renewed. The soul must constantly receive the help of grace to wage war against the world of sin and temptation. May God grant that in the remaining time left until Pascha, we not lose spirit, a drop of which still exists in us. It’s very easy to lose spirit. A man loses his connection with God for one thought, one offense, one condemnation. This is a fearful state.
We have to be vigilant, attentive—how we look, how we speak, how we walk. Everything within a man should be beautiful, spiritual. We have come to church not only to look at the faces of the saints and contemplate the beauty of their relationships. The light of Christ shines in all the saints. But we also need to become saints ourselves, that when we touch holy things, we might be able to keep this sanctity in our hearts and share it with our neighbors.
So much love, so much care, so much mercy God pours out upon every one of us! So many times we have touched the immortal Fountain of Life, the Cup of Christ! So why are we so often a leaky vessel that loses this grace? Passions, despondency, despair, and murmuring come to us—this all becomes a wall behind which we can’t see our neighbor, can’t see God. We must constantly work on demolishing this wall. St. Seraphim of Sarov carried rocks on his back, saying: “I torment him who torments me.” We have to always remember that the enemy is nearby. We mustn’t trust ourselves, but seek the help of God, the blessing of God, with every step of our lives.