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Redeeming the Time Vol 03.02 3rd Sunday of Pascha - The Holy Myrrhbearers - April 12/25 1999


See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,

redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

News and Announcements *

Remember: *

All this month: *

Fasting is relaxed a little bit this month. *

Concerning Prostrations *

Make plans for Ascension *

Divine Liturgy Next Week is EARLY! *

Marriage of Laurence and Natasha *

Questions about the Sunday of the Holy Myrrh-bearers *

More! Questions about the Holy Myrrh- bearers *

On the Sunday of the Myrrhbearers *

"Thy Son is Risen" * Answers to Questions about the Sunday of the Holy Myrrh-bearers * Answer 1 *

Answer 2 *

Answer 5 *

Answer 6 *

Answer 7 *

Answer 10 *

Answers to More! Questions about the Holy Myrrh- bearers * ANSWER 1 *

ANSWER 2 *

ANSWER 3 *

ANSWER 4 *

ANSWER 5 *

ANSWER 6 *

ANSWER 7 *

ANSWER 8 *

ANSWER 9 *

ANSWER 10 *

News and Announcements

Remember:

All this month:

We do not say "O Heavenly King" but substitute "Christ is risen..." 3 times, until the Apodosis of Pascha (May 14/27).

After this, until Pentecost, we omit "Christ is risen...". Wherever you see "O Heavenly King..." just skip over to the next prayer. We are like the Apostles during this period, "waiting" for the Holy Spirit to come, and the absence of this prayer makes a strong statement of our profound need for the Holy Spirit.

Fasting is relaxed a little bit this month.

On Wednesday and Friday we may always have wine and Olive Oil. On a few of the days, we can also have fish.

Concerning Prostrations

Also, during this time, we do not normally do prostrations, unless our spiritual father instructs us to do them for some reason. In any case, no prostrations are done in the church until the day of Pentecost.

Make plans for Ascension

Ascension Thursday is May 20th (according to the civil calendar). We will have Vigil the evening before and Divine Liturgy Thursday morning at 6 AM. YOU CAN DO IT! Please make plans to attend these services.

Divine Liturgy Next Week is EARLY!

To accommodate those who wish to travel to Arkansas for the wedding of Anthony Headley and Anna Sitnikova, we will move the services on next Sunday (May 2nd, according to the Civil calendar) ONE HOUR EARLIER. Divine Liturgy will begin at 9:00 AM, and will end early enough so people can make a leisurely drive to DeQueen for the Wedding. The trip should take about three hours.

Marriage of Laurence and Natasha

Many years to Mr. and Mrs Laurence and Natasha Farris, who were joined in holy matrimony this past Sunday!

Questions about the Sunday of the Holy Myrrh-bearers

QUESTION 1

The Gospel reading for the Sunday of the Myrrh-bearing women includes the name of one man. There was another man also involved who was mentioned in another place. Describe who they were and what they did. Don't just describe cold historical facts - what do their actions mean?

QUESTION 2

When is the Sunday of the myrrh-bearers? Why?

QUESTION 3

The church names how many myrrh bearers? List them.

QUESTION 4

Where was Jesus buried? Is there any significant meaning to this place?

QUESTION 5

A great stone was rolled across the entrance to the sepulchre, sealing it. Can we understand anything from this?

QUESTION 6

The myrrh the women carried symbolizes something we must also "carry" to Christ. What?

QUESTION 7

Where was the angel in the tomb? Any significance to this?

QUESTION 8

What were the angel's instructions? Were they understood? Were they followed?

QUESTION 9

The angel singled out a single person to tell of the resurrection, apart from the rest of the disciples as a group. Whom? Why?

QUESTION 10

St Mark reports of the honorable counselor Joseph:

"And he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre." (Mark 15:46)

How should we think of this "fine linen", and does it instruct us in any way?

More! Questions about the Holy Myrrh- bearers

On the Sunday of the Myrrhbearers

"Thy Son is Risen"

The following is taken from "The Ark" # 37, April 1994

by George Gabriel

During the Church's Paschal period, from the Matins of the Resurrection of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ to the eve of His Ascension on the 40th day, the primary hymn to the Mother of God is the much loved, The angel cried unto her who is full of grace, [saying] 'Rejoice, rejoice O Pure Virgin; again I say, rejoice! For thy Son is risen from the grave on the third day.'

