St Herman of Alaska Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
161 N. Murphy Ave. Sunnyvale, CA 94086
Sunday of the Myrrhbearing Women

Sunday of the Myrhhbearing Women

Mark 15:43 – 16:8

On this third Sunday of Pascha, we commemorate the holy myrhhbearing women: Mary Magdalene, Mary the wife of Cleopas, Joanna, Salome, Susanna, and Mary and Martha the sisters of Lazarus. The Gospel tells us that a few of these women bravely set forth that Sunday morning to come to the tomb of our Savior. When everyone was in confusion and fear, they ventured out to approach the closely guarded and sealed tomb of Christ. What led them to do such a thing when all odds seemed against them? I think we can summarize their motivation by three essential things: faith, hope, and love.

Let us begin with faith… The myrhhbearing women certainly demonstrated their faith in Jesus Christ. They believed in Who He was and in what He said and it was this faith that propelled them out into the morning to go to His tomb.

Martha and Mary had just a short time ago witnesses Christ’s miracle of raising their brother Lazarus from the dead. At that time, before Christ had raised her brother, Christ stated to Martha: ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.’ And then He asked her: ‘Do you believe this?’ Martha replied: ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.’

Martha and the other myrhhbearers did not know what to expect, but they had absolute faith in their Lord, Jesus Christ. That faith propelled them to go forward to come and try to anoint the Body of their Lord. It was not a rational conclusion, it was an imperative set upon their hearts, which were filled with faith.

Let us ask ourselves – do we have such faith? Do we short-circuit the call of faith by rationalizing everything with our limited minds and shortsighted view of things? God blessed us with both mind and heart, yet we have elevated the role of our mind, which is a fallen mind, to usurp the calling of faith which speaks to our heart. God has given us our conscience as a way of judging things. When we are not sure which way we should go when our mind tells us one thing and our heart tells us another, listen to your conscience… it will help you to discern the right path.

And now let’s speak of hope… The myrhhbearing women also demonstrated great hope in venturing out that Paschal morning. How would they get past the guards? How would they move the great stone that sealed the tomb of our Lord? By earthly, logical standards – what hope could they possibly have of successfully anointing their Lord? But they had hope that things would work out according to the will of God – and so they came to the tomb. And their hope was certainly rewarded! Not only had the guards run away, but the stone had been rolled aside and they were the first to hear the joyous news that Christ had risen!

Do we have hope in the Lord? When seemingly insurmountable obstacles stand in front of us, do we give up hope? And on what do we ultimately place our hope? Do we place our hope in our own abilities, in our own knowledge? Do we place our hope in our hard-earned savings or in the expectation of government care? The Gospels tell us that ‘where your treasure is, there will your heart lie’. Where is our treasure and where is our hope? Is it in the fleeting things of this world or is it in the eternal and reliable hands of God? Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us place our hope in God.

The final attribute exemplified by the myrhhbearing women was love. It was not only their faith and hope in Jesus Christ which brought them to the tomb, it was their love for Him… initially desiring to do no more than provide the honor of anointing His body, they came instead to an empty tomb and beheld the angelic messenger who proclaimed the good news that Christ had risen!

Their love for God caused them to disregard any thoughts for themselves, for their safety, for the practicality or obstacles of what they might face… their focus was entirely on Christ.

This is the kind of love that we must cultivate and exemplify… this self-forgetting, ‘other-focused’ love and concern for our brother and sister. True love is never self-serving or focused on self-satisfaction.

The Apostle Paul describes this holy and selfless love in his famous passage from the Letter to the Corinthians: ‘Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.’

Can we apply these attributes to ourselves? Are we patient and kind? Do we not envy nor boast? Do we refrain from being arrogant or rude? Are we careful to not insist on our own way, to not be irritable or resentful? Do we rejoice in the truth and not at the wrongdoings of others? Do we bear all things with patience, believe all good things, have hope and endurance. Does our love never fail?

This list from Corinthians chapter 13 is an excellent source of accurate and Godly self-appraisal. We must not judge ourselves by the standards of this world, but we must judge ourselves by the standards of God. God’s standard is love. How do we measure up?

Today we rejoice in the courage and selflessness of the myrhhbearing women and of Joseph and Nicodemus. Through their faith, hope and love they overcame all fear to step forward to care for the Lord in His darkest hours, which were then transformed into the brightness of the resurrection.

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 myrhhbearing women and their pure-hearted and selfless motivation of love for God.

If we can live our lives in this faith, hope, and love, then we too may be vouchsafed to see and know the joy of Christ’s resurrection.

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