Dear brothers and sisters!
On the second Sunday after Holy Pascha, the Holy Church celebrates the righteous myrrh-bearing women, who were the first to learn about the Resurrection of Christ and the first to see Him resurrected. On this day, we reverently celebrate their memory, as well as the memory of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who were witnesses of the crucifixion of Christ.
The pious Joseph, originally from the city of Arimathea, was a rich man and an authoritative Jewish adviser. The Pharisee and the Israeli teacher Nicodemus was also known in Judea. When Christ preached His teachings to the people, His adversaries were filled with hatred and malice, so Joseph and Nicodemus secretly went to Him at night as students. When Christ was sentenced to death and then crucified, these two men showed a high example of love for the Teacher and firmness of spirit, courage and determination to stand up against malice and persecution from their fellow tribesmen. In their devotion and gratitude to Christ, they forgot fear and revealed themselves to all as disciples of His, when others were hiding. Joseph of Arimathea came to Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus and together with Nicodemus, they removed His body from the Cross and buried the Teacher in a new tomb in the garden of Joseph. Later, for their faith and devotion to the Lord, the holy righteous Joseph and Nicodemus were persecuted by the Jews, but, in spite of everything, remained faithful to Him to the end.
The myrrh-bearing women showed faithfulness and constancy of love for the Savior. These women followed Christ during His earthly journey. Above all, is the pure Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, a witness to the suffering of the Son, His death and Resurrection. One of the myrrh-bearers, Mary Magdalene, was saved by the Lord from eternal perdition and from demonic obsession – from her He banished seven devils. The other women, following Him and listening to His teachings, became new people and studied His commandments about love and forgiveness. Their names are named in the Holy Scripture: Mary of Cleopas, Salome, Joanna, Martha and Mary (the sisters of Lazarus who was resurrected by the Lord), Susanna and others. These women were truly devoted to Christ and considered it their highest duty and greatest happiness in serving the Lord with gratitude. The reverential love of one of them, Mary, the sister of the resurrected Lazarus is shown when she bought expensive, fragranced oil and poured it on the head of Jesus and thus, even before the death and burial of the Lord, she offered him funeral honors.
And so, showing great love to the Lord, they, as much as possible, served Him and after the crucifixion. Defeating fear and not paying attention to any obstacles, after Saturday had passed, they rushed very early to the tomb of Jesus. Despite the fact that a huge stone was blocking the door of the Holy Sepulchre and that a military guard was on display, the myrrh-bearing women nevertheless went to the Tomb. Love and deep faith overpower fears and even fear of death. They safely reached the burial place of Jesus and found that the huge stone from the door of the Sepulchre had been rolled away and the guard dead from fear. They saw an Angel who announced to them about the Resurrection of the Lord and then they saw Him Himself, Who told them: Rejoice! What a great reward for the labor of love, for their boundless faithfulness! They, in deep sorrow, having forgotten the promise of the Savior, that on the third day He will rise again, came with fragrances to anoint the Dead, and found the Risen One, and were the first to taste the great joy of the Resurrection! We know that from them came the Paschal greeting: Christ is Risen! And we, sometimes in hopelessness and despair, will believe that true love is stronger than threats and horror before any danger, that love overcomes everything, it can fight with death and win!
We also learn from the myrrh-bearing women of the all-conquering love for the Lord and people. One who truly loves God, fulfils His commandments and is ready to sacrifice everything, even his life, and is ready to endure all persecutions and any suffering, for the glorification of His name. Such faithfulness has always been shown by many women in the days of religious persecution, as it was in the first centuries of the history of the Church of Christ. This is how it was in the times after the church schism in Russia, when women showed examples of courage and perseverance in faith. Let us remember the devotion of the wife of archpriest Avvakum – Anastasia Markovna, who experienced all the hardships of exile with her husband when they were persecuted for the ancient piety. Let us recall the names of the holy women martyrs: the boyars Feodosia Morozova, her sister Evdokiya Urusova and their sisters-in-arms, who courageously gave their lives for faith and righteousness, enduring horrendous tortures and torments to the end, but their spirits were not broken.
Let us also remember those women-confessors who, in the years of godless persecution of the Church, day by day bravely and faithfully served the Church, not by words but by deeds. They defended the churches when they were closing everywhere and sacrificed everything they had to support life in the parish; helping the persecuted priest and all who endured deprivation and oppression.
And today, devout and selfless working women do much to strengthen true piety, to keep churches clean and tidy, to maintain peace and love in communities. They always praise and thank God: in happiness and in misfortune, in grief and in joy, in wealth and in poverty, in health and in illness, in peace and in a spiritual storm, with a tender heart, offering Him a prayer: “Glory to You, Lord , for everything, whatever happens according to Your will, because everything is done for the better by You, all to our salvation”.
The faith of a Christian and his love for the Lord and people is a true myrrh-like offering for the Lord. We will bring to the Lord, as did the myrrh-bearing women, a world of good deeds for our brotherhood in Christ – works of mercy and love for our neighbors. We will create – each person as they are able to – good deeds, and at the same time, we will bring the Lord penitential prayers and lamentations for our sins. The heartbreak of sins and our tears is like a fragrant oil for the Lord and the aromatic tears of repentance, like a fragrance, will pour into our soul, and the Lord Himself will take it in and grant us forgiveness and comfort.
On the day dedicated to the memory of the holy myrrh-bearing women, it is relevant to say a few words about the meaning of women in the light of Christian teachings.
In comparison with a man, the Word of God calls a woman a vessel of weakness (1 Peter 3: 7). But, despite this, the Lord gives women many virtues: empathy, modesty, obedience, and most importantly – the opportunity to give birth to children and raise them. The responsibilities and duties of women are described by St. John Chrysostom: “A woman is betrothed to her husband for companionship in life, for the birth and upbringing of children and in order to take care of the house.” A wife, who hopes that everything in life is done according to the will of God, bears the cross of family cares without grumbling, without grievances and in all sorrows is consoled by the Creator. In humility and piousness, she spiritually weaves for herself the crown of immortality in Heaven.
A pious wife has a good influence on her husband, strengthening him in faith, with her kind instruction and care and she instils in the children devotion to God, respect for His holy law and a love for prayer. How touching it is when a mother or grandmother, in the silent night when everyone is in a deep sleep, despite tiredness and ailments, she prays with hot tears to God, the Mother of God and the saints, asking them to help her children, to protect their good Christian morality and to save them from the abyss of vices and worldly vanity! And the Lord, undoubtedly, pours out His mercy on the passionate prayer of the mother, graciously proclaiming to her: “Woman, let it be to you as you desire”. Pious Christian women are worthy of imitation, a comfort to others and pleasing to God. They bring to the world the light of Divine love. Women – love piousness, through which flows into the world God’s grace, happiness and joy, peace and quiet, purity and integrity, faith, hope and love.
Let us constantly test our conscience in relation to Christ, remembering the unshakable faith and love for the Lord, which transformed the timid Joseph and the secret disciple of the Lord, Nicodemus and the quiet myrrh-bearing women, who until the end remained faithful to the Lord. We will honor the Christian women who have resisted fear, stood against threats and tortures and who have remained faithful to Christ and His Church.
Brothers and sisters, so that our hearts will catch fire with the all-conquering love for God, we will ask Him to grant us the same passionate and undefeatable love as the holy myrrh-bearing women! Glory be to our God, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages, amen!