Beloved brothers and sisters in our Risen Lord, God, Redeemer and Only True Savior Jesus Christ,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
SYNAXARION FOR THE SUNDAY OF THE MYRRHBEARERS
By Nikephoros Kallistos Xanthopooulos
On this day, the third Sunday of Pascha, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Myrrh-Bearing women; and we also commemorate Joseph of Arimathaea, who was a secret disciple, and also Nicodemos, who was a disciple by night.
The women disciples bring myrrh unto Christ. And I bring a hymn as it were myrrh unto them?
Of these Saints, the women were the first and unerring witnesses of the Resurrection of Christ, while Joseph and Nicodemos were witnesses of His burial, which are the primary and most essential elements of our dogmatic teaching. For Nicodemos was expelled from the synagogue as soon as he decided to part company with the Jews, while Joseph, after burying the Lord's body, was cast by the Jews into a pit, from which he was snatched up by Divine power