Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
At the end of the Gospel of Matthew, our Lord gave this promise: “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” One of the ways that the Lord keeps His promise is through the lives of His holy ones. Through the centuries since He made this promise, He has drawn people to Him by His divine love, which, when one opens to it, becomes irresistible. And His purpose for us, borne in His great love for us and in His desire to save us from our sins, has conquered everything that would separate us from Him, including the kingdom of death. Through their reciprocal love for Him, through their devotion to Him, the saints knew oneness with Him in their lives on this earth. They continue in their devotion and love for Him now, in their lives after this earthly life. They share the love of God with us through the ways that God has given them to help us. In none is this more brightly manifested than in the Mother of God, the Ever-Virgin Mary. Like any mother, she hovers about, caring for her children. Like children, we don’t always know that we stand in need of help. Then, she appears and, through her God-given grace, helps us exactly where and when we need it.
In our own case, here at Holy Apostles, the Mother of God has repeatedly come to us, even in our unworthiness, to bring us hope, to bring us to a sense of God’s love for us, “while we [are] yet sinners.” We have been blessed with visits from the wondrous myrrh-streaming icon of the Ever-virgin’s mother, St. Anne from Philadelphia. We have had opportunity to be with the Myrrh-streaming print-icon of the Iveron Mother of God and to obtain some myrrh that we might anoint ourselves. We have just had with us the Icon of the Mother of God, “Softener of Evil Hearts” and obtained some cotton for our anointing. We have been repeatedly visited by the Kursk Root Icon of the Sign of the Mother of God, the 700-year-old Protectress of the Diaspora. And she is coming to us again at the end of this month.
We cannot ignore the coincidence of her coming to us repeatedly at the very time we are embarking on a path that the Lord has so far shown by many means that He wants us to go on. She comes to us to remind us, emphatically, that we owe all that has happened to us, all the wonders that have come about, to God and His great love for us. We recall the prophet Moses at the Red Sea when he told the people, “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will show you today….” What happened then is instructive for us. God commanded Moses to have the people go forward before He had Moses lift his rod to part the waters (Exodus 14:13 & ff). We do not at this moment see how God is going to divide the particular “sea” that is in front of us. But we know that He can and will part the waters, while we continue to follow His lead by doing as we have done: we have put our feet into the water.
As we prepare to celebrate His Incarnation, we recall the Gospel of John. The divine evangelist records that in his time “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” As we struggle forward, following Him, He continues to do great things for us. And in this, we can even now behold His glory.