Link to Gospel Reading: Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
MARK 15:43-47; 16:1-8
At that time, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. And Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. And he bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud, and laid him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid. And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week they went to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they were saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?" And looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled back; for it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, "Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you." And they went out and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
both now and ever and unto ages of ages, Amen.
Christ is Risen!
There is a criminal in the eyes of the Jews, who was captured by them through the coercion of Pilate. His name was Jesus. This man was always the target of the Pharisees and the Scribes, and every time they would aim for Him, He would put them to shame because He exposed the darkness in their hearts, and because He showed the true power of God. Hence, everyone around Him felt empowered, and they were strengthened by the fountain of this power, because there was power with Him everywhere he went.
Now this man was captured and killed. The logical next step is to target everyone who was with him and kill them as well, and who knows, may be crucify all of them like their master. So, the disciples were terribly afraid and in great fear. And rightly so, they have no one to hold their back and protect them. Great fear was the sudden new norm of life.
And then there is the law that they have to abide with, on Friday evening, since in few hours the great day of Sabbath would arrive, Joseph and Nicodemus were in a hurry to bury the body of the Lord, anointed it according to Jewish custom, but not as they ought to have done; they only anointed it with aloes and spices, wrapped it in a winding-sheet, and committed it to the grave.
The Heart of the Women
Women have great ability to love, in a very special way, they embody the words of the Song of Songs 8:6
For love is as strong as death,
Its flames are flames of fire,
A most vehement flame.
7 Many waters cannot quench love,
Nor can the floods drown it.
On Saturday evening, which is the beginning of the day of Sunday, these women purchased costly myrrh. The wake up very early in the morning before sunlight for fear of the Jews and because the Law permitted them to mourn earlier in the day and to anoint the body, to continue the work of Joseph & Nicodemus and compensating for the deficiency that had been due to pressure of time.
Who are These Women?
Many were the Myrrh-Bearers, but the Evangelists mentioned only the important ones. Of those whose names are known are the following: first of all, the most holy Theotokos and Virgin Mary, who in Matthew 27:56 and Mark 15:40 is called "the mother of James and Joses". For Joseph had begotten four sons: James, called the Less, Joses, Simon, and Jude; and three daughters: Esther, Thamar, and Salome. The Theotokos was therefore their step-mother. Salome, one of the daughters of St. Joseph, was the other Myrrh-bearer and whose husband was Zebede; she gave birth to Saint John the Evangelist and Saint James. Saint John the Evangelist was a nephew of Christ, since he was the son of a step sister. The other mentioned Myrrh bearers were Mary Magdalene (celebrated July 22); Mary, the wife of Clopas; Joanna, wife of Chouza, a steward of Herod Antipas; Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus; and Susanna.
Resurrection Changes Everything
Through the first woman who has first fallen to sin and the sad tiding came to the world: having formerly heard the words: “in pain thou shalt bring forth children.” Hence It was fitting that through Women, the first of whom is the Theotokos whom from Christ came, and brought salvation to the world. Also, through these women, they were first to announce the glad tidings to the Disciples. Resurrection changed who women were in the sight of themselves, and in the sight of men. Resurrection changes everything.
Myrrh has been mentioned plenty of times in the Bible, many times it was taken as an expensive gift to kings and royals, but it is also a symbol of three things: priesthood, death and love. These three images are elements of Christ’s life.
A symbol of Priesthood
As explained in detail in Exodus 30, Myrrh was combined with Cassia and Cinnamon and other spices and olive oil and became the holy anointing oil of gladness. This oil was used to anoint the Tabernacle tent to become the Holy of Holies and also was used to anoint the heads of priests and kings. Myrrh as a fore image of the resurrection, it changed men to become kings, and changed a tent to become the most holy place on earth.
A symbol of Death
We see it in Genesis, after Joseph the son of Jacob, who is a prototype of Christ, was looking for his lost brothers, to bring them to his father, was beaten by his brothers, stripped from his colored jacket, and dropped in the pit to die. And then the Bible says in Genesis 37:
And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmeelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt.
Egypt in the Bible is considered the land of death, Egyptians were worshipers of idols and of their kings the Pharaohs. And Joseph was put on the carriage that was filled with myrrh going to that land.
The story of Joseph is of utmost importance, because we can see a prefiguration of the Myrrh-bearing women in the events that followed. Israel (Jacob) sent Myrrh and spices along with his son Benjamin with his other children to the land of Egypt. He thought that Benjamin will die there. However not only Benjamin survived but his most beloved son Joseph, whom he also thought that he was dead was alive. It was a prefiguration of the resurrection. What we can see here is that Jacob who was afraid that his son might die in fact experienced something that he would never even dream of. The resurrection of his son whom he thought was already dead. and after the experience of the resurrection of his son Joseph Israel’s life was completely changed and became a great nation. Resurrection Changes Everything.
A symbol of Love
The other symbol of myrrh is love we see it clearly and emphatically in the Song of Songs by king Solomon: this book is a dialogue between the husband and the wife where the husband loves the wife so much as an image of Christ loving his church.
Song of Songs 3:6
6 Who is this coming out of the wilderness Like pillars of smoke, Perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, With all the merchant’s fragrant powders?
Song of Songs 4:6-7
6 Until the day breaks And the shadows flee away, I will go my way to the mountain of myrrh And to the hill of frankincense. 7 You are all fair, my love, And there is no spot in you.
Song of Songs 5:5
5 I arose to open for my beloved,
And my hands dripped with myrrh,
My fingers with liquid myrrh,
On the handles of the lock.
The dream of the women
The ultimate dream for the women whom we celebrate today was to find someone to roll the stone for them, enter into the tomb, anoint the corpse with Myrrh, and return home before the Jews can catch them. If they did that, they have won the day.
What they didn’t realize, is that Christ has a plan that would not have occurred to them in their wildest dreams. Christ was not even there.
Resurrection changed their whole lives. And changed the life of humanity till this day. The church is telling you and me today: You have a plan, good for you. If you want to stick to your plan you are absolutely free, but if you want your life to be worth what you would never think of in your wildest of dreams, you really need to allow Christ to enter deeper and deeper into your heart through the mystical life of the Church, and allow him to take complete charge of every little detail in your life.
Resurrection Changes Everything
Resurrection gives light, and in light we can see clearly what we were not able to see before. If we really want to experience Resurrection we must pray. We have to pray daily. If we really want to see the light, we need to be in the light. The light is Christ. We cannot live in darkness away from Christ and still see clearly. This is impossible. With the resurrection we see love, we experience love, all our lives life becomes love, and becomes a light to those who are around us.
May the chief Myrrh-bearer who brought the true fragrance to the world, the Mother of our God, and her fellow Myrrh bearers, guide us to have courage, and allow Christ to change, what we thought can never be changed, Amen.