Last Sunday, the second of Pascha, the disbelief of Apostle Thomas, which dispersed like smoke, served to persuade us of the truth of the Resurrection of Christ, and today, the third Sunday of Pascha, confirming for us the reality of that great event are those who were deemed worthy to witness themselves not only the entombment of Christ but also His most-glorious Resurrection from the dead.
These were Holy Righteous Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, secret disciple of Christ who would visit Him at night (John 3:2), and the Holy Women Myrrh-Bearers, for whom this Sunday is named. The first two, according to tradition, as members of the Jewish court called the Sanhedrin, were unwilling to participate in the sentencing to death of the Lord, and the Holy Women Myrrh-bearers especially, demand our attention by their unusually touching and selfless love for their Divine Teacher.
In fact, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemos did not fear the vengeance of their brethren and decided to request of Pilate that they be allowed to take the Body of the Lord for an honorable funeral, which was usually prohibited for criminals crucified on the cross, the bodies of which were left for birds of carrion. While the Apostles, fearing for the lives, abandoned the Lord, Who was arrested in Gethsemane, and scattered to hide, and Peter, having earlier sworn allegiance to Him unto death, thrice denied knowing Him, the Women Myrrh-Bearers fearlessly followed Him to Golgotha, beholding His sufferings at the Cross, and tirelessly followed everything that took place, even unto the funeral of the Lord and “beheld where He was laid” (Mark 15:47). These included Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Salome, Mary, wife of Cleopas, Joanna, Susanna and other wealthy women, who the Evangelist says “ministered to Him of their substance” [of their wealth] (Luke 8:3).
And so, the day of the Sabbath rest had barely passed, when Jews were prohibited from undertaking any task, and they hastily purchased fragrances which were customarily used to anoint the bodies of the dead. And “when it was yet dark” (John 20:1), before the dawn, they hastened to the tomb to make their final obligation of love to their beloved Teacher—to anoint His Body with the aromatic oils, as was the tradition. For Joseph and Nicodemos had hurried to bury the Body of the Lord before the setting of the sun, for the great day of the Jewish Sabbath was fast approaching, which then coincided with the Passover, and they were only able to quickly clean His Body and anoint Him with aloe and myrrh. The tireless women feared nothing, not the darkness of the night, not the vengeance of the Jews, but were motivated solely by their devoted love for their Divine Teacher, and they rushed to the tomb to pay their final honor, anointing His holy Body with expensive oils.
For their courageous love and self-sacrificing devotion, they merited the highest reward. They were the first to hear from the Angel the joyous news of the Resurrection of the Lord, and then to see Him, their Resurrected Teacher, with their own eyes. They were granted great joy, and at the same time a great honor from the Lord—to be the heralds of this happy news to the Apostles themselves. St Mary Magdalene herself, inspired by this great news, went throughout the world preaching the Resurrection of Christ and even came to the Royal city of Rome, where she faced the Emperor himself—the wicked Tiberius—and gave him a red egg with the words “Christ is Risen!” For all this, the Holy Church gave her the title “Equal-to-the-Apostles.”
Thus the Lord rewards those who love Him! And who loves the Lord most of all and selflessly serves Him, awaits great joy, too, for He will grant great honor and glory. Even in and of itself, self-sacrificial and earnest service to our Lord and Savior and devoted love for Him is a source of the highest, most pure and sacred joy, which compares with nothing on earth. Whoever wholeheartedly loves the Lord, and places as the chief goal in his life of denying oneself in serving Him, and Him Alone (and not “two masters”) will be filled with this pure heavenly bliss, and he will fear no earthly sorrows: they cannot deeply touch his soul. On the contrary: earthly “happiness,” temporal “joys” already carry within themselves seeds of sorrow, sorrow of the darkest and most inconsolable kind, often drawing into the depths of hell those who give their all to these deceptive, false joys, forgetting God and giving no thought to serving Him.
Alas! Mankind today has a poor understanding of this, even those who call themselves Christians, and even clergymen who only formally fulfill their duties, but who are alien to the life of the soul in Christ. It is a shame how many people in our time give all their time and efforts for earthly matters, for profit, for their banal interests, amusements, empty recreation, while for God they have only laziness, and would not “lift a finger” for Him, they would not take an extra step. Some don’t even cross themselves properly and don’t even try, but stand in church fearing that they will lose five minutes on God, rushing to leave church to waste their hours on silly matters which are profoundly distasteful to God, and bad for their souls.
