On July 22/August 4 the Holy Orthodox Church celebrates the feast of the Equal-to the-Apostles St. Mary Magdalene. This is the patronal feast of the Royal Church of the Convent of St. Mary of Magdalene. Royal, because it was built by the Imperial family of Russia in memory of Emperess Maria Alesandrovna Romanova (+1880) the wife of Emperor Alexander II.
The All-Night-Vigil was led by the Head of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Jerusalem, Archimandrite Roman (Krassovsky). Co-serving with Fr. Roman were Hieromonk Feodor (Kirike) and Deacon Vyacheslav Batalsky.
In the morning after the Midnight Service, Fr. Feodor served the service of the «Sanctification of Holy Water». The Head of the Mission was solemnly greeted by the clergy of the convent along with visiting clergy including Fr. Khadar Baramki of the Greek Patriarchate who also read the Holy Gospel in Arabic at Liturgy. Archimandrite Roman headed the Divine Liturgy at which the faithful received Holy Communion from three chalices. At the end of liturgy Fr. Roman preached a sermon underlying St. Mary’s service to the Lord during His ministry and then afterwards on behalf of His Holy Church.
After Divine Liturgy the monastics and the faithful were blessed with the arrival of the Patriarch of Jerusalem an All Palestine, Theophilus III. After greeting His Beatitude, the patriarch led a prayer service to St. Mary with a procession around the church. Afterwards the patriarch greeted the sisterhood and faithful with a spiritual word (see below) concerning the feast of St. Mary and also presented the convent with an icon of the Holy Edicule of the Resurrection of Christ. Archimandrite Roman presented His Beatitude with an album of the Convents of the Mission.
Speech of His Beatitude Theophilos III, Patriarch of Jerusalem and all Palestine, at the Russian Church of Saint Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives on the Feast of the Holy Myrrh-Bearer Saint Mary Magdalene, Equal-to-the-Apostles. 9 July 2020
Dear Archimandrite Roman, Dear Mother Elizabeth,
Reverend Fathers, Beloved Monastics, Sisters and Brothers!
Today we rejoice with you here for this great feast of the Holy Myrrh-Bearer Saint Mary Magdalene, Equal-to-the-Apostles, and we remember the words of one of the hymns of this feast:
When God, the Mighty,
the Transcendent in essence,
came in the flesh into the world,
he received you, O Mary,
as his true disciple, as was meet.
For you had put your whole desire
and your love upon him;
wherefore, you brought to pass
many cures for the ailing;
and now translated to the Heavens’ heights,
you pray fervently for all the world.
We see in Saint Mary Magdalene the example of complete and utter commitment to our Lord Jesus Christ, as the hymn says: you had put your whole desire and your love upon him. Saint Mary Magdalene gave all of herself, she held nothing back, she was single-minded in her discipleship.
So she is a model for us. We in our own day are called to the same whole-hearted dedication to our Lord Jesus Christ and to his Gospel, and our unity in this resolve is of profound importance not simply for the well being of the Church, but of our mission here to the world. After the example of Saint Mary Magdalene, we to whom Divine Providence has entrusted the guardianship of the Holy Places have a special diakonia of devotion.
Just as we must always deepen our devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ, so we must be equally attentive to guarding our unity. The unity that is made manifest in the celebration of the Divine Eucharist and in the sharing of the common Chalice is the most precious gift of the Holy Spirit, and we must always be vigilant, as Saint Paul says in the Letter to the Romans, to pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding (Rom. 14, 19).
Yet we do this not for ourselves alone, but for a witness to the world. Our devotion and our unity are worth little if they do not inspire us to service after the commandments of our Lord. Our world is passing through a great trial in the present moment. The well-known pandemic is having terrible consequences not just for us here in the Holy Land, but for peoples everywhere. There is a profound sense of fear and helplessness, and illness and death are all around.
The Gospel is the message of life in the face of death. The example of Saint Mary Magdalene is an eloquent witness to this truth, for even in the face of death, Saint Mary Magdalene never lost her faith and trust in the One who is the resurrection and the life (John 11, 25): she stood by the cross until the very end, and was the first to go to the tomb, where her faith was rewarded with the news of the resurrection.
May Saint Mary Magdalene strengthen us in our mission by her fervent prayers, and may God bless us all.