On the grounds of the Great Church of Christ, Agia Sophia in Constantinople, there historically was a water fountain that had an inscription on it, Νίψον ἀνομήματα, μὴ μόναν ὄψιν. This fountain is no longer there, but the meaning remains. It is a very interesting statement because if you write it backwards in Greek, the words are the same and the meaning also remains the same: Wash your sins, not only your face. This is what is known as a Palindrome, which is a word, phrase, or sequence that reads the same backward as forward. This delightfully palindromic phrase is attributed to St. Gregory of Nazianzus, whether or not this is true it is very believable that a such brilliant Church Father, and a Cappadocian, would coin such a saying.
The word νίψις and νῆψις are similar words, but not the same although they sound the same. They are what we would call in English, homonyms. In the Christian life, we are called to go from one to the other. We are called to go from word νίψις to νῆψις. We are called to wash ourselves spiritually through the Sacraments of the Church, in order to become watchful or sober. In the Sacraments of the Church, the drunkenness of sin is washed away. But through prayer, we remain watchful and sober. Luke 21:36, the last verse from Saturday’s Gospel Reading, and 1 Peter 5:8 contain teachings and words that are similar but not the same but the meanings compliments each other. 1 Peter 5:8 instructs us to be “… alert and of a watchful mind….” And it warns us that our “… enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Luke 21:36 compliments this and tells us to “… Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass.”
The devil, like a prowling lion, will always create problems for us in our lives, temptations and difficulties but we will escape all of those things by washing ourselves spiritually in the Lifegiving Water fountain which are the Sacraments of the Church. And then, continuously strengthened by being continuously washed by the Lifegiving Divine Grace we receive in those same Sacraments, we must do our utmost to watch and remain watchful or sober minded so that we will not continue to fall but will escape all of the temptations that will come to pass.
Fr. Simeon Pardalis