Home Bible Study – St. Mary of Egypt

St. Mary of Egypt – 5th Sunday of Lent

Gospel: Mark 10:32-45.

Now they were on the road going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed. And as they followed they were afraid.

  • Why were they amazed? This is just after the conversation with the rich young men.

Then He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them the things that would happen to Him: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles; and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.”

  • They were on their way from Jericho to Jerusalem. This treatment of the “Son of Man” would have evoked Psalm 21(22) and Isaiah 53:4-12.

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.” And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.”

  • St. John Chrysostom. They thought Jesus, the anointed one, was about to claim the kingdom of Jerusalem as his own.

But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They said to Him, “We are able.” So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.”

  • St. Augustine. Jesus is trying to get them to understand the crown of martyrdom is coming, not a earthly and political crown.

And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John. But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

  • Servant leadership: For whom did Christ act as the leader of mankind? For whom do we act as leaders of our parish and lives? How did Christ know what people needed? How do we know?
  • Aristotle: Good government vs. bad government. Subtle and direct ways this makes things better. What does it take to get people to 1) know what others need and 2) care enough to work towards that? Does our society do what it takes?
  • Some solutions. God-ordained monarchy. Decentralized and voluntary associations (i.e. local politics; includes The Benedict Option). Scientific totalitarianism. American distrust of authority; is it Christian?
  • But when we get wrapped around the axle on this, are we missing the main point – just like James and John did? The Biblical attitudes towards authority (our own and that of others) seem designed more to prepare individuals for heaven than anything else. Good rule is a nice side-effect of personal virtue.

St. Mary of Egypt, Asceticism, and Confession

On this final Sunday before we enter Holy Week, the Church again turns our attention to the theme of repentance by remembering St. Mary of Egypt. She was a harlot who repented of her sins then lived alone in the desert for 47 years, praying and fasting.

  • What aspects of her life touch you most deeply?
  • What led her to a life of debauchery?
  • What led her to repentance?
  • Her life was at the most extreme end of asceticism. Why? Would that be spiritually healthy for us?
  • Desert ascetics note that staying sane is harder “in the world” than it is in the desert. Yet they fast and pray so much more rigorously than we do. What can we do to make up the difference so that we can become perfect in the world?

Fr. Anthony’s thought on this.

Why doesn’t Orthodoxy spend as much time talking about the need to serve others as it does the need to train the self? The Philokalia (On the Prayer of the Heart) is a collection of writings that describe how to attain single-mindedness and love through the asceticism of prayer (and how to overcome all the distractions that arise in the process). Perhaps a layperson could write a similar book on how to attain single-mindedness and love through the asceticism of serving others (and how to overcome all the distractions that arise in the process). The Great Command is to Love God, but the second is like it: love/serve your neighbor. Orthodoxy can give the impression that it is more concerned with the former than the latter.

On Confession

Protestants (e.g. Lutherans) allow for private confession but do not make it mandatory out of fear of creating a new set of Old Testament types “laws” that would be opposed to the “grace” of the New Testament. Why does Orthodoxy say that all Christians should take confession? How do we keep it from becoming a new set of laws that replace grace in the minds of our people?

What do you think about the Service of Repentance? Should we try it at St. Mary’s? When?

When we show our wounds to the doctor, we mention our pains, our troubling, our illnesses without hiding anything, thus also in confession. We strip our soul, we reveal our wounds, we confess our illness and our personal pain. If this does not occur, we will remain unhealed. Our wounds will grow, the pollution and rotting will advance, the illness will continue undermining our being and sooner or later will lead us to death. (from Return by Archimandrite Nektarios Antonopoulos)

Closing Prayer

Priest: Intercede with the Creator on behalf of those who praise you, holy mother, that we may be delivered from the sufferings and afflictions which overwhelm us on all sides, that being delivered from our temptations, we may unceasingly magnify the Lord Who glorified you.

People: Holy mother, Mary, pray to God for us.

– From the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete

Next week: Palm Sunday! That will be the last meeting until May. After May we will take a break for the Summer.

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