Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Sunday of the Myrrhbearers

The Second Sunday after our Lord's Pascha takes us back to the first revelation of our Lord to his followers after His Resuurrection. We also give honor to St. Joseph of Arimathea as well as Nicodemus.  But, as we know from the Gospel, both Nicodemus and Joseph were followers of Jesus in secret.  Those women, on the other hand, who defied the possibility of threat of death to anoint our Lord with spices and ointments while he was entombed, were openly followers of our Lord and were prepared to even go to their deaths. 

But, as we know from the story, to their surprise, there were no soldiers guarding the tomb and the stone which they wondered how to roll away from the tomb had already been removed.  Astonished they saw the grave clothes and were told about the Resurrection by an Angel sitting upon the stone and were commanded to also go tell the Apostles what they had seen.  The Apostles were still in hiding.  They were in hiding ever since the crucifixion and remained in hiding for at least another week (so that St. Thomas could join them).  But the women's faith never wavered.  I don't think it coincidence then that the good news of Christ's Resurrection was preached to them first, even before the Apostles.

If this account confirms anything, it confirms that without these women, the Christian faith might well have never emerged as it did.  And this same spirit, this same courage has been present in many generations of Orthodox women across many lands.  Great martyrs, like St. Barbara and St. Paraskeve and St. Thekla all had great faith.  During the time of the Russian Revolution, the men were the ones who hid in their upper rooms while it was the women who still went to church on Sundays and feast days keeping the faith alive in themselves and teaching their children and grandchildren so the faith would not die.

Such great faith and courage cannot be readily dismissed.  In the hymnography of today's feast, the myrrhbearers are often described as the "weaker sex" or "weaker by nature."  But, as we know from the Imitation "highest cannot stand without the lowest."  Though weak, their faith made them strong and St. Mary Magdalen was made an "apostle to the apostles" to confirm their faith. Despite the fact that Christ had consistently told his Apostles of his impending death and Resurrection, they seemed to lose heart and focus.  The lowest had to support the highest.

Women of the Orthodox women still play a very necessary and important role in ensuring that the faith remains strong for future generations of Orthodox Christians.  We should be thankful to them for having helped preserve the faith for 2000 years  as teachers, as wives, as mothers, as myrrhbearers, as martyrs, as carers for the sick and lonely, and, especially, as true servants of God.  May the faith of the myrrhbearers confirm our fledgling faith and through their intercessions, may our Risen Lord have mercy upon us and save us.

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