Lead me to the Cross
by Kirollos Roman
On Holy Wednesday of Pascha week, we generally remember two characters. The character of Judas Iscariot, and conversely, the character of the woman who poured the fragrant oil on the head of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. A stranger who pleased the Lord on the same the day His disciple betrayed Him. This annual comparison never fails to ask us the question: who am I? Judas Iscariot, who betrays Him. Or the woman who poured the fragrant oil.
The story of the woman who poured the fragrant oil, as we read in the Gospel of Saint Matthew 26:1-13 and Saint Mark 14:3-9, is a story of silent love. She never spoke a single word. It appears she chose not to, despite what she may have heard against her. Some said: “why was this fragrant oil wasted” (Mark 14:4), while others, “criticized her sharply” (Mark 14:5). This woman had so much to say, but without words – silent love. This type of love, in the eyes of God, is much louder than any love with words. There is a silent love that can be shown, more powerful than any word that can be said. “For He will quiet you with His love” (Zephaniah 3). On the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, what words were left to say? Christ spent years preaching and teaching. Performing thousands of miracles and acts of compassion. But there came a time of silence – the Cross. On the Cross, He offered us His undying love. A silent love. A love worth a thousand words never spoken. Precious in the eyes of the Lord are those who love with more than words.
On another occasion, fragrant oil is poured not only on the head of our Saviour, but His feet (John 12:1-19). St Paul comments and says: “And He (i.e. Christ) is the head of the body, the Church” (Colossians 4:18). Who then is the feet? The poor, sick and helpless. St Ambrosiaster says: “Because our feet are low and in need of honor, we adorn them with shoes”. Thus, silent love is two fold – love of the head, and love of the feet. Love of the head in our attendance of the daily Pascha. Love of the head in our chanting of ‘Thok Te-tee Gom’. Love of the head in our persistent prayer, contemplation and meditation. Love of the head in our tears of repentance. All of these, are moments of fragrant oil on the head of Christ.
What about the anointing of the feet? The feet that others questioned: “Why was this fragrant oil not sold ?” (John 12:5). The feet that were wiped with the head of her hair, a woman who couldn’t bear to look Him in the eye. Who are the feet of Christ? They are the forgotten. The weak. The hurt. Those who don’t appear as apparent as the head or the neck or the shoulders. These are the feet of Christ. For what is lower than the feet? But be assured, the oil that anoints the feet is valuable in the eyes of God. Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial” (John 12:7). When you offer your love to those in need, be assured it has reached the head of Christ. Let me practice this love in the final three days of the Pascha. What is something of value in my home that I can offer to someone forgotten, weak or hurt? It must be valuable like “ an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard” (Mark 14:3). And again, be assured, it is not a waste, for it will anoint the feet of Christ, and please Christ Himself.
Every year during the Holy Pascha, we’re faced with the question: who am I? Judas Iscariot, who betrays our Saviour; or the woman who poured the fragrant oil. Judas Iscariot, who sold Him for thirty silver coins; or the woman who bought His love for three hundred denarii?
In the first epistle to St Timothy, St Paul teaches his disciple: “a bishop…must not be greedy for money” (1 Tim 3:3). Why is that? The truth is, if I hold anything in my life more precious than God, this leaves me room to deny Him. Judas Iscariot loved money more than He did God, so he stole from the church’s money box. Jesus asks the rich young ruler: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor…and come, follow Me”. But he could not deny his riches. So we read: “he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Matt 19:22). Again, the sons of Eli the priest were greedy. They took portions from the burnt sacrifices for themselves, and so led the whole Kingdom of Israel astray.
What about me? Is my relationship with God based on possessions? Do I only pray to Him when He gives me? Or when I want something. The church urges us to strive to be like Job on this day, even naming today, “Job Wednesday,” so that we are continually reminded of his faith on this day. Job lost everything. His money. But also his family. His livestock. His health. And after all this, he says: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21). Let me be like Job. On Holy Wednesday, the Church reads the whole book of Job so that we imitate him and by extension, imitate Christ. Let us learn to hold our faith more precious than money and all other worldly cares.