Today is the feast day of Sts. Constantine and Eleni. I was thinking about the event that we relate with St. Eleni (I like this better than Helen). St. Eleni is remembered for not only being the mother of the Emperor Constantine, but in British folklore she is thought to be the spouse of “Old King Cole.” That’s right the same King Cole as in the nursery rhyme. Well, that shows you how much useless dribble fills my mind. Back to the subject at hand, we remember St. Eleni because her search for and discovery of The True Cross of Christ.
The True Cross
We all know the account of her discovering a mound with sweet basil growing among the weeds and stones of Golgotha, digging and uncovering several old crosses. Subsequently, to determine the True Life-giving Cross from the crosses of the thieves she had a corpse placed on the wood. The dead person was brought back to life when he was placed on the True Cross. The recounting of this tale caused me to ponder a very significant point. It occurred to me that at one time or another in our life’s journey we all lose faith. Perhaps, it is a great disappointment, or the death of someone we love, an illness, depression or a myriad of other reasons. We just lose it. If we are fortunate to find our way again, either by struggle, the help of a friend, time’s healing passage or by the guidance of a spiritual guide, then we are faced with an ultimate decision. Now that I found it what do I do with it? St. Eleni can be a guide to our future action. What did she do? What she didn’t do was sit back on her laurels and just take the “applause” of the assembled throngs, the people and her son. She did what we all should do! She put her faith into action. She built churches all over the Holy Lands. What can we do when we discover or rediscover our faith? When we join Christ and His Body as a result of our embracing the faith or returning to the fold, our ultimate choice is what to do now. The example of St. Eleni is – do something with your faith. Let it light a fire in our heart and inspire us to put our faith to work. Feed the hungry, teach the uninformed, visit the sick, help the helpless, comfort the downhearted, be there for someone, reach out and encourage the timid. The bottom-line is to become Christ to someone and make your faith a living faith!
We remember the Samaritan woman on the fourth Sunday after Pascha and on February 26 each year. The Holy Gospel has not given us the name of the Samaritan woman, but the Tradition of the Church remembers, and calls her in Greek – Photini, in Russian – Svetlana, in the Celtic languages – Fiona, in Western languages – Claire, all these names speak to us of one thing – of light. Again light, we spoke of light only two weeks ago! There is not a mention of light in the Gospel story of the Samaritan woman but, the light is there in the person of Our Lord. As in many encounters with Jesus, there is light or rather enlightenment.
St. Photini and XC
The Apolitikion for St. Photini begins with these words, “All illumined by the Holy Spirit…,” once again, light. The constant mention of this phenomenon should cause us to stop and wonder. In this meeting with Jesus, the woman at the well gained insight into her own life and into salvation history. Enlightenment can be defined as: the action or state of attaining or having attained spiritual knowledge or insight. OK, what insight did she gain. She understood the relationship of Jews and Samaritans. She knew she was living with this guy who wasn’t her husband. She well knew her marriage history. What is left? It seems to me that Photini still had doubts as to Jesus’ identity. We read her question to the city dwellers, “Can this be the Christ?” She did peak the people’s interest so that they went out to meet Jesus. After they came face to face with him and listened to him they believed.
The tradition of the Church tells us that Photini and her family were present at Pentecost. We read that St. Peter addressed the crowd by saying,”Repent and by baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2, 38) Her enlightenment was linked to her baptism, which the Church refers to as illumination. She sought forgiveness for a life away from God. This was a process beginning with her meeting with Jesus and His coming into her life and her receiving the Holy Spirit, her empowerment at Pentecost. She was on fire with Christ, but the flame had to be nurtured and fanned from a spark lit by the Light and the warmth of the Holy Spirit.
This week our Church commemorates the Sunday of the Paralytic. The Gospel reading is taken from St. John 5, 1 – 15. One thing struck me after I read this passage. Aren’t all of us paralyzed in one way or the other? The young man in the Gospel account was physically impaired for many years, but he never gave up on the possibility of being healed. He waited by the pool for thirty-eight years for his deliverance.
Christ and the Paralytic
Many of us who are paralyzed spiritually, emotionally or psychologically sit by the side of life. There may be limitations to our understanding, we may not be able to move past a scar on our heart, perhaps we cannot forgive some hurt we have experienced. Do we live our life trying to be healed or trying to ignore our malady? The question that Christ asked the young man is very pertinent to our own circumstances or powerlessness, “Do you want to be healed?” At first, the obvious response would be an indignant, “of course,” but many of us wear our debilitation as a badge of identity. Not too many weeks ago, we were anointed with the sacrament Holy Unction. While we were being anointed, the invocation reminded us that Christ is the physician of our souls and bodies. Souls and bodies, we are told that the young man needed physical healing. Nonetheless, waiting next to the pool for thirty-eight years to be healed must have left emotional scars on the young man. As we analyze all the miracles of Christ, He heals each person whom He encounters; provided that the person turns him in faith. The healing always restores the person to wholeness. So, it is understood that all aspects of this paralyzed man was healed.
Turning to Christ in faith is not a magic formula. Wholeness involves the restoration of our spirit. This restoration may impart to us the capacity to recognize our paralysis, to understand its cause and to start on a path to wellness. Its possible physical limitations remain with us to illumine our heart to overcome the deeper emotional weakness. The healing of Christ is a mystery as is the opportunity to witness His love in our life. Our witness, like the young man’s in the temple, is the acknowledgement that God is working to transform our heart.