(St John of Damascus)

It reminds us that the Archangel Gabriel, the Angel of the Annunciation, delivered a _second annunciation_ to the Virgin. Thirty-four years after the first Annunciation, he returned to greet her at the empty tomb of Christ, saying,

"Be joyous, O Pure Virgin. I have come to say once again, rejoice! For now I announce to you this is the third day and your

Son is risen from the grave."

Christians have chanted this _second annunciation_ for well over a millenium. It was always a part of the consciousness of the Church that the risen Lord appeared first to His Mother who, accompanied by Mary Magdalene, went to the tomb "very early in the morning, while it was yet dark." She who, in a cave, brought Him incarnate into the world, from a cave now receives Him, the Incarnate Vanquisher of Hades, back in the world.

On the Sunday of the Myrrhbearers, in 1351, St Gregory Palamas, the great champion of Orthodoxy and Archbishop of Thessaloniki, delivered the following homily about the Mother of God as the first person to see, hear, and touch the risen Lord.






Homily on the Sunday of the Myrrhbearers, in the year 1351

by St Gregory Palamas

(translated from Greek and abridged by George Gabriel)

(From "The Ark" #37, April 1994)

The resurrection of the Lord is the renewal of human nature. It is a new life and a new creation, and the return to the immortal life of the first Adam, who through sin swallowed death, and through death returned to the earth from which he was made.

Just as in the beginning, there was no one else to see Adam being made and receiving life, and later the first person to see him was a woman, likewise when the second Adam, who is the Lord, was rising from the dead, no man saw Him. For no one of His own was present, and the soldiers who guarded the tomb "had become as dead." But after the resurrection, the first person who saw Him was a woman, as we heard in Mark's gospel reading: "Now when Jesus was risen in the morning of the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene." (Mk 16:9)

Clearly, it would appear therefore that the Evangelist stated both the time of Christ's resurrection, that is, the morning, and that He appeared first to Mary Magdalene and at precisely the time of His arising. But that is not what it really says, as will be evident when we study the matter a little more closely, because the Evangelist previously said, in agreement with the other Evangelists, that this woman named Mary came to the tomb earlier, "very early in the morning" (v 16:2), with the other myrrhbearing women. And when they found the tomb empty they departed.

Therefore, the Lord had risen much earlier in the morning before she saw Him. In noting the hour, Mark did not simply say "morning," but "very early in the morning," that is to say, when the dim light across the horizon precedes the rising of the sun. And John refers to this when he says that, in the morning while "it was still dark," Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been removed from it. (Jn 20:1)

According to John, she did not come to the tomb at that time only, for she also left the tomb without seeing Him. So she runs to Peter and John and announces not that the Lord is risen, but that He has been taken from the tomb. Therefore, she did not yet know about the resurrection. So the Lord appeared to Mary [Magdalene] not merely in the morning, but in the full light of day.

Now, there is something mentioned by the Evangelists in a very shadowy way and I will reveal it to you. Indeed the good news of the Lord's resurrection, as is proper and fitting, was received from Him first by the Theotokos, prior to all other men. Also prior to all others, she saw Him and delighted in His divine speaking. And she not only saw Him with her own eyes and heard Him with her own ears, but she alone first touched His sacred feet with her own hands.

However, the Evangelists do not say these things openly, because they did not wish to present the testimony of His Mother so they would not be giving unbelievers an excuse for suspicion. But now, through the grace of Him who is risen, we can explain it to the faithful. And the meaning of this feast urgently requires that we clarify some things about the Myrrhbearers, for the reason given by Him Who said, "For nothing is secret that shall not be made manifest." (Lk.8:17)

So, the Myrrhbearers are the women who, with His Mother, followed the Lord, and remained with her during the time of the saving passion, and sought to anoint the body of the Lord. When a great stone was placed upon the entrance to the tomb, according to the Evangelist Mark, sitting and watching from across the way were Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary." By saying "the other Mary," he was most certainly alluding to the Mother of God because she was called "the mother of James and Joses," who were sons of Joseph the Betrothed. But they were not the only women who were watching the burial of the Lord, for there were others also, as Luke records, "And the women also, who came with Him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the tomb and the placing of the body in it...It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women." (Lk. 23:55; 24:10)

They returned, as it says, and bought perfumes and ointments, because they did not fully understand that He is the very Fragrance of Life to those who come unto Him in faith, just as the smell of death, on the other hand, envelops those who remain in unbelief unto the end. And the fragrance of His garments, in other words, His own body, is superior to all perfumes. And His name means "myrrh poured forth," [see note below] through which the whole universe has been filled with divine fragrance. But they prepared the perfumes and ointments on the one hand, in order to honor the deceased, and, on the other hand, as a relief from the stench of a corpse when it is decomposing.

