Orthodox America

  The Ten Drachmas

 Bishop Nicolai Velimirovich

 The Lord in the Guise of a Woman

      Can you believe that Christ the Saviour portrayed Himself in the guise of a woman in two of His parables? One is that of the woman who took three measures of flour and made dough. But first let us speak of the other one where the Lord tells us about the woman who had ten drachmas and lost one. These are the most mysterious of all the Saviour' s parables.

Or what woman, having ten drachmas, if she loses one, does not light a candle and sweep the house and look diligently till she finds it? And after she has found it she calls in her friends and neighbors and says, "Rejoice with me, for I have found the drachma that I lost”       (Luke 15:8-9)

    At first glance this parable seems so simple, or even naive, that it does not impress the reader of the Gospel. But in reality the mystery of the universe is revealed in this simple parable.

    If We take it literally, it evokes bewilderment. The woman lost only one drachma. But even ten drachmas do not represent a great sum; in fact, a woman who has only ten drachmas must be very poor indeed. Let us assume, first of all, that the finding of the lost drachma meant a great gain for her. Yet it still presents a paradox, for how is it that if she is such a poor woman she lights lamps and sweeps the house and—strangest of all-calls in all her friends and neighbors to share her joy. And all because of one drachma! Such a waste of time--lighting a candle and setting the house in order first of all! But then if she invites her neighbors, according to Eastern custom, she is obliged to offer them something to eat and drink, no small expense for a poor woman. To fail to do so would be to ignore an unalterable custom.

    Another important point to note is that she did not invite only one woman to whom she might have offered sweets which would not have involved great expense. But she invited many friends and neighbors, and even if she entertained them modestly the expense would far exceed the value of the drachma she found. Why, then, should she seek the drachma so diligently and rejoice at finding it only to lose it again in another way?

If we try to understand this parable in its literal sense, it does not fit itself into the frame of everyday life but leaves the impression of something exaggerated and incomprehensible. So let us try to discover its mystical or hidden meaning. Who is the woman? And why is it a woman and not a man, when a man is more likely to lose money in the ordinary routine of life? Whose house is it that she sweeps and fills with light? Who are her friends and neighbors? If we look for the spiritual instead pf the literal meaning of the parable, we shall find the answers to those questions. The Lord said, Seek and Ye shall find!

     The woman represents Jesus Christ Himself, the Son of God. The ten drachmas are His. It is He Who has lost one of them and sets out to look for it. The drachmas are not coins of gold or silver. According to Orthodox theology, the number ten represents fullness. The nine unlost drachmas are the nine orders of angels.. The number of angels is beyond the grasp of mortals, for it exceeds our power of calculation. The lost drachma represents mankind in its entirety. Therefore, Christ the Saviour came down from heaven to earth, to His house, and lit candle, the light of the knowledge of Himself. He cleaned out the house--that is, He purified the world of diabolic impurity--and found the lost drachma, erring and lost humanity. Then He called His "friends and neighbors" (after His glorious Resurrection and Ascension), that is to say, all the countless hosts of the Cherubim and Searaphim, Angels and Archangels, and revealed to them His great joy: Rejoice with me. I have found the lost drachma!... That means: I have found men to fill the void in the Kingdom of Heaven caused by the fall of His proud angels who apostasized from God. At the end of time, the number of these found and saved souls will have grown to billions, or in the language of Scripture, will be as countless as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore.

     Our Lord described Himself as a woman because women are more careful than men in looking after property, in keeping the house in order and in receiving guests- If this short parable, which consists of only two sentences, is explained in this way, Whose heart will not be touched? For it contains the whole tragedy of the world, visible and invisible. It explains why the Son of God came to earth. It sheds a bright ray of light on the history of mankind and the tragedy of every separate individual's existence. It confronts us with an urgent decision, because our life is swiftly passing--a decision as to whether we want to be the lost drachma found by Christ or not. Christ is looking for us. Are we going to hide from Him or let ourselves be found by Him before death hides us from Him, from the world and from life?

       It is a vital question and it lies within our will to accept or reject Him. After death it will cease to be an open question, and then no one will expect an answer from us. (Reprinted from "Orthodox Life ," 1951, #5)