Daily Meditations

The Holy and Great Wednesday

In the Gospel and hymns of the Church for Holy Wednesday, we hear about the sinful woman who broke an alabaster box of costly ointment, wept at Jesus’ feet, and dried them with her hair. She broke the box – i.e. saved nothing for herself – and poured it out as her offering. It cost 300 denarii, which was 300 days’ wages! This latter fact enrages the disciple who sits in a place of honor next to Jesus and manages the money – the notorious Judas. The hymns of Holy Week tell us even more about the contrast between these two, being quite explicit as to where the woman came from just then, and the background of Judas. Make no mistake: Judas was an Apostle…Yet still he was more interested in worldly things, could not look up from temporary concerns, and had no horizon of vision. He would later even…become demon possessed.

The sinful woman understood what Judas did not: Christianity is about healing. Not just temporary healing, but from man’s biggest problems: egotism, sin and death. The great paradigm of Orthodoxy is not that of righteous/sinful, but of healthy/sick. All of us need healing. This is our primary Christian aim, and is evidenced by the fact that even Jesus implies it is of greater importance than giving our riches to the poor and needy. The social gospel had taken such a hold of the disciples of Jesus that they forgot what is even more essential. The sinful woman shows her great love by her humble offering, and not only received healing by the Physician of our souls, but has become an example for all time for what the Lord truly seeks from His disciples.

It is for this reason that the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, has as a tradition the celebration on Holy Wednesday of Holy Unction in the churches. This service is filled with references to this central message of the day – which Christ came to heal our fallen sinful condition through the sacrifice He made on the cross and the destruction of death through His death. It is within this total context that we should attend the Service of Holy Unction, which is a great mystery of the Church that allows us to be healed by the very hand of Christ when the priest anoints us with the holy oil.

~Adapted from the Web Log of John Sandidopoulos, (http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/03/central-message-of-holy-wednesday.html).


CATECHESIS 72: On the Saving Passion; and Teaching on Humility and Patient Endurance

By St. Theodore the Studite

And so, brethren, as we contemplate and think on these things, again and again “let us purify ourselves from every defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” [2 Cor, 7:1], zealous for what is better, striving for what is more perfect, “hating what is evil, holding fast to what is good, loving one another with brotherly affection, outdoing one another in showing honor, not lagging in zeal, being ardent in spirit, serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope, patient in affliction, persevering in prayer” [Rom. 12:9-12], that by such sincerity we may worthily celebrate the imminent Pascha, and be counted worthy to enjoy the eternal blessings in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and might with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and forever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

~Adapted from the Web Log of John Sandidopoulos, (http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2010/03/sermon-for-holy-wednesday.html).