Sunday of the Myrhh-Bearing Women
Mark 15:43 – 16:8
Today we commemorate the holy myrhh-bearing women: Mary Magdalene, Mary the wife of Cleopas, Joanna, and Salome; Susanna, Mary and Martha the sisters of Lazarus, and Mary the mother of Apostle James. These holy women shine forth for us as models of courage and self-sacrificing service motivated by love for God. They also show us that if we are willing to step forth in love and trust in God, that God will remove all obstacles in assuring that His will may be done.
On the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimethea had gone to Pontius Pilate and asked to be allowed to take and bury the body of Jesus Christ. He was granted his request and, after properly wrapping and preparing the body, he laid It in a new tomb cut out of the rocks.
Each year, on the final days of the services of Holy Week, we relive our Lord’s passion, crucifixion, and burial. These are somber days during which we pray and fast and watch. But we have the vantage point of knowing that shortly we will hear the glorious words that ‘Christ is risen!’ and we will experience the joys of Holy Pascha.
Imagine, if you can, the darkness and confusion that must have fallen upon the disciples of the Lord in those dark hours and days following His arrest, trial, and death. Surely a flicker of hope remained vigilantly lit in their hearts that Christ might indeed rise again, but all of this was very new and very uncertain and seemingly impossible.
In what must have been the darkest hours for the disciples of Christ – the flame of faith and love for God still burned bright in the hearts of the myrhh-bearing women. Against all odds and at great personal risk, with courage and self-sacrifice, they dared to venture out and approach the sealed and guarded tomb of Christ.
What drove them to do such a thing?
It was their love for God that overshadowed all fear and worldly concern for self.
And what was their reward?
They were the first to see and know that the Lord had risen!
While all the other disciples hid in fear of the authorities, these women dared to venture out in the dark hours of the early morning to approach the tomb of Christ. Guards had been posted there to keep watch lest any of the disciples might come to take away the Body of our Lord. And the entrance to the tomb had been sealed by a huge boulder which these women had no chance of moving. From a worldly point of view there was nothing awaiting them at the tomb of Christ other than danger and probable arrest by the guards. What an impossible situation!
Yet, they went anyway… Their love for their Lord overshadowed all doubts and they went with an expectation that they would simply let the morning unfold before them as God so willed.
This is selfless courage, pure-hearted love for God, and complete trust in His holy will!
And what was the result?
When they arrived at the tomb, not only had the guards fled away, but the massive boulder that sealed the tomb had been miraculously rolled aside and their way was open before them. As they entered the tomb, an angel of the Lord arrayed in a white robe was there to greet them and these courageous women were the first people to hear the wonderful news that Christ had risen.
How often are we discouraged by fear, by lack of faith, by our assessment that something is impossible? As today’s Gospel shows us, with God nothing is impossible. We need to have the courage and faith in God to simply arise and go forward – fulfilling God’s will as it unfolds in our day to day lives. If something stands before us which we know is the right thing to do, we need to move forward with faith and trust in God – and, if it pleases God, then He will see to it that obstacles are removed. We need to be trusting and willing servants, having the courage of the myrhh-bearing women and the pure-hearted and selfless motivation of love for God.
If we can do so, then we too may be vouchsafed to see and know the joy of Christ’s resurrection.
Christ is risen!