The Myrrh-Bearing Women
The third Sunday after Pascha is dedicated to the myrrh-bearing women who cared for the body of the Saviour at his death and who were the first witnesses of His Resurrection. The three troparia of Holy Friday are sung once again and from the theme of the day:
The noble Joseph, when he had taken down Thy most pure body from the Tree, wrapped it in fine linen and anointed it with spices, and placed it in a new tomb.
When Thou didst descend to death, O Life Immortal, Thou didst slay hell with the splendor of Thy Godhead.
The angel came to the myrrh-bearing women at the tomb and said: Myrrh is fitting for the dead, but Christ has shown Himself a stranger to corruption! So proclaim: The Lord is risen, granting the world great mercy.
3rd Sunday of Pascha
Every age and culture has certainly had its own challenges in following God and the truth He’s revealed. Today’s culture with its dominant secular ‘religion’ of humanism is no different. In fact, it’s becoming increasingly clear that secular democracy is no guard against religious intolerance or persecution. Increasingly, our Orthodox beliefs are coming under assault, religious liberties are being challenged.
This Sunday of the myrrh-bearing women would have us draw some lessons from their courage, living in a culture where they faced great dangers for witnessing to their faith in Christ. While the disciples fled, the holy myrrh-bearing women were the first to bravely come to Christ’s tomb and identify themselves as “followers of Christ.” Likewise, St. Joseph, whom we also remember today, boldly asked for the body of Jesus even as St. Peter denied him three times.
The Orthodox Faith is the same yesterday, today, and forever because it’s the truth of relationship and communion with Christ God, as He’s revealed Himself to His Church from the beginning. That Faith has been “once delivered to the Saints” (Jude 1:3), but we continue to learn and grow in that faith, that truth. Being faithful Orthodox means we don’t change that ‘faith once received,’ but rather, we become grafted into it, into ever deeper communion with God through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, ‘owning’ our new identity in Him.
St. Paul warns us, saying, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Rom. 12:2) We have to be vigilant in not preferring our own ideas, preferences, and theology to conform to this world, this society, this particular culture, over the timeless truth that Christ is and that He’s entrusted to us. We’re vigilant so we can experience the fullness of the life in Him and freedom from enslavement to this world and its passions.
In times of crises in a culture, as we are experiencing now—those of true faith drawing the ire of the secularist humanists or those who seek to ‘re-imagine’ the faith, it’s okay when feeling conflicted between what the Church teaches and the latest that society preaches, to simply follow what the Church has taught since the beginning, what the bishops the priest proclaim of the timeless truth that Christ is. A child, when he is first learning anything, starts out by following what his parent teaches. Only later does he come to understand that touching fire burns you.
Likewise, as we grow in our faith, we learn to love the teachings of the Church not only because the Church says so, but because, through worship, teaching, prayer, and Sacraments, the Truth grows in us through the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit. In other words, the truth becomes ‘owned’ by us—not onerous or burdensome, but intuitive, freely ours, as we grow in love of Christ and one another through obedience to Christ and His Body, the Church.
Living in our culture challenges us as Orthodox Christians to such an extent that we may find ourselves ‘unpopular’, labeled politically ‘incorrect,’ narrow-minded, rejected. The temptation to “fit in,” to compromise the faith, can be great—to begin to think that maybe what the culture is saying in contrast to the truth is, well, somehow okay or ‘reasonable’?
But we cannot be faithful Orthodox Christians and embrace that which is contrary to the Orthodox Faith, the life He’s entrusted to us. Otherwise, we not only create division in the Body of Christ, but we withhold healing from ourselves and others—and that is no love. Instead, love compels us to be strong and courageous, humble, lovers of the truth as were the holy myrrh-bearing women who came to the tomb, when no one else would, to anoint the body of Jesus, just as Joseph asked for the body of Jesus when no one else would. As we hear in the Resurrectional troparion (hymn) of the Fourth Tone, “When the women disciples of the Lord, learned from the angel the joyful message of the Resurrection, they cast away the ancestral curse and elatedly told the apostles: Death is overthrown, Christ God is risen, granting to the world great mercy.”
