As we continue our Paschal celebration, this morning we re-read the Gospel of the Vesperal Liturgy of Holy Saturday, where the myrrh-bearing women came to the tomb, bearing fragrant spices to care for the body of the Lord. This was an act of obedience, being performed according to the traditions of the Jews, still kept to this day among Orthodox Jews to keep the body from corruption, and from the odor associated with that condition. The myrrh they brought would absorb the moisture of the body that would otherwise promote the decay of the flesh; and the myrrh, together with other herbs and spices, would give the body a sweet, rather than a foul, fragrance. While it is not traditional for women to perform this mitzvah, or good deed, for a man, these women came early in the morning, out of a sense of duty; out of a sense of devotion; they came because of their love for the Lord. And so they were among the first to learn the good news from the angel, “He is not here; He is Risen.”
We can only imagine how difficult it must have been for them to associate with Christ at such an awful time and to be witnesses of His Crucifixion and Resurrection:
Nicodemus, one of the Pharisees, as the Gospel of St John tells us, and another individual commemorated this day, spoke to Christ in secret under cover of dark, spent a huge sum on a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes, and then was cast out of the synagogue and suffered for disclosing the Jewish plots to hide and deny the truth about Christ's Crucifixion and Resurrection.
Joseph of Arimathea, also commemorated today, was one of Jesus' disciples, who boldly requested body of Christ from Pilate, gave his money for a shroud, gave up his own tomb and was then sorely persecuted by the Jews for telling the Truth about Christ, Crucified and Risen.
The myrrh bearers, who selflessly sacrificed all for precious myrrh with which to anoint and care for the Body of Christ, and then announced the Resurrection of the Crucified, when others hid for fear of the Jews.
All of them should have been in fear of the Jews who hated Christ. And yet they loved Christ to such a degree that they feared not and they all revealed the Truth of His Crucifixion and Resurrection and suffered for it.
Why do we celebrate the myrrh-bearing women? As is so often the case, the Church gives us this example for our instruction, for we are meant to be like them.
Just like the women, Nicodemus, and the noble Joseph, we, as Disciples of Christ are all myrrh bearers. Since the Body of Christ, in the words of our Blessed Patron, the Holy Apostle Paul, is the Church, therefore all members of the Church are members of the Body of Christ. Therefore we know and confess the Truth of His Crucifixion and Resurrection, and so become myrrh bearers.
To be myrrh bearer, my brothers and sisters in Christ, is not only to participate in the Mysteries of the Church, preach the Gospel and confess the Faith, it is also doing the ordinary and mundane things which are so difficult because they require our sacrifice.
· Those who sing in church are myrrh bearers.
· Those who clean the church are myrrh bearers.
· Those who prepare the wine & water, readings and re-stock candles before each service are myrrh bearers.
· Those who cut the lawn shovel the snow and tend the parish grounds are myrrh bearers.
· Those who clean and maintain vestments and altar linens are myrrh bearers.
· Those who bake prosphora are myrrh bearers.
· Those who sponsor our Sunday Socials and assist in cleaning up afterwards are myrrh bearers.
· Those who peel potatoes, shred cabbage, and pinch pirohi are myrrh bearers.
· Those who mix dough, spread nut roll fillings, wrap, and package and sell them to support our parish are myrrh bearers.
· Those who financially support our parish and faithfully use their envelopes are myrrh bearers.
· Even those who simply come and pray for the salvation of all are myrrh bearers.
All those who work for the Body of Christ, the Church, in this world, but are not of this world, are myrrh bearers, because they show that they too selflessly love Christ.
And what is the reward of myrrh bearers?
It is to be the first to see and know the Crucified Body of Christ Risen, the first to hear the words of the Angel, just like the myrrh bearers, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here; He is Risen!”
This is our joy, not only to feel, but also to know that the Body of Christ, the Church, is Risen, for She is the place of the Resurrection, and we are witnesses of Christ's Crucifixion and Resurrection. When we, as the Disciples of Christ care for the Church, in turn, the Church cares for us, and we are risen as well.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, my prayer for all of us this day is that we may always have and cherish this inner knowledge of the Truth of Christ, being myrrh bearing witnesses to His Crucifixion and His Resurrection.