“The Ever-Virgin was the first to come to the tomb and receive the good tidings of the resurrection”

The Ever-Virgin was the first to come to the tomb and receive the good tidings of the resurrection, but afterwards many women came together and they saw the stone rolled away and heard the angels. Then after seeing and hearing, they separated. Some, as Mark tells us, “fled from the sepulchre, for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they anything to any man, for they were afraid” (Mark 16:8). Others followed the Lord’s Mother, and these it was who had the good fortune to see the Master and be addressed by Him. Mary Magdalene, on the other hand, went to tell Peter and John, and returned with them to the tomb on her own. When they left she stayed, and she too was accounted worthy to see the Master, and was sent to the apostles. Once more she came to them to tell them all, as John says, “that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her” (John 20:18). Mark tells us that the Lord appeared to Mary Magdalene early in the morning, which means when full daylight had come, obviously after dawn had passed, but he does not state that the Lord’s resurrection happened then or that it was the first time He had appeared. …

On the very day of the resurrection the apostles heard from the myrrhbearers, from Peter, and from Luke and Cleopas, that the Lord was alive and had appeared to them, but they did not believe. That is why they were reproached by Him when He appeared to them later when they were gathered together. However, once He had shown Himself in many ways and on many occasions to be alive, not only did they all believe, but they preached everywhere: “Their sound is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” (Ps. 19″6 Lxx), “The Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following” (Mark 16:20). For signs were absolutely necessary until the word had been preached throughout the world. But if there had to be great signs to prove and confirm that the teaching was true, there had also to be signs, through not great ones, to show whether those who had received the word really believed. What signs do I mean? The witness of their deeds. “Show me,” it says, “thy faith by thy works” (cf. Jas. 3:13), and “Who is faithful? By his good life let him show his works” (cf. Jas. 3:13). How can we believe that someone has a truly divine, great, exalted, even heavenly understanding, such as godliness entails, if he clings to sordid actions and is engrossed in the earth and its concerns?

It is pointless for someone to say that he has faith in God if he does not have the works which go with faith. What benefit were their lamps to the foolish virgin who had no oil, namely, deeds of love and compassion? What good did calling Abraham his father do to that rich man frying in the unquenchable flame for his pitilessness towards Lazarus? What use was his apparent obedience to the invitation to that man who had failed to acquire through good works a garment fitting for the divine wedding and the bridechamber of immortality? He was invited and approached because he clearly believed, and he sat down alongside those holy guests, but when he was convicted and put to shame for being clothed in depraved habits and deeds, he was mercilessly bound hand and foot, and cast into hellfire, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

May no one called by Christ have this experience, but may we all display a way of life which goes with our faith, that we may enter the bridechamber of unfading joy and spend eternity with the saints in the dwelling place of all those who rejoice. Amen.

St Gregory Palamas

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