My beloved brothers and sisters in Our Risen Savior Jesus Christ,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN!
ON THE THIRD SUNDAY OF PASCHA,
THE HOLY CHURCH COMMEMORATES
THE HOLY MYRRH-BEARING WOMEN,
TOGETHER WITH JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA THE
SECRET DISCIPLES AND NIKODEMOS THE
DISCIPLE BY NIGHT.
On this day, the Third Sunday of Pascha, Orthodox Christians commemorate the Myrrh-Bearing Women, who served Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ during His earthly and Divine Ministry (Diakonia) from their own means and abundance. We commemorate with the noble Councilor Joseph, a secret Disciple, who hailed from Arimathea, and who himself also was waiting for the Kingdom of God. He is also commemorated individually on the 31st of July. We also commemorate the other Disciple of the Lord, the one who came by night, the Pharisee Nikodemos, a ruler of the Jews. It was he who addressed the chief priest and Pharisees, saying on Jesus’ behalf: "OUR LAW DOTH NOT JUDGE MAN, UNLESS IT SHOULD FIRST HEAR HIM, AN DKNOW FROM THE MAN HIMSELF WHAT HE DOETH, DOTH IT" [John 7:51].
Couplet to the Myrrh-bearers
"The myrrh-bearers bring myrrh to Christ; I bring as myrrh
Saint Gregory Palamas identifies the myrrh-bearers as "All those women who followed with the Mother of the Lord, stayed with her during those hours of the salvific Passion, and with pathos anointed Christ with myrrh." Saint John Chrysostom comments, "See thou the courage of the women? Dost thou behold their affection?"
The names of SEVEN OF THE MYRRH-BEARERS that have come down to us are:
Saint Mary Magdalene (commemorated by the Holy Church on the 22nd of July and the 4th of May);
Saint Salome, the mother of the sons of Zebedee (3rd of August);
Saint Mary the wife of Cleopas (23rd of May);
Saint Joanna, the wife of Chuza (27th of July);
Saints Mary and Martha, the sisters of Saint Lazarus (4th of June);
Saint Susanna (Third Sunday after Pascha).
Again, the identity of "Mary the mother of Iakovos" (James) [Mark 16:1; Luke 24:10] and "Joses" [Matthew 27:56] is none other THAN THE THEOTOKOS. Saint Theophylact also identifies Mary as the "stepmother" of Saint Joseph the Betrothed’s sons. Thus, we commemorate those who loved longest when life and hope seemed gone.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa believed that the Theotokos was "the other Mary" who, according to Saint Matthew, came to the tomb on Pascha morning with Mary Magdalene. Saint Gregory Palamas also writes: "With the expression, ‘and the other Mary,’ the Evangelist means, without a doubt, the Mother of Christ. She was also called the Mother of Iakovos (James) and Joes, who were the children of Joseph her betrothed." In the same spirit, Nikephoros Kallistos writes that the "other Mary" was the Theotokos, who burned with longing and melancholy as did Mary Magdalene, and so she accompanied her to the tomb.
Each of the Four Evangelists contributes valuable details concerning the events of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Not all these distinctive items of information are contained in all Four Gospels. Each of the four writers contributed individual details from his own perspective and emphasis, yet INSPIRED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT. A careful examination of all four records in comparison with one another demonstrates that they are not in any way contradictory, despite the charges of some critics. It will be helpful to our study to consolidate the evidence given in all four accounts in order to arrive at a fuller picture of what took place that Sunday morning. If we knew all the circumstances, we would see that they are all harmonious.
Before the First Day of the Week, the women Disciples determined to meet at the Sepulchre. Coming from various points in the city, they proceeded in two or more groups. This explains why in holy icons of this scene the number of myrrh-bearers varies from one to six or more. It happened that there was an earthquake when an Angel of the Lord descended and rolled back the stone. Saint Gregory Palamas, in his homily, entitled "On the Sunday of the Myrrh-bearing Women," believes that Mary Theotokos, together with Mary Magdalene, were first to arrive and witness the DESCENT OF THE ANGEL WHO ROLLED BACK THE STONE AT THE TIME OF THE EARTHQUAKE. Continuing, he notes that "IT WAS, AFTER ALL, THE SAME ANGEL OF THE ANNUNCIATION, GABRIEL. He watched the Theotokos proceed rapidly toward the grave; and thus, he immediately DESCENDED. He who in the beginning had told her, "Rejoice thou who hast been filled with grace, the Lord is with thee… Cease being afraid" (Luke 1:28-30), now addresses her with the same exhortation. It was to her, who had SEEDLESSLY BORN CHRIST, that he came not only to announce Jesus’ RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD BUT ALSO TO ROLL THE STONE AWAY, TO REVEAL THE EMPTY TOMB, AND TO SHOW THE GRAVE CLOTHES. In this manner would the Good Tidings (News) be verified by her."