Although they prepared the ointments and perfumes, they rested on Saturday according to the commandment because they had not yet comprehended the true Sabbaths or correctly perceived that very day to be the super-blessed Sabbath that transfers their nature from the depths of Hades to the all-illuminated and divine and heavenly heights.

"Upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning," says Luke, "they came unto the tomb, bringing the perfumes which they had prepared." (24:1) And Matthew says, "At the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week," two women came. (28:1) And John says one woman, Mary Magdalene, "came early, when it was yet dark." (20:1) But Mark says three women came "very early in the morning of the first day of the week." (16:2)

It appears, of course, that the Evangelists disagree among them- selves regarding the hour as well as the number of women because, as I said, there were many Myrrhbearing women. And they came in groups to the tomb, not only once but two and three times, and not always the same ones, and all came during the morning but not exactly the same time.

Mary Magdalene, for example, returned again alone and stayed longer. So each Evangelist mentions one visit of a few and omits the others. I surmise and gather from all the Evangelists, therefore, that the Theotokos was the first person to come to the tomb of the Son of God, accompanied by Mary Magdalene. I conclude this mainly from the Evangelist Matthew, because he says, "...Mary Magdalene came and the other Mary" (28:1). who was most certainly the Mother of God, to see the tomb. "And behold there was a great earthquake, for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven and rolled back the stone from the entrance, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightening, and his raiment white as snow. And for fear of him, the keepers trembled and became as dead." (v.2-8)

All the other women, therefore, came after the earthquake and after the guards fled, and found the tomb open and the stone moved away. But the Mother of God arrived at the moment the earthquake was happening, the stone was being moved and the tomb was opened. The guards, although very shaken, were still present, and after the quake they rose up seeking to flee. But the Mother of God rejoiced beholding this scene. It seems to me that the life-bearing tomb was opened first of all for her, because through her all things were opened to us, all that is above in heaven and below on earth; and for her the angel so shone that, despite the darkness of the hour, she was able to see by the fullness of the angel's light not only the empty tomb but also the grave clothes neatly put aside and testifying to the resurrection of Him Who had been entombed.

Obviously, the evangelizing angel was Gabriel himself, because the moment he saw her rushing to the tomb, he, who in the beginning had said to her, "Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favor with God" (Lk.1:30), hastens now and descends to tell the Ever-virgin the same thing again and to announce the resurrection from the dead of Him Who without seed was born from her, and to lift the stone and display the empty tomb and the grave clothes in order to confirm the good news.

The angel replied to the women, "Fear not. You seek Jesus Who was crucified? He is risen; behold the place where the Lord lay." He says, "Although you behold the guards shaking with fear, you must not fear. I know you seek Jesus Who was crucified. He is risen, He is not here. Because He is not only uncontainable by Hades and death and the locks and bars and seals of the tomb, He is also the Lord of our immortal and heavenly angels, and He alone is the Lord of the universe. Behold," he says, "where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead."

And they departed "with fear and great joy." Again, I believe that Mary Magdalene and the other women who were with her up to this point still had fear, because they did not comprehend the significance of the angel's words. Nor were they able to fully perceive the light in order to see and understand correctly. But the Mother of God, on the other hand, who was altogether pure and filled with grace, received great joy because she fully understood the angel's words and was wholly taken into the light. Because of these things she was able to know the truth and to trust in the archangel, and because many years earlier he appeared to her and by his words proved himself trustworthy.

Besides, since the godly wise Virgin was present at all these occurrences, would she not have understood what was happening? That is to say, she saw the earthquake, she saw an angel, and a great one at that, descending from heaven like a bolt of lightening; she saw the guards becoming "dead;" and she saw the moving of the stone, the emptiness of the tomb, and the miracle of the grave clothes [see note below] that were not unwound but remained intact, held together by the myrrh and aloe, and looking like the hollow shape of the body. Moreover, she received the joyous sight and announcement of the angel. After this announcement and their own departure, it was as if Mary Magdalene had not heard the angel at all, for she attested only to the empty tomb and made no mention of the grave clothes and ran to Simon Peter and the other disciple, as John says.

