In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Dear beloved, on November 21, we celebrated a great feast of the Church, the Entry of the Theotokos, and today, we celebrate the Apodosis (closing) of the Entry of the Theotokos.

Today is also the feast day of Saint Katherine, the Great Martyr of Alexandria, who converted the Roman Empress to Christianity, but angered the Roman Emperor Maxentius, who ordered her to be imprisoned. When people began to be converted by her virtues and faith, the Emperor ordered her to be killed on the breaking wheel, a machine of torture. However, the legend was that the machine broke when she was on it, so she was beheaded. Holy Theotokos, Mother of God, and Saint Katherine of Alexandria, pray for us all.

All of us gathered here, let us remember the mercy and grace from God, the many things He has showered us with, the many consolations He gave us when we were troubled and in darkness, and the many signs of light He has shone on us when we, even in our fallen state, cried and went to Him in prayer.

Therefore, remember what our Lord told us in Haggai 1:3-8, that even as we enjoy the many things He has granted us, whether material comfort or consolations, we must not forget His house. Today, we see brothers up against arms against brothers, and the Body of our beloved Lord Jesus Christ, torn and tattered the world over. God sometimes say things subtly, as with the many parables of Christ. But in Haggai 1, our God did not mince His words. He asked us to “carefully consider our ways”. He reminded us that material comfort and wealth cannot quench our inner thirst or grant us peace and joy. And He asked us to build His house, His Church, because it will truly be the place to heal us, and in turn, God our Father in Heaven, will be pleased. God does not want us to build grand buildings so that He will be pleased. Rather, the Church is a hospital, to cure us, sinners all, of our sins and pains. By building up the Church, we allow people to come in and be cured of their suffering, and reconcile back to God. God desires us to reconcile to Him, and be made perfect.

Consider also Psalm 115, which tells us that life is transient, from the phrase “every man is a liar”. And if life is transient, should we not worry about our afterlife, that of reconciling with God? From the Psalm, which is a joyous Psalm, we read of the resurrection of the dead. This is to foretell us of Christ’s eventual coming. Are we ready to meet Him today? Or tomorrow? Let us not forget the blessing of celebrating and partaking the Divine Nature, through the blessed Eucharist, to receive the Holy Mystery of Christ. This is a foretaste of the afterlife.

The passage St Mark 5:24-34 is very enlightening in two aspects. First, Christ allowed the woman to confess publicly of her faith before the community, which granted her the mercy of healing from Christ. Second, the woman showed faith, that she believed by simply touching the garments of Christ, she would be healed of her ailment. As we read from the Russian Orthodox classic, “The Way of a Pilgrim”, the unknown pilgrim was saved from a wolf when the pilgrim carried the blessed relic of a prayer rope of a starets, or a holy elder. Therefore, the relics of saints serve to remind us that we should walk towards God by following His laws out of love for God, not out of fear or egoistic vanity, and to pray often. We are all asked to be perfect as our God is perfect. We will never be perfect, but we are asked to try.

The well quoted epistle from St. Paul, his Letter to the Galatians 3:23-29; 4:1-5, is well loved for a simple reason, that all of us, regardless of our race or condition, is a much loved creation of God. God desires us to be saved, all of us. He considers each one of us, a precious child. He does not want us to be automatons, or slaves, but loving children, as He is a loving Father. Consider this epistle the expression of a truly loving Father, who longs for us to be with Him for eternity. All we need to do, is to love Him, and follow His ways.

Let us close by praying the thanksgiving prayer:

It is truly meet to call thee blest, the Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: True Theotokos, we magnify thee.

O virgin Theotokos, rejoice; O Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Blessings
Fr Raphael+

Readings:
Haggai 1:3-8
Psalm 115 LXX (116:10-19)
St Mark 5:24-34
Galatians 3:23-29; 4:1-5