Where then is our love for the Lord our Savior, if we bargain with Him for every extra minute we spend in church with Him? Sadness and disgust settle in the soul when one ponders such an attitude! We must staunchly fight the darkening of our reason, struggle against the dulling and coarsening of our hearts. We must understand that it comes from our enemy, the devil, who yearns to tear us away from God’s love and to doom our souls.
Even more terrifying is that there our people in our time who do not follow the example of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemos, who bravely declared their objections to the Sanhedrin against the unfair accusations against the Lord and who risked the most cruel revenge of these unworthy judges. On the contrary, these people, in their desire for glory and honor, for their own profit and advantage, are prepared to befriend similarly dishonorable judges who fight against God, agreeing with them with servitude just to please them, betraying our Lord and Savior to death, just as Judas Iscariot did!
If only we true Christians did not only carry this nomenclature superficially but followed the example given by the devoted followers of Christ, His disciples, the Holy Myrrh-Bearers. These holy women in their utter love and dedication to our Lord and Savior should serve as special examples to our Christian women. Let them not immerse themselves in earthly life and its amusements, pleasures and delicacies, let them not seek useless cosmetics and jewelry, chasing the latest fashions which have become so indecent in recent years, almost to complete undress, painting themselves with all the colors of the rainbow in order to draw indecent attention to themselves. It is terrible to think how far today’s Christian women have descended, allowing themselves to appear this way even in the churches of God! Oh, no, this is not at all the trembling pious servitude to our Lord and Savior, with modest dress, with humility, meekness, chastity and the fear of God.
What grace would fill the lives of our Christian women today if only they immersed themselves in the spirit, in the holy, lofty attitude of the Holy Myrrh-Bearing Women! How much sacred, pure love could they bring to our church life! Mother, wife and daughter, Christians all, how much Christ-like good they could do, how they could elevate, ennoble and purify our contemporary life, which has become so vulgar, crude and coarse, sometimes nauseating and base!
Service to the Church is open to them: in the church sisterhoods, the care for the adornment of the temple and its services, reading and singing, teaching in parish schools, rearing children, visiting the sick in their homes and hospitals. We must remember how much good these Christian women did, the true Myrrh-Bearers of our Homeland in Russia, who had done so much for our poor clergymen who were imprisoned! They frequently faced the threat of the [Soviet] atheists, protecting our holy churches from being seized by the modernist “Obnovlentsy.” There is a broad field of activity open to our women if they wished to follow the lead of the Myrrh-Bearers, in missionary work among today’s godless and inhumane world, which has even openly begun to worship Satan. How much can women in particular do! And there is a great deal that men simply cannot do that women can, if they have a genuine Christian attitude, chastity and fear of God, by the very character of their nature and by the constitution of their soul.
O, Christian women! Do not disregard the call of God in our terrible, insidious time of apostasy: follow the lead of the Myrrh-Bearing Women, serve the Gospel and the Holy Church, work towards the salvation of souls, and in this you will express your love to our Lord and Savior Himself, serve Him as did the Gospel Women!
But all of us, men and women, must not simply chase the phantom joys of this world, which are more and more deceptive in our day, but let us as these holy women love with all of our hearts the One Lord and Savior and let us devote ourselves wholly to serving Him, making our main goal to please Him, and then our fate will be eternal happiness which compares with nothing in this world. This joy is complete and limitless, for it is that joy of which the Lord Himself told us during the Last Supper, with His words of consolation to His disciples: “and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you” (John 16:22).
We must constantly kindle within ourselves the love for God, remembering the sufferings of Christ for our sakes, for us sinners, and remember the incomparable, lofty joy of the Resurrected Lord, the Paschal joy which must be the beacon of light in our entire lives.
Let us have more true love and devotion to the Lord, brothers and sisters! Let us serve Him with all our hearts, not like mercenaries, through force and reluctantly, but like His loving sons and daughters, like the Holy Myrrh-Bearing Women! Amen.