Joseph of Arimathaea removed Christ's body from the Cross and "Nicodemus came with a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about one- hundred pounds...They wound the body in othonia [soaked] with the spices..." (Jn.19:39-40) It is known that, after several hours, this mixture becomes fairly hard, as would the cloth strips, of course. In addition, the hardening mixture would cement the strips together and to the body. So by the third day, the winding cloths and the one hundred pounds of the mixture would form a rather solid shell that not only conformed to the body of the Lord, but was cemented to it as well.

When St Peter and St John entered the empty tomb they found the "othonia" completely intact, as St Gregory Palamas, St John Chrysostom, and other Fathers tell us. The cloth strips were not unwound or disturbed in any way. Indeed, the risen Saviour's glorified Body had passed through this cloth shell, just as, in His birth, He passed through the birth canal of His Mother, and as He passed out of the closed tomb before the stone was moved, and as He passed through the locked door where the disciples were hiding - in each instance - without disturbing the "seals." The face cloth or sudarium was also found neatly folded and put aside.

The Mother of God, however, was returning again accompanied by other women, and behold, "Jesus met them, saying, Hail." (Mt.28:9) Do you see that the Mother of God saw Him even before Mary Magdalene did? "And they approached and grasped His feet and worshipped Him." (28:9) When the Theotokos, with Mary Magdalene, had heard the good news of the resurrection from the angel, she alone understood the meaning of the words.

Likewise, with the other women, when she met her Son and God, she was the first to see and recognize the Risen One, and fell down and grasped His feet and became His apostle to the Apostles. The fact that Mary Magdalene was not with the Mother of God when the Lord appeared and spoke to her is taught by John, because he says of her. "Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter and the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord from the tomb, and we know not where they have laid Him." (20:2)

If she had seen Him and touched Him with her hands and heard Him speak, could she say that "they have taken Him away and we know not where?" However, after Peter and John visited the tomb and saw the grave clothes, and departed, "Mary stood before the tomb weeping." (20:11) Do you see that not only had she not yet seen Him, rather she had not even heard anything about Him. And when the angels appeared in the tomb and asked her, "Woman, why weepest thou" (20:13), she spoke again as if about a dead man. And as she turned and saw Jesus, even then she did not comprehend.

And when He asked her why she was weeping, she replies in the same way until He addresses her by her name and shows Himself to be alive. So then she too fell down wishing to kiss His feet but heard, "Touch Me not." We learn from this that when He previously appeared to His Mother and the women who were with her, He permitted her alone to touch His feet, even though Matthew presents this act as something all the women did, not wishing, as we said, to bring the Lord's Mother into question.

Since the Ever-virgin Mary was first to receive the message regarding the resurrection, many women then returned with her, and they saw the stone that was moved away and they heard the angels. With that sound and sight they left and went their separate ways. Some of them, Mark says, "fled from the tomb, for trembling and fear had seized them. Neither said they any- thing to any man for they were afraid." (16:8) Others followed the Mother of the Lord and they were able to see and hear the Master.

Mary Magdalene, on the other hand, went to Peter and John and returned with them to the tomb where she remained alone after they departed, and was blessed to see the Master. And she too is sent to the Apostles, and she comes to announce to all of them, as John says, "that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things unto her." (20:18) Mark says that this took place in the morning, that is, in full daylight, certainly after dawn, but not that this is the time that the resurrection took place or His first appearance.

Now we have ascertained all the events with regard to the Myrrh- bearers, and we have reconciled the four Evangelists. But the disciples did not believe, even though on the very day of the resurrection they learned from the Myrrhbearers and Peter, and from Luke and Cleopas that the Lord was alive and had been seen by them. That is why they were disturbed by Him when He appeared later where they were gathered. But later, when He showed them many times in many ways that He was alive, they not only believed, but proclaimed it everywhere.