We as Orthodox are called to transform the culture, to baptize the culture, not to conform our faith to the culture. This is hard; this increasingly sets us apart, someday, it may even be a risk for imprisonment, but this is also the way of love, the way of witness, the way that preserves the hope of salvation for all—this is the way of courage modeled by the countless Saints before us. Thank be to God; they were willing to love to such an extent that they preserved the faith in the face of persecution—small and great.
What gave the myrrh-bearing women and the pious Joseph the courage that they needed to do what the others would not, could not? Simply put, they were single-minded in their love for Jesus. Just as we hear in the Holy Scriptures, “Perfect love casts out fear” (I Jn 4,18). They came to Christ even as all others rejected Him, fled from Him, denied Him in order to keep themselves from being condemned or persecuted. But despite whatever fear they may have had, their love of Christ, love for Christ, compelled them to take Jesus, to come to Jesus, and to go forth proclaiming the Good News of His resurrection—even as others attempted to silence them, even as they were threatened to be cast out of the Temple, even as Christians began to be persecuted and killed for this faith we still proclaim.
They’re shining examples of the strength and courage of humility—models of godly womanhood, but also examples for all of us: we all need such humility and courage if we too are to follow Christ and be witnesses of His truth—even when it costs us. “…Whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven (Matt. 10: 32-33).
The holy myrrh-bearers and the pious Joseph had courage because they loved Christ God. They loved God more than they feared whatever man might do to them if they went forth proclaiming the truth of His resurrection. It is they who proclaim the Gospel of Christ’s resurrection to the other disciples, the Apostles of Christ. The Gospel proclamation begins with them. Likewise, St. John Chrysostom writes, that Joseph, a member of the Council of the Jews, “exposed himself to death” in order to bury Jesus (St. John Chrysostom in The Bible and the Orthodox Fathers for Orthodox, Johanna Manley, p. 52). And, the women disciples likewise ventured all to go to anoint Christ, risking persecution. When the disciples fled, the women drew near with their love.
You and I are called to a greater love, a love that’s willing to ‘offend’ when needed for the sake of another’s eternal soul, for the sake of the truth that is the only hope of salvation. Our love for Christ enables us to overcome our fears and have the courage to stand up for the truth while also loving those who are confused by “all the winds of doctrine” swirling around us. We love Christ so that those who sin may find healing as we do and that others can struggle, recover, repent as we do. Such is God’s grace and love for us.
The question for us is this: Will we be like those who flee, deny, or succumb to the culture out of fear, or will we be humbly courageous like the myrrh-bearing women and St. Joseph of Arimathea, who loved God more than they feared man. Only in this way, the way of true love and courage, do we learn to love our fellow man as we should, to contend for the faith as we are called to, to give hope to the hopeless and bring healing to the sin-sick, and model such healing and repentance in our own lives. Only in this way, do we protect that which is sacred and those who are most vulnerable in our society. We stand for the Truth, representing Christ to a world in great need of healing from sin-sickness and the passions, in great need of the timeless truth of Christ that further unites us with Him who is our eternal life, our salvation. The love of God compels us, the love of God animates us, the love of God shows us the way.
Third Sunday of Pascha:
The Myrrh-Bearing Women
This Sunday Leila has coffee hour and cleaning is due Saturday, April 28th, also by Leila.
Everyone please be sure the check the cleaning list of items that "must" be done and "could/should" be done on the bulletin board.
Also, if you are the last person leaving the church or if you come by the church during the week (especially if you have children with you) check the "when leaving the church" list posted by the door. All doors, lights, etc. must be checked.
St. John the Confessor
Commemoration of the Holy Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council
Copyright Saint John the Confessor Orthodox Church. All rights reserved.