The Dormition Feast – A Homily on St. Luke. (10:38-42; 11:27-28) and a Story and a Farewell
Letting God be God
At that time, Jesus entered a certain village; and a woman named Martha received Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to His teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to Him and said, “Lord, dost Thou not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.” As He said this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore Thee, and the breasts that Thou didst suck!” But He said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
In the Gospel for the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, we meet that familiar scene in the house of Martha and Mary. Martha is busy preparing the food and Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to Him. Martha we are told “was distracted”. The burden of work she felt was laid unfairly upon her. Her distraction, her preoccupation had led to resentment and so she intrudes upon our Lord’s teaching:
“Lord, don’t you care…. Tell her to help me.” In her frustration and anger, she not only questions our Lord’s awareness, but she also gives Him advice and tells Him what He should do.
This, unfortunately, is what we sometimes do. We try to tell the One who cares for us beyond measure, the Son of God, what He should be doing for us.
At the wedding of Cana in Galilee, the Mother of God notices that they had run out of wine. “ They have no wine.” This is in effect both a statement and a request and a tangible example of the intercessions of the Theotokos. His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” The Mother of God is always vigilant about our needs too and continually intercedes for us before the throne of grace.
Asking is different from demanding. The problem is that we want to give God advice rather than seek help from Him and do whatever He says. We want God to assist us in going our own way.
St Dorotheos of Gaza said: “ Nothing is more harmful than self-direction, nothing more fatal. I never allowed myself to follow my thought without seeking advice.” This is why we have spiritual fathers in the Orthodox Church, not that their advice is perfect but that we have another a reference point in spiritual trigonometry. Often it is not advice that a person seeks from their spiritual father, but they come to him because they want to know that their spiritual father cares for them, that he can be trusted to hear their complaint, their sins, to walk with them, share their burden and to love them. How much more does God love us and know our needs even before we ask?
More than advice it is God’s action that saves us. The Old Testament was full of advice which the people of Israel ignored. What was needed was someone to rescue them and us.
We see in the Falling Asleep of the Most Holy Theotokos that our Lord would not allow His mother to see corruption. He takes her to Himself and opens the way for us too.
There is a story of a man who fell into a pit. The first man came along and offered him advice.” If you get out of that pit you should learn your lesson not to make the same mistake again.” A second man came along and offered him advice on how to get out of the pit the man had fallen into. A third man came and offered no advice. Without any hesitation, he went down into the pit and helped the man out.
This is what Christ does. St John of Kronstadt writes:
Such are the comforting truths which the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos brings us: it assures us that Christ the Saviour, born from the Most-pure Virgin Mary, removed from us the curse of our sins and granted to all of us resurrection from the dead on the last day of the world. Is this not comforting for every Christian believer?
And having such an expectation of a general resurrection from the dead, let us try throughout our entire life to become worthy of the glorious resurrection into eternal life by means of constant repentance, battle with our passions and the temptations of the flesh and the world, and strive for success in all virtues, in order to eternally enjoy the infinite, incorruptible, surpassing all understanding, all feeling and all expectation – the blessings of the Heavenly Kingdom, together with God, the Mother of God, the holy angels, and all the saints. Amen.
We should let God be God because only He can bring us to Life in the Resurrection. His word and His action save. So if we have to speak, we have no occasion or need to give Christ advice or tell Him what to do. Rather we should follow the words of the Most Holy Theotokos:
“Whatever He says to you, do it.”
Dear friends in Christ, I fear that this will be my last blog post for quite some time, as I am about to retreat for God knows how long. Please keep me in your prayers as I will keep you and all mankind in mine.
“That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee,
that they also may be one in us ” (John 17:21, KJV)