"Their sound hath gone forth into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world" (Ps.18:4) and "the Lord [is] working with them and confirming the word with signs" (Mk.16:20), because the miracles were absolutely necessary until such time as the word would be preached throughout the world. For it is needful to have signs and great wonders in representation and confirmation of the truth of the preaching.

For signs are needed, though not great ones, for contemplation by those who have received the word, if they have believed, of course. And which signs? Those that come from works.

It is said, "Show me thy faith by thy works," and "Let him who has faith show his works by his manner of living." Can you believe that someone truly has a divine mind, a great and lofty mind -- one might even say heavenly, which is what goodness is -- if that person is given over to foul deeds and is attached to the earth and earthly things?

Let us present a manner of living that is appropriate to faith, that we may enter into the bridal chamber of incorruptible joy and live there eternally with the saints, in the abode of all who rejoice. Amen.

From "The Ark" at P.O. Box 1359, Ridgewood, NJ 07451.

A free one-year subscription may be obtained by Orthodox Christians upon request by sending 6 US first class stamps.

Answers to Questions about the Sunday of the Holy Myrrh-bearers

Answer 1

The Gospel reading for the Sunday of the Holy Myrrh Bearers is taken from St Mark. After the God-man Jesus Christ had given up His spirit on the cross St Mark reports: "Joseph of Arimathaea, an honorable counselor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus." (Mark 15:43)

He continues, "Pilate gave the body of Jesus to Joseph, and he bought fine linen, and took him down, and wrapped him in the linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone unto the door of the sepulchre." (Mark 15:46)

St John gives other details in his gospel which show that Nicodemus also helped Joseph: "And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. {40} Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury."(John 19:39-40)

St Luke gives us more insight into Joseph's character: "And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counselor; and he was a good man, and a just: {51} (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God. {52} This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. {53} And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid."(Luke 23:50-53)

St Matthew, who is perhaps the most laconic of the Evangelists concerning the events after the death of Jesus and His resurrection, still found it important to mention the exploits of Joseph, adding to our knowledge of him by calling him "rich": "When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple: {58} He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. {59} And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, {60} And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed." (Mat 27:57-60)

Both Joseph and Nicodemus were disciples of Christ, although secretly, because of fear. Nicodemus had met Christ by night, and discoursed with him about being "born again" (John 3:1-21). Although Nicodemus did not understand about the Lord then, the divine words eventually found their place in his heart. He later was emboldened to contradict the gainsaying of the Jewish leaders who were plotting to find some way to put Christ to death, as John reports: "Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) {51} Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?" (John 7:50-51). St Luke's testimony also shows that Joseph was against the treachery of the Jews, and did not endorse the slaying of the God-man.

These two men, who before had been timid, and, despite their learning, ignorant concerning the true nature and purpose of Jesus, nevertheless were converted, and emboldened by the gentle wind of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. When the time came, they showed themselves to be true lovers of Christ, as they risked their position in society and even their very own lives by their burial of Christ.

These two men were motivated by their consciences, which had been touched with divine truth. Indeed, "perfect love casteth out fear" (John 4:18). Such love also causes a person to act. May God grant that our love will also cast out fear, and we will not stand by idly as intellectual Christians, but will be motivated by our love to work in a way that is pleasing to God.

The clean linen that was used to wrap the immaculate body of Christ, and the nature of the tomb also have important meaning to be gleaned, but we will save these things for another question.

Answer 2

The Sunday of the myrrh-bearers is the Third Sunday of Pascha (including the Sunday of Pascha itself as the first Sunday). It follows the Sunday of St. Thomas. St Thomas Sunday immediately follows the Sunday of Pascha because historically, Thomas saw the risen Christ for the first time eight days after the resurrection, and therefore, the commemoration is made in this time frame. It is true that the myrrh-bearers saw the risen Christ before Thomas, on the very day of the resurrection, but perhaps Thomas' confession of the dual nature of Christ, "My Lord and my God," also had a bearing on the order in which these two events are remembered by the church.

Answer 3Holy tradition names seven myrrh-bearers:

Mary Magdalene

Mary, the wife of CleophasJoanna, the wife of Herod's stewardSalome, the mother of the sons of Zebedee, James and JohnSusanna Mary, the sister of Lazarus Martha, the sister of LazarusAnswer 4Jesus was buried in a "new tomb", which had been hewn out of a rock, where no man had ever before been laid. The tomb was sealed with a great stone.

