+Fr. Nicholas Georgiou, Holy Apostles | April 5, 2020
This fifth Sunday of Lent we remember St. Mary of Egypt. She was born in Alexandria, Egypt in the middle of the 5th century and ran away from home at 12 years old. Mary wanted her freedom but instead became a slave to sin and lived as a harlot for 17 years. One day she was visiting Jerusalem and wanted to see the Precious Cross of Christ but an invisible force kept her from entering the church. As Mary venerated the Mother of God icon at the entrance of the church, she asked, “Why can’t I enter the church?” The Theotokos told her she must repent and Mary came to her senses. She promised to repent and was then entered the church freely. After Mary venerated the Cross the Theotokos told her: “If you cross the Jordan, you will find true peace” and Mary obeyed. She left behind her previous life and retired to the desert for 47 years! Mary personally experienced Christ in the desert and her life was transformed!
Social distancing and stay at home orders help us stay home, slow down and reside in our own Lenten desert. The desert is a quiet place of prayer and solitude away from the idols and busyness of life. No entertainment, sports, restaurants, televisions, digital devices, music or video games exist in the desert. In the quietness, we cannot hide from God or ourselves. This is a place of encounter and not escape. The desert is a laboratory that helps us deal with ourselves. It is a time of sober reflection on our life. Where have we erred in God’s eyes? Where have we fallen short of our potential as holy saints of God? Where do we need to repent or change our direction? What should we do to begin growing closer to God and not falling away from Him? In the desert we discover our demons and struggle against temptations and passions. As we travel through the desert, we discover and begin to see, understand and accept our limitations. We learn to be still and silent and “know that I am God”. In silence and prayer, we die to self and give ourselves to the Lord. We uncover the passions and inner wounds that need to be healed by the Lord. These passions can blind us and distort the way that we see ourselves and others. The beauty of the desert is the stillness it offers. It is a place to be alone with God and shut everything else out. Our sober sadness should not lead to despair but guide us to a refreshing and renewing change. We can utilize these challenging times travelling through the Lenten desert like Mary did and be transformed by Christ!