Before the end of the Divine Liturgy, our Father and Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos visited the Holy Nunnery, escorted by Geronda Secretary-General Most Reverend Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina and Archdeacon Mark, and was welcomed by the Metropolitan Mark of Germany from the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), Archimandrite Romanos, the Abbess of the Nunnery, Nun Elizabeth, and the Abbess of the Russian Nunnery of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives Nun Veronica.
His Beatitude addressed the congregation of the Nunnery with the following words in English and offered in the end an ivory sacred cross for the blessing of the congregation;
Dear Mother Abbess Elizabeth,
Beloved Sisters of this Convent,
Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
It is a great blessing for us to be able to join you in this wonderful celebration of this special feast.
We gather today in this holy place on the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, the holy and great Myrrh-bearer and Equal-to-the-Apostles, who was also the Apostle to the Apostles, and we sing together with the hymnographer;
Saint Mary Magdalene, thou didst again run to the apostles, saying unto them,
“I have seen the Lord”,
and therein thou art the first proclaimer of the Resurrection.
Thou art recognized by the Holy Church as Equal-to-the-Apostles,
for thou didst pray with them and travel with them
to proclaim the Resurrection of Jesus Christ
and to witness of his teachings.
The witness – the martyria – of Saint Mary Magdalene remains of the same crucial importance in our won day, especially here in Jerusalem and the Holy Land.
Let us remember her martyria:
Saint Mary Magdalene had been delivered by our Lord Jesus Christ of seven demons, and so through her experience of the invisible world of evil powers she was able to recognize Christ as the Saviour. From that moment, she remained faithful to the Lord, even through his crucifixion and death, and she witnessed his burial.
She was the first witness to the resurrection of our Lord, and she brought the glad tidings to the Apostles.
Here is the model for each of us of our own Christian discipleship, a model that we must imitate.
For we too, live in a world of unseen cosmic evil powers that seek to destroy the beautiful creation and the children of God, and we pray fervently to Jesus Christ our God and Saviour for protection and deliverance.
We too live in a world in which Christ is crucified anew every day wherever there is persecution, conflict, terrorism, violence, or lack of respect to the human person who is made in the image and likeness of God.
And we too know the power of the Uncreated Light that shines from the Holy Tomb and that brings light and life to the world.
Jerusalem and the Holy Sites of this Holy Land are the testimony to this sacred history and the witness of the lives of the great saints of the Holy Bible. And the Mother of all the Churches, our beloved Patriarchate of Jerusalem, exists in her mission throughout the ages to be an eyewitness of all this, and to guard the unity of the Orthodox Church. This is a unique and precious privilege to us to whom the guardianship of the Holy Places has been entrusted, and it is a great blessing to all who come here on pilgrimage. It is therefore our moral obligation to pray always for the unity of all and particularly of the Orthodox Church, and never lose hope.
Let us never forget that the heart of the life of the Church is the kerygma- the proclamation – of Christ’s Anastasis, which we experience so intimately in the Divine Eucharist. For the Eucharist makes the Church, and the main characteristic of the Church is the Eucharistic synaxis. As we read in the Letter to the Ephesians, we must do all in our power, with the help of God, to remain faithful to;
“the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all”. (Eph. 4:1-5).
All of us who celebrate the feast of Saint Mary Magdalene here today, whether we call the Holy Land our home or whether we are pilgrims from other lands, cannot keep this experience to ourselves. We must be messengers in our turn like Saint Mary Magdalene, who proclaimed the resurrection and spread the Good News in a world that thirsts for union with God.
Please allow us, Your Grace, to present this cross as a blessing of your pilgrimage in Jerusalem.
May God bless you, dear Mother Elizabeth, and all the sisters of your monastic community, on this blessed feast, and May God bless all who are here today in pilgrimage and our beloved Holy Land.