FIRE AND WATER

“But whosoever drinketh of the water which I shall give him in no wise shall ever thirst. But the water which I shall give him shall become in him a fountain of water springing into eternal life.” [Jn. 4:14]

woman at the well
In today’s news stories, a lot of time is devoted to eyewitness reports about peoples’ lives being drastically changed as the result of fire and water. We here about the destruction of homes and forests by violent fires; and in other areas, we here about heavy downpours causing floodwaters to rise and wash away homes and businesses, and we also here about people getting caught in these powerful catastrophes and losing their love-ones. Fire and water are two very powerful forms of energy.

 
Spending my adolescence years in Tidewater, I grew to respect the authority of water. The ocean is massive and ever surrounding the land. If you’re not careful, the waves can knock you off your feet and pull you out into the swift current! But water is also a force that can give us positive things like electricity from our hydroelectric plants, nourish our food supply, a means of transportation, and water is necessary to maintain our lives and cleanse us free from dirt and sin.

 
Fire can be destructive but it also has positive attributes such as cooking, refining minerals, illumination, and the warmth of heat to name a few. I am speaking today about these two forms of energy because Christ describes the Holy Spirit as both fire and water. Fire gives us the warming property of grace and the power of destroying transgressions; and in our baptismal water we are cleansed and our minds renewed.

 
Verse 14 of the Gospel reading today speaks to us about these two energy sources in a different aspect. At the well, Christ instructs the Samaritan women (Svetlana) about the Holy Spirit. The description includes a motion started by the Holy Spirit that then keeps regenerating, it is contagious! Saint John Chrysostom describes the grace of the spirit as a source of energy that purifies and refreshes us. Just as a source of energy cannot ever be fully contained, the Spirit is constantly causing a reaction within us. The Lord is asking us to be good stewards of this precious lively gift. Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Orchid and Bulgaria, instructs us not to bury this talent as did the servant in the parable found in Matthew 25, but to put it to work so it will increase.

 
We Orthodox receive the Holy Spirit at our Crismation and this is our personnel Pentecost where God pours out His Spirit upon our flesh. In the Book of Acts, Paul laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:12 and 14-17). The oil of Chrism seals in the Holy Spirit which we find rooted scripturally in 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, “Now the One Who establisheth us with you in Christ, and Who anointed us, is God, Who also sealed us and gave us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.”

 
The Samaritan woman at the well spent the rest of her life contagiously preaching the Gospel of Christ. In her sixty-sixth year, Svetlana was tormented and thrown down a well. We celebrate her memory on March 20th as the holy Martyr Svetlana or Photina in Greek. The powerful energy that was given to her in the Holy Spirit was not hidden or repressed but she chose to increase it and spread the Gospel. She allowed the energies of fire and water to consume her life and spread from her temple outward as a beacon on a hill and as a raging storm that could not be contained. Maybe I can one day be like this great saint! “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit [Mt. 28:19].

Fr. Gabriel Weller 5-29-16svetlana

Holy Myrrhbearers Feast Day

The Holy Myrrhbearers: Saints Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Salome (daughter of Joseph), Mary (Joseph’s sister) the wife of Cleopas, Susanna, Mary and Martha (Lazarus’s sisters), Obedient to the observance of the Sabbath, the women waited until the following sunrise after the Sabbath to launch their plan into action. They were going to do something costly, something dangerous, something maybe even foolish in the eyes of many others, but they knew in their hearts that it was the right thing to do.
The Holy Myrrhbearers were poor peasant housewives with the exception of St. Joanna, who was the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza. Yet the Evangelist Mark tells us they purchased large amounts of pricey myrrh, ointments, and perfumes with which to anoint the body of the Lord. These humble servants sacrificed the little they had saved up for their own families for ‘a rainy day’ because they realized they could not put a value on God’s love. Christ’s presence in their lives had been priceless and they were not going to spare any expense to anoint the body of the One who loves without measure.

 
The Holy Myrrhbearers literally put their lives at risk to accomplish their goal. Cities in the ancient world were walled for good reason – the territory outside the walls was an unsafe area and the domain of wild animals and thieves, especially after dark. Since our Savior’s tomb was in the garden near Golgotha, it was beyond the safety of the city walls. The women deliberately and knowingly stepped out into this vulnerability in order to express their love, in order to do what their heart commanded of them. Even more, assuming if they made it safely to the tomb, the elite Roman guards would certainly have used any force necessary to prevent them from entering the tomb. But the lovers of Christ were not paralyzed with the danger and great risk, and they took action!

 
There is a powerful lesson here for all of us. For all of us profess our faith in Christ, do we possess the fearless, trusting, unhesitating faith of the Holy Myrrhbearers? Too often, despite our initial good intentions, we allow ourselves to be discouraged from expressing or acting out our faith. We fear the COST of living as Christians, whether in actual financial terms, or in terms of the time and energy or emotion it takes to sacrificially offer ourselves to others, out of love for Christ. We fear the DANGER of living as Christians – it always seems so much easier to maintain the status quo, so much safer to keep doing the same old things in the same old way, even if it means passing up the opportunities to allow Christ to manifest in our little corner of the world. We fear looking FOOLISH by living as Christians, in a world that holds values and priorities that too often are very different from the teachings of the Gospel.

 
Pride, Vainglory and Perversion of our created sexuality have been the demise of many great civilizations and have now seemed to be the most sought out activities here in this once great nation. No, the love of Christ is not always a yes with wide open arms, it is a yes we love you but we must separate ourselves from marinating in Lucifer’s sewage and placing our youth on a path of self-destruction. We need to speak out loudly and we need to speak out now. Do not hide your light under a bushel but be the salt of the earth, seasoning everything you encounter with the teachings of the Holy Church!

Pray to God for us, Holy Myrrhbearers!

Fr. Gabriel Weller 5-15-16