For She Loved much is a first of an upcoming series of patristic text that aim to make the writing and the teaching of the Early Church Fathers accessible to the average reader.
This volume which is a great start to the series, is a homily by St Ephraim the Syrian about the sinful woman who washed the feet of Christ (Luke 7:36-50). The homily presents the story of the repentance of sinful woman in an expanded and highly contemplative fashion, imagining what she would have done and said and the internal and external struggles she went through before she approach Christ to offer her repentance.
The homily starts by describing how she made the decision to repent and the disgust and sham she felt from her sinful life. Then it goes on to narrate a conversation she would have had with the perfumer who ridiculed her saying: “Have you met a merchant who can bring you great wealth? Doesn’t this merchant prefer your lewdness? Is this why you are now closed so modestly? Oh, but if he truly is a chaste man who loves modesty, then woe to him! Into what has he fallen?” She then replied to him with confidence: “What you have said about a merchant – yes, a man has met me today who bears riches in abundance.
He has robbed me and I have robbed Him. He stole away my transgressions and sins. I have robbed Him of His wealth …” As part of her struggle to leave her sinful life, Satan tries to remind her of her previous life to claim her back, but again she replied with words of tender love and confidence in her new Lover.
Satan not being able to sway her, he went to Simon who invited Jesus to his house that night. Satan in his wickedness did not only try to get the woman away from Jesus but he put in Simon’s mind a question that would make him question his believe in this great Teacher whom he invited to his house, “Is He really a righteous man or a friend of the wicked?” but in Simon’s house the woman heard Jesus’ sweat voice saying “Go your sins are forgiven.”
In addition to the homily the book has an excellent introduction which introduces the Gospel narrative and an appendix about the life of St Ephraim the Syrian, both of which are written by Anthony M. Aboseif. This is the type of book that you find yourself reading again and again. In fact this homily – which is not a long read – is very moving and makes a great read before confession. This seems to be the editor’s intention since he added an appendix about self examination before confession.
To get copies contact Anthony M. Aboseif firstname.lastname@example.org
Reviewed by Fr Anthony St Shenouda
Saint Ephraim the Syrian, For She Loved much: A Homily on the Sinful Woman by Saint Ephraim the Syrian, pp 72. ISBN: 978-0-9844380-0-6. $ 6.95