On 26 April 2015, the Orthodox Church is on the 3rd Sunday after Easter (of the Myrrh Bearing Women). The Evangelical pericope of Saint Evangelist Mark (15:43-47; 16:1-8) was read at the Divine Liturgy in all the Orthodox churches.
His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church delivered a sermon in the historical chapel of the Patriarchal Residence dedicated to Saint Great Martyr George, in which he said: “This Sunday has a special significance because it shows us that in the Church we learn the living faith not only from the teaching of the Saints Apostles – basic for all of us – but also from the example of the Saints’ lives. This is why we read in the Church not only the Holy Gospel and the writings of the apostles, but also the Lives of the Saints. The Holy Myrrh Bearing Women mentioned in the Gospels according to Mark and Matthew are great teachers of the Church not so much through their teaching of faith, because this one cannot be different from that of the Apostles, as through their way of being and acting, through their way of expressing their state of faith and courage, of lowliness and esteem for the Saviour Crucified and Risen from the dead”.
The ointment of the dead body with spices symbolises in the Jewish tradition His worship and desire to avoid the decomposing of the body
“The Myrrh Bearing Women are religious women who admired and appreciated Jesus Christ, our Lord, and some of them even saw His crucifixion and wept for His suffering. This is why they went to the tomb of Jesus, with much devotion and respect, early in the morning, on the first day of the week that followed after Saturday, to accomplish the work begun by Joseph of Arimathaea, when they anointed His body with aloe and myrrh before burying it. But now they bring very precious spices to worship Jesus, the buried Lord as it should be, and avoid somehow the decomposing or decay of His body, and wishing to conserve it”, His Beatitude showed.
The Resurrection of the Lord is His passage to the heavenly eternal life
Then, the Patriarch of Romania emphasised the fact that the One who had to be anointed with very precious spices was no longer in the tomb because He had been raised from the dead and decay had not seized His body: Why that? Because His body was united with His Divinity, and His Resurrection is not coming back to the biological life marked by composing and decomposing, but His Resurrection is the passage to the heavenly life, to the eternal life, to the life with no death and with no decay, as the chants of the “Sunday of the Myrrh Bearing Women” show. On the morning of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the myrrh bearing women were the most courageous human beings out of all the humans who had met Jesus. Early in the morning, the myrrh bearing women faced the darkness and fear that something unexpected could happen to them, because the tomb had been sealed and was guarded by Roman soldiers, and they wondered: who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb? Their worry was natural because the stone was big and heavy. But the Gospel according to Mark reads that as soon as they expressed this worry or concern, they looked up and saw that the stone had already been rolled back. Because no strong man was there to help them, a wonder was done for their courage and appreciation for Christ. An angel of God came down from heaven and rolled back the stone from the entrance to the tomb. The angel rolled back the stone at the tomb of Jesus, our Lord, who had already been raised from the dead, so that they could see the empty tomb.”
The Myrrh Bearing Women are apostles to the Apostles, namely sent to those who would be sent to preach the Gospel
His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel has also shown that we can also meet the Risen Christ, just like the myrrh bearing women when we kiss, every Sunday, the icon of His Resurrection in the church and listen to the Gospel of His Resurrection at the Matins and communicate with Him from the Holy Cup. “Due to their attitude full of devotion and respect, of esteem and love for Christ, as well as to the fact that they believed in His Resurrection with no doubt whatsoever, with no questions to the angel, the myrrh bearing women became teachers of the Church, “apostles to the Apostles”, as Saint John Chrysostom called them, namely they were sent by Christ to announce His Resurrection as foundation of the universal Resurrection. The myrrh bearing women have become the icon of the Church full of devotion to Christ and of faith too because Christ Risen from the dead is present in its middle. Whoever believes in Christ and loves Him, can meet Him. We also experience this encounter with the Risen Christ when we kiss, every Sunday, the icon of His Resurrection in the church and listen to the Gospel of His Resurrection at the Matins and communicate with Him from the Holy Cup. The myrrh bearing women who worshipped Jesus taking hold of His feet show us how we should receive or meet the Risen Christ, namely with reverence low to the ground. The servants of the Holy Altar learned from them that when they enter the Holy Altar they must bow down to the ground, as if they were taking hold of the feet of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, symbolised by the Table of the Holy Altar (the tomb of His Resurrection) on which there are the Holy Gospel, Holy Cross and Holy Eucharist (His Body and Blood), because they show His devoted and sacrificial love for God and for humans, love stronger than death”.
The myrrh bearing women are models for all religious women
To end with his sermon, His Beatitude Daniel spoke about the model that the myrrh bearing women represent: “The myrrh bearing women are the icon of all the religious women of the Church, women who have often become martyrs throughout the history, through their courage and sacrifice, confessing with the price of their life the Christ Crucified and Resurrected, or who have become pious nuns and sisters in monasteries in the right faith, preaching their faith in Christ through their devotion, lowliness and diligence in the family, Church and society. We know the names of some myrrh bearing women of the New Testament, namely: Mary Magdalene, Mary, mother of James and of Joseph or Joshie, Salomeea, Joan, Huza’s wife, a subprefect of King Herod, Susana, who helped the Saviour and the Saints Apostles with the preaching of the Gospel. They helped with money or with the necessary work for preparing the meals and clothes, very often during the journeys of Lord Jesus and of His disciples in the Holy Land. They have become the icon of the religious women who support financially or with their own work the construction of churches and bedecking of the places of worship, or who help the poor, orphan children, aged people and the sick. The myrrh bearing women also represent all the women who go to the icon of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, early in the morning, at dawn, and pray for His help to roll away so many “heavy stones of their life” from their hearts and souls. They represent all the women who pray for the help of Christ to give birth to children in faith, to be faithful wives in the family and devoted women in the Church, to be bearers of the values of faith, because the precious spices that the faithful women bring to Christ are the gifts or values of the faith in Christ, the richness of the spirituality or of the relation of man with God, namely the gifts of the Holy Spirit received by the faithful people as foretaste of the eternal welfare in the Kingdom of the Most Holy Trinity”.
“The myrrh bearing women represent the women who have become – through tears of repentance and much praying, though efforts and early morning prayers in the church – nuns who give birth to the holy virtues of the Christian faith: devotion, lowliness, obedience, kindness of the heart. Thus, having been religious women, the myrrh bearing women also prophetically represent the mothers and girls of the family, the nuns and sisters in monasteries. But they also represent the crowd of religious women who watch at the heads of the sick in hospitals, the crowd of the religion teachers, medical assistants, social workers, as well as the crowd of women who work in institutions of culture and in mass-media bearing in their souls and showing around the light and joy of the Resurrection of Christ”, His Beatitude also said.