The Establishment of the Church

The Establishment of the Church

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When Jesus saw His Mother, and the Disciple whom He loved standing near, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He said to the Disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.  John 19: 26-27  (From the Gospel of the Ninth Hour on Good Friday Morning) Fifth Saturday of Lent

 

Good morning Prayer Team!

What a profound moment that took place between the Lord, His mother and His beloved Disciple John!  Jesus had endured betrayal by one disciple, denial by another, and abandonment by all the rest.  He had endured rejection from His own people, and the scourging by the Roman soldiers.  He had been hung on a cross by nails driven into his hands and feet.  He had been mocked and humiliated.  And now, as His earthly body was quickly shutting down and heading towards human death, Jesus had a brief exchange between His Mother and His Disciple John, from which we take away several lessons.

First, one of the Ten Commandments instructs us to honor our parents.  Even in the greatest pain and suffering a human being has ever endured, Jesus found a deep love for His Mother and earthly concern about her well-being.  He wanted to make sure that she was taken care of before He passed away.  The term “Woman”, in Greek “Yine”, with which he addressed His Mother was an address of great respect and admiration.

Jesus entrusted His mother to His beloved Disciple because His earthly father and protector, Joseph, was already deceased.  Orthodox and Catholic traditions differ on the life of Joseph.  In the Orthodox Church, Tradition holds that Joseph was an older man, who had been widowed and had children from his previous marriage. (See Matthew 13:55-56, for mention of Jesus’ brothers and sisters, likely half-brothers and half-sisters)  And by the time the Crucifixion occurred, Joseph was deceased.  This would have left Jesus, as the only son, with the obligation and expectation to care for His Mother.  With His death imminent, He did the kind act of entrusting His mother’s care to His beloved Disciple, John.  We also hold that Mary remained “Ever-Virgin,” that she had no other offspring.  Had there been other offspring, Jesus would have entrusted her to them.  The belief in her eternal virginity is supported by this act of Christ.

However, the way He did it did much more than establish a caregiver for Mary.  It set in motion the creation of the Church.  When He said to His mother, “Behold your son!” He was asking the Virgin Mary not only to see John as a son, but to see all of His Disciples and followers, from then until now, as her children.  And when He told John to “Behold your Mother!” He was instructing John, and by extension all of us, to see the Virgin Mary, as our mother.  And in taking the Virgin Mary into his own home, we are receiving an example that we are to take the example of the Virgin Mary into our own homes, as the best example of what it means to be a servant of God, imitating the Virgin Mary in her obedience and servitude towards God.

Every Christian has three mothers.  One is our birth mother.  The second mother is the Virgin Mary, mother of all Christians.  Her example nurtures us.  Her prayers strengthen us. Her intercessions help us.  And her love comforts us.  And our third mother is the Church, established in this act of Christ entrusting His mother to John.  We have a church, which like a mother, guides us, teaches us, sometimes chastises us, and provides for us.  Ideally, the Church is our mother as well.

It is important for us to know that we are not alone.  Christ, when He was forsaken by nearly everyone, was never abandoned by His mother and His beloved Disciple.  When we have our tough times, it is important to remember that we are not alone either.  We always have the Virgin Mary to intercede for us.  And we always have a Church to go to.

We are supposed to have one another to lean on for support as well.  For if the Virgin Mary is the “mother” of us all, then we are all “brothers and sisters.”  For those of us who have siblings, just about all of us fought with them when we were children.  As adults, hopefully we see our siblings as our closest friends.  As we mature spiritually, we should develop friendships that center on spirituality, to help one another and encourage one another to grow in Christ.

We are supposed to call one another “brother” and “sister.”  We are supposed to see the church as our “family.”  And we are supposed to regard the  Virgin Mary as our “mother,” rendering her the honor due to our birth mothers, allowing her example to nurture and teach us, so that through her, be may be led to spiritual maturity.

Saint Paul speaks of the church as family when he writes, in Ephesians 4:11-13: “And His (Christ’s) gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood (personhood), to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”  The Father of our Family is Christ Himself.  The Mother is the Virgin Mary.  And the children are all of us!

Seeing You hanging on the Cross, O Christ, your Mother cried aloud: “What strange mystery do I see, my Son? How, do You, the Giver of Life, with Your flesh transfixed, die upon the Wood?” (From the 15th Antiphon of the Service of the 12 Gospels on Holy Thursday Evening, Trans. by Fr. George Papadeas)

Honor your “Mothers” today—Your birth mother; the Virgin Mary; and the Church, by honoring one another!

 

+Fr. Stavros

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About author
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Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0