The tomb was new, so that this would be a proof of the resurrection. No one could credibly claim that some other person had risen from the dead.

In a mystical way, the tomb represents the human soul, where Christ must always abide. Blessed Theophylact admonishes us: "... Let us (also) take the body of Jesus, through Holy Communion, and place it in a tomb hewn out of a rock, that is, place it within a soul which always remembers God and does not forget Him. And let that soul be hewn from a rock, that is, from Christ Who is the Rock on which we are established" (Blessed Theophylact, Commentary on Mark 15:42-47). The translators of this commentary into English also give this note: "The Greek word for 'tomb' is derived from the word 'mneme', which means 'memory'"

Christian! Have you hewn out a place in your soul for the God-man to abide? Have you labored hard to prepare a place, hewing out the hard rock of the passions and unbelief? Do not make the mistake of just believing in Christ, and not laboring to building a place for Him in your soul. The Christian life is filled with labor. Labor while there is the day, that is, while you have breath on this earth, and always keep Christ in your remembrance, in your soul.

Answer 5

The stone that sealed the sepulchre helped to validate the resurrection. It was set at the door of a previously empty tomb, and guarded by an elite cohort of soldiers. The stone was not moved until after Christ had resurrected, revealing an empty tomb, and the soldiers shaking with fear.

The stone was a large object, immovable by one man. Venerable Bede describes its removal: "This rolling back of the stone mystically suggests the unblocking of the Mysteries of Christ, which were concealed by the covering of the Law: for the Law was written on Stone" (Quoted from "the Sunday Sermons of the Great fathers", Vol. 2, Pg. 215)

Answer 6

Myrrh was used to preserve things from corruption and dry them out. It also had a sweet odor, as did the other ointments and spices that the women brought to anoint the body of Jesus.

We must understand the myrrh in a mystical way if we are to truly understand the Christian way of the life. The women came to the tomb of Christ in order to bring Him myrrh, that is good works, and a life that is pleasing to God and free of corruption. We must not come to Christ empty-handed.

"The Myrrh-bearers, fulfilling the Old Testament Law, the Law of Moses, bought perfumes and went to anoint His body, the body of Christ. And we, fulfilling the Law of the New Testament, the Law of Christ, must also acquire spiritual perfumes - His commandments: humility, meekness, peace loving - and we must anoint His body with spiritual oil (that is, love and mercy). And His body is the Church of Christ."

Blessed Archbishop Andrei, "One thing Needful", pg. 67-8)

"You have heard, dearly beloved, that holy women who had followed the Lord came to the sepulcher with spices. They had loved Him when He was alive, and they showed Him their eager tenderheartedness even when He was dead. Their deed points to something that must be done in our holy Church. Thus as we hear of what they did, we must also think of our responsibility to imitate them. We, too, who believe in Him Who died, approach His sepulcher with spices if we are strengthened with the sweet smell of the virtues, and if we seek the Lord with a reputation for good works. And the women who came with spices saw angels, since those who advance toward God through their holy desires, accompanied by the sweet smell of the virtues, behold the citizens from on high."

St Gregory the Dialogist, "Forty Gospel Homilies", Homily 21, Pg. 158)

Answer 7

When the holy myrrh-bearers saw the angel, he was standing on the right side of the place where the body of Jesus had lain.

And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. (Mark 16:5)

It is not without purpose that the Evangelist mentions this detail

"right" side. St Gregory the Dialogist explains: "What is signified by the left side if not the present life? And what by the right side if not life everlasting? Therefore, because our Redeemer had now passed over beyond the infirmity of this present life, rightly does the angel who had come to announce His eternal life sit on the right side" (Quotation taken from the Sunday Sermons of the great Fathers, Vol. 2, it is also in Homily 21 of "Forty Gospel Homilies")

Answer 8The angel gave exact instructions to the stupefied women:

"And he saith unto them, 'Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. {7} But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.'" (Mark 16:6-7)

The Evangelist goes on to tell us:

"And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid." (Mark 16:8)

The incredible reality of the resurrection was too much for the women to bear in such a short time. The Evangelists give many more examples which show that it was difficult even for those who loved the Lord to believe in His resurrection immediately. Blessed Theophylact explains: "Fear and amazement had taken hold of the women at the sight of the angel and at the awesome mystery of the Resurrection, and because of this 'neither said they anything to any man; for they were afraid'. Either they were afraid of the Jews, or they were so in awe of what they had seen that their minds were confounded. For this reason 'neither said they any thing to any man', and they even forgot the command the angel had given them." (Blessed Theophylact, Commentary on St Mark 16:1-8)

