Woman, Go In PeaceFr. Barnabas Powell
Listen to this quote from Fr. Alexander Schmemann, of blessed memory, “Man was created priest of the world, the one who offers the world to God in a sacrifice of love and praise…Priesthood, in this sense, is the very essence of manhood, man’s creative relation to the “womanhood” of the created world.”
Notice the “gender” language, and stay with me here, notice the implications of this understanding of God creating this binary gender icon in all of humanity.
I know this is a controversial subject, especially in the chaotic age we live in. But, and this is the key to today’s devotional, there is substantial theology behind understanding the dynamic of the male-female reality of creation, procreation, and communion. And the “spirit of the age” isn’t nearly as healthy for us as the timeless wisdom preserved in the Church. Hence, protecting our children from the chaos of the current gender madness is both warranted and necessary. And we have the beautiful theology of the Church to help us fight this societal pandemic of life-destroying ideology.
This is why the Church gives us this passage almost every time we are honoring a wonderful woman saint. Today is no expectation. So, let’s revisit this familiar story and mine more eternal wisdom from it!
Look at our lesson today in Mark 5:24-34:
At that time, a great crowd followed Jesus and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a flow of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I shall be made well.” And immediately the hemorrhage ceased; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone forth from him, immediately turned about in the crowd, and said, “Who touched my garments?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?'” And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had been done to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
As familiar as this story is, it’s essential to understand why the Church presents us with this story in connection with our great women heroes in the Church. And that’s because there are themes here that transcend this story and attach to our own stories. Discovering these themes, especially as it reveals the significance of the God-created icon of male and female, and why they both possess unique gifts and spiritual insights for our salvation.
First, suffering is both unique and unifying. People suffer. They suffer physically, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally. But each person incarnates the common human suffering in a unique way. I can only suffer as I can suffer, and it is in that uniqueness of my experience of suffering that both defines me personally AND invites me to see my common bond with all those around me. This unique story of human suffering is uniquely female, and it is unique to this precious woman. Her suffering has been her defining experience for twelve years. And her story of seeking healing at the hands of many physicians is also called “suffering.” She suffers within and without. It is her willingness to keep trying that reveals something very important in this story. She never gives in to her suffering as a final victim of it. Her suffering reveals a faithfulness, a courage, that invites us to see our own unique suffering in the same context. Don’t give up!
Next, her suffering invites her to intimacy with God. In fact, all suffering; your suffering, my suffering, the world’s suffering contains an invitation to abandon our own “too small” answers to seek our ultimate healing in God. This woman had heard reports of the Man Jesus and when she was close to Him, she still had strength left in her to just touch His robe. And immediately she was healed. The truth is no suffering is ultimately ever pointless or useless IF it brings us to the only true Source of our healing in Jesus Christ. The truth is suffering becomes man actual gift, according to the Fathers, when we humbly bring all our pain to Christ for His healing. As C.S. Lewis said “Heaven works backwards” when we abandon the temporary for the eternal.
Finally, God always knows us for who we really are. Jesus says to the disciples “Someone touched Me.” Did Jesus ask this because He didn’t know who touched Him? No. He asks this because it is His desire to immortalize in our memory the bravery and humility and the faith of this woman who is now healed. Jesus wants us to remember her because she invites us to know ourselves and our own suffering offered to God. Ultimately all suffering and troubles will be undone in eternity and every moment of pain and loss will be revealed as the temporary thing it is in light of the mercy and grace of the God Who Loves us more than we, ourselves, know how to love.
Since we remember a woman hero of the Faith today, let’s hear her story as we wrap up. St. Marina (Margaret) the Great Martyr of Antioch was the only daughter of a pagan priest in the area. Since her mother had died, Marina was handed over to a nursemaid who taught her about Christ and the Faith. When she was only fifteen, she was apprehended by a certain warlord in the area and asked her name and country. She answered, “My name is Marina; I am the offspring of the Pisidia; I call upon the Name of my Lord Jesus Christ.” She was beheaded for her devotion to Christ, and now many call on her aid, especially in times of demonic attacks.
Today, are you willing to allow your suffering to both reveal your unique self and bind you in common humanity with the rest of the world? Are you willing to see the mystery of our unique gifts of maleness and femaleness to teach us how we are to embrace the other in love and insight? By embracing a Normal Orthodox Life we expand our understanding beyond the too-small mindset of an ideological age.
P.S. O Lord Jesus, unto You Your lamb cries with a great voice: O my Bridegroom, You I love; and seeking You, I now contest, and with Your baptism am crucified and buried. I suffer for Your sake, that I may reign with You; for Your sake, I die, that I may live in You: accept me offered out of longing to You as a spotless sacrifice. Lord, save our souls through her intercessions since You are great in mercy.