At that time it was still dark, but beginning to dawn. The Myrrh-bearer Mary Magdalene, seeing the stone was taken away from the Sepulchre and the soldiers who brought THE SWEET SPICES AND OINTMENTS THA TTHEY ALL HAD PURCHASED EARLIER AND PREPARED BEFORE THE SABBATH. Certain other women were with them whom we know through Holy Tradition were the Myrrh-bearers Mary (the wife of Cleopas), and Susanna, as well as Martha and Mary (the sisters of Lazarus). Is all likelihood the latter two, Mary and Martha, both from Bethany, had been staying in Jerusalem. These other women, not realizing then that the Angel had already rolled away the stone, said among themselves, "Who shall roll away the stone from the door of the sepulcher for us" (Mark 16:3). For it was exceedingly great. When the women looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away.
Then the women BEHELD AN ANGEL SITTING UPON THE STONE THAT HAD BEEN ROLLED BACK. And his countenance was AS LIGHTNING, AND HIS RAIMENT WHITE AS SNOW. Meanwhile, the guards, for fear of the Angel, became as dead men. The Angel answered and said to the women, "Cease being afraid, for I know that ye seek Jesus Who hath been crucified. HE IS NOT HERE; FOR HE WAS RAISED, EVEN AS HE SAID. COME, SEE THE PLACE WHERE THE LORD WAS LYING" (Matthew 28:5-6).
The women entered into the sepulcher but did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. The Evangelist Mark describes that they found an Angel inside who was sitting on the right side, clothed in white raiment, the women were afraid. This Angel then says to them, "Cease being amazed. Ye are seeking Jesus the Nazarene Who hath been crucified. HE WAS RAISED, HE IS NOT HERE. BEHOLD THE PLACE WHERE THEY LAID HIM" (Mark 16:6).
The Angel whom they had found inside sitting on the right side also says, "BUT GO AND SAY TO HIS DISCIPLES," ALSO ADDING, "AND TO PETER" (Mark 16:7), that "He goeth before you into Galilee, there shall ye see Him, even as He told you" (Matthew 28:7; Mark 16:7).
The myrrh-bearers quickly departed from the sepulchre with fear and great joy and hastened to bring the men Disciples word. Saint Gregory Palamas maintains that "when the Theotokos, together with Mary Magdalene, heard the Good News of the RESURRECTION from the Angel, only the Theotokos UNDERSTOOD THE MEANING OF THE WORDS. In the same way now when, in the company of the other women, She met her Son and God, She WAS THE FIRST OF THEMA ALL TO SEE AND RECOGNIZE THE RISEN LORD AND FALLING DOWN BEFORE HIM SHE GRASPED HIS FEET AND BECAME HIS APOSTLE TO THE APOSTLES. It is from Saint John the Evangelist that we learn that Mary Magdalene was NOT with the Mother of God at the time when the Lord met her [His Mother] was returning from the tomb. For Mary ran to speak to Simon Peter, and to the other Disciple, whom Jesus loved (namely John).
Jesus then encouraged His Women Disciples, saying, "Cease being frightened. Go and bring tidings to My brethren that they should go into Galilee, and there shall they see Me" (Matthew 28:10). The Theotokos, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and the other women that were with them did in fact relate all these things to the Apostles. But their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not." The Evangelist Mark also adds that Mary Magdalene, to whom Jesus appeared "first" went and told the others as they mourned and wept." But when they heard that He was alive and that she herself had seen Him, they did not believe her either."
However, we learn that afterward that the Lord was "MADE MANIFEST TO THE ELEVEN THEMSELVES AS THEY RECLINED AT TABLE, AND HE REPROACHED THEIR UNBELIEF AND HARDNESS OF HEART BECAUSE THEY BELIEVED NOT THOSE WHO SAW HIM AFTER HE WAS RAISED" (Mark 16:14).
BY THE INTERCESSIONS OF THE HOLY MYRRH-BEARERS, O
GOD, HAVE MERCY ON US. AMEN.
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Resurrection,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God
+ Father George