Answer 9When the angel instructed the women, he specifically told them to announce the resurrection to Peter:

"But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you." (Mark 16:7)

Simon Peter was still shaken by the remembrance of his threefold denial of Christ. The church considers this to be an important thing to meditate upon, and addresses Peter's anguish thusly:

O Lord, after Thy resurrection on the third day / and the worship of the apostles, / Peter cried out to Thee: / "The women showed courage, but I was afraid. / The thief uttered theology, but I denied Thee. /

And dost Thou now call upon me to be Thine apostle still? /

Or wilt Thou show me again to be a fisher of the deep? //

Yet do Thou accept me, who repent, O God, and save me!"

(Second Sessional hymn after the reading of the Psalter, Sunday Matins, Tone 5)The angel singled him out in order to help him regain confidence that the Lord had accepted his repentance. The Lord Himself also singled out Peter when he restored him fully by means of His three questions after they had dined by the seashore. The Lord is always present and will always forgive, but we frail ones need to be reminded of this fact continually.

Blessed Theophylact explains: "He names Peter separately from the other disciples, as Peter was the foremost of the apostles. Also, because Peter had denied the Lord, the angel singles him out by name so that, when the women came and said that the Lord had commanded them to tell the disciples, Peter could not say, 'I denied the Lord, and therefore I am no longer His disciple. He has rejected me and abhors me' The angel added the words, 'and Peter' so that Peter would not be tempted to think that Jesus found him unworthy of mention, and unworthy to be ranked among the Lord's disciples, because of his denial." (Ibid.)

"After this, the angel told the women to proclaim these joyful tidings to the apostles 'and Peter'. Why 'and Peter'? Surely because Peter was feeling far more confused than the other disciples. His conscience must have been pricking him for his having three times denied the Lord, and for having finally fled from Him. The loyalty of the Apostle John, with whom Peter stood closest to the Lord, must have made Peter's conscience the more tender. John had not fled, but had remained beneath the Cross of his crucified Lord. In brief, Peter must have felt a traitor to his Lord, and must have been very uneasy in the apostles' company, especially that of the most holy Mother of God. Peter's name means "rock", but his faith was not rock-firm. His hesitancy and timidity made him scorned in his own eyes. He needed to be set back on his feet and to have his dignity as a man and as an apostle restored. The Lord, in His love for mankind, did this now, and this is why the angel made special mention of Peter by name."

(Blessed Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic, "Homilies", Page 235)

Answer 10

Clean, white linen has always been a symbol of purity. Just as the two formerly secret disciples of the Lord wrapped the immaculate body of Christ in fine linen, we must wrap ourselves in good works and moral purity that is pleasing to God.

"Joseph wrapped the Lord's body in linen, a clean linen cloth (Matthew 27:59), and laid it in the tomb. If we want the Lord to rise from the dead in us, we must keep Him in our clean, pure body - for clean linen clothes denote a pure body. A body made impure by the passions and vices is not a place in which the Lord will rise from the dead and live."

(Blessed Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic, "Homilies", Page 231)

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Good things to read about the Sunday of the Holy Myrrh-bearers:

  • Blessed Theophylact, Commentaries on the Gospels
  • Forty Gospel Homilies Homily 21 Pg. 157-163
  • Blessed bishop Nikolai Velimirovic, "Homilies"
  • Blessed Archbishop Andrei, "One Thing needful"
Answers to More! Questions about the Holy Myrrh- bearers

ANSWER 1

The Church commemorates seven myrrh-bearing women on the third Sunday of Pascha: Mary Magdalene, Mary, another Mary, Martha, Salome, Joanna, Susanna, as well as Righteous Joseph of Arimathia and Nicodemus.

ANSWER 2

Salome was the daughter of St. Joseph the betrothed, the wife of Zebedee, and the mother of the holy apostles James and John.

ANSWER 3

Mary was the wife of Cleophas, as the Holy Evangelist John reports: "Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene". (John 19:25). He was a brother of St. Joseph the betrothed, and, along with St. Luke, met Jesus on the day of the resurrection, while on the way to Emmaus. This incredible story is recounted in the 5th matins gospel: Luke 24:12-35, (number 113 according to the Russian Gospel numbering). After long enlightening discourse with Him, they finally recognized him after he broke bread and blessed it.

ANSWER 4

Mary and Martha, whose brother was Lazarus.

ANSWER 5

Mary Magdalene was formerly possessed by seven devils (demons):

"... And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils ..."(Luke 8:2)

St. Mary Magdalene showed a red egg to a Roman Emperor as proof of the power of Christ, and to this day, it is traditional to have red eggs at Pascha.

ANSWER 6

The Righteous Joseph obtained the body of Jesus, and along with Nicodemus, anointed Him as best they could and buried him in a tomb that Joseph had intended for himself.

"When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple: He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed. And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre. (Matthew 27:57-61)

"And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.

There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand." (John 19:38-42)

ANSWER 7

The women wanted to anoint the body of Jesus, since they did not have enough time before the Passover began. They were going to the grave to anoint a dead man. They as yet did not understand that He would rise from the dead.

ANSWER 8

According to the witness of the majority of the Fathers, "Mary the mother of James" was none other than the Theotokos. Blessed Theofylact, in his commentary on St. Luke chapter 24 states this quite plainly: "Mary the mother of James is the Theotokos. They gave her this name as the apparent mother of James the son of Joseph, whom also they called James the Younger, that is, the brother of the Lord. For there was also James the Elder, one of the twelve, the son of Zebedee" (Blessed Theofylact, Commentary on St. Luke, Pg. 317). Holy tradition and the gospels place the Theotokos at the cross of Christ, as St. John states:

"Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene." (John 19:25)

The Evangelist Mark mentions the mother of God by this other, more cryptic name when he describes those who were near the cross:

"There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome; (Who also, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him;) and many other women which came up with him unto Jerusalem." (Mark 15:40-41)

The Holy church often refers to the Theotokos quite cryptically, from the old testament prophecies into the New Testament evangelical writings.

As an aside, we take note that Blessed Theofylact wrote his commentary, a compendium of all of the thought of the fathers from Pentecost onwards, in the 11th century. This was well before any impious innovators would suggest that the mother of God, the Theotokos, the ever virgin Mary, had children other than Jesus. The knowledge that the Holy Theotokos was and is a virgin was so fixed in the mind of the church that one could be so bold as to say that one cannot be Orthodox and believe otherwise. The innovations of the Protestants, in reaction against the corruption of the schismatic and later heretical Latins, would not come for many more years. They have much explaining to do if they are to prove that the Theotokos is not ever virgin, when so many prophesies, the testament of the Fathers, and the mind of the church stand as a united witness against their arrogant folly.

ANSWER 9

The women were mostly concerned about the great stone in front of the tomb, and seemed to not even be

considering that the tomb was guarded by an elite contingent of soldiers!

"And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?" (Mark 16:3)

They saw the stone rolled away from the tomb, and were met by an angel when they entered it. it:

"And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted." (Mark 16:4-5)

The angel told them to tell the apostles, but especially singled out Peter:

"And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you."(Mark 16:6-7)

It had only been a few days since Peter had denied Christ three times. He was in a bewildered state, with his conscience pricking him terribly, and needed to be encouraged. A sessional hymn sung in matins expresses what surely must have been Peter's feelings:

"After Thy Resurrection on the third day / and the act of worship of the Apostles, / Peter called out unto Thee: / "The women ventured while I was afraid; / the thief confessed God while I denied Him. / Wilt Thou continue to call me a disciple? / Wilt Thou not make me again a fisher of the deep? // Rather accept me repenting, O God, and save me." " (Sessional Hymn after the second reading from the Psalter, Sunday matins, fifth tone)

Blessed Bishop Nicolai Velomirovic has a wonderful commentary on this subject (Sermons, page 235)

ANSWER 10

Joanna was the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward.

"And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out whom went seven devils, And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance". (Luke 8:2-3)

"Redeeming the Time" is an almost weekly Journal of St Nicholas Orthodox Church, Dallas Texas. All issues may be found at: http://www.orthodox.net/redeeming

All unsigned or unattributed portions Copyright 1998 Fr Seraphim Holland

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