The Sunday of the Holy Myrrhbearing Women, St. Joseph of Arimathea, and St.Nicodemus
On this day, the third Sunday of Pascha, we celebrate the memory of the Holy Myrrhbearing Women. We also commemorate St. Joseph of Arimathea, who was one of the seventy secret Apostles. We also remember St. Nicodemus, who came to Christ at night and was one of the leaders of the Jews.
We remember the women because they were the first to truthfully bear witness to the Resurrection, while Joseph and Nicodemus were the first to bear witness to the burial of Christ. These two facts are both true and well known by us. Nicodemus was immediately banished from the synagogue and was forbidden to rejoin it. After burying the Body of Jesus, Joseph was thrown into a deep pit; however, by the grace of God, he was delivered from it and went to his estate in Arimathea. After His Resurrection, Christ showed Himself to Joseph, who was tied in bonds, thus firmly confirming the mystery of the Resurrection. Joseph suffered a great deal at the hands of his persecutors, but he could not bear to keep silent concerning all these mystical events and boldly taught all people about what had taken place regarding Jesus. It is said that Nicodemus, was the first to proclaim in detail what had occurred at the Passion and Resurrection of Christ. Since he was one of the foremost in the Council of the Jews and a Pharisee, he knew firsthand the councils and plots of the Jewish leaders and all that had come to pass regarding the Lord. Thus, as was first stated, St. Nicodemus and St. Joseph are commemorated after the Resurrection, together with the women who saw the risen Christ, because they are true and authentic witnesses of the Burial.
Although St. Thomas was commemorated last Sunday, it is still right that the descendants of Eve - this same Eve that first fell into sin and inherited the curse - should be the first to behold the Resurrection and to hear the joyful tidings concerning it. The reason they are called "Myrrhbearers" is this: since that Friday was the day before the Passover, for great was that Saturday, Joseph and Nicodemus struggled to bury the Lord's Body, anointing It with ointments according to the custom of the Jews, but not in a fittingly proper manner. They were able only to apply some aloes and a bit more myrrh on His most pure Body before wrapping Him in thin linen and laying Him in the tomb that was hewn out of rock. This tomb belonged to Joseph, and since the burial was carried out so quickly and because of his love for his Master, he gave his own tomb to hold the most Pure Body of Christ - that Body that even the whole universe cannot contain. Because of this, the women in their fervent love for Christ, as true disciples, purchased expensive ointments, myrrh-oils, and came to the tomb while it was night - either because of their fear of the Jews or because it was the custom to weep at the site of the grave in the early morning. In short, they strongly desired to anoint Him properly and fulfill all that had been omitted due to the hurried manner of the burial. When they arrived at the tomb, they saw many signs, such as two radiant angels who were inside the tomb and another who was seated on the stone. They then saw Christ and worshiped Him, but Mary Magdalene thought He was the gardener and inquired concerning the Lord's Body. Yet, we should know that there were more Myrrhbearers than those mentioned by the Evangelists, for they named only those who were more well known and were silent concerning the others. The first one of them is Mary Magdalene from whom Christ had cast out seven devils. After the Resurrection of Christ, she went to Rome, where she told Tiberius Caesar all that Pilate and the leaders of the Jews had done to the Savior. Her testimony was enough to condemn them to death. When Mary Magdalene visited the Emperor Tiberius Caesar in Rome, holding a plain egg in her hand, she greeted him with the words: "Christ is Risen!" Th Emperor exclaimed: "How can someone rise from the dead? This is hard to believe. It is just as likely that Christ rose from the dead as it is likely that the egg you an holding will turn red." Even as he spoke the egg's color began turning into a brilliant red. She then began preaching Christ to the Emperor and the imperial household. Following this, Mary Magdalene went to Ephesus, where she died and was buried by John the Theologian. Later her body was moved to Constantinople by the emperor Leo the Wise. The second woman is Salome who was the daughter of Joseph, the guardian of the Theotokos. (This is what many of the Fathers believed. However, both St. John of Damascus and St. Jerome, among others, held firmly that St. Joseph had no children, nor had he been previously married.) She was the wife of Zebedee and the mother of John the Theologian and the Holy Apostle James. Joseph had four sons: James (called the Less), Joses, Simon, and Jude; and three daughters: Esther, Tamara, and Salome, the wife of Zebedee. Thus, when you hear the Gospel say Mary, the mother of James the Less and Joses, you should be aware that this refers to the Theotokos, for she was considered their mother (step- mother). Thus, John the Theologian would be the son of Jesus' sister (step-sister), His nephew. The third Myrrhbearer is Joanna, the wife of Chouza, who was an administrator and steward in the house of King Herod Antipas. The fourth and fifth women were Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus. The sixth was Mary, the wife of Cleopas, and the seventh was Susanna. There were also other women, as St. Luke says, who served Christ and the disciples from their own abundance.
Thus, the Church has designated this day, the first Sunday after Thomas Sunday, to commemorate these women who preached the Resurrection and the many other signs that confirmed and verified the Resurrection of Christ. Therefore, Christ's Church has determined to celebrate these women as the ones who were the first to behold Christ risen from the dead, who announced to all the prophecy of salvation, and who lived their lives in Christ in a fitting manner as ones who had been taught by Christ Himself.
Through the prayers of the Holy Myrrhbearing Women,
St. Joseph of Arimathea and St. Nicodemus,
O Christ our God, have mercy on us and
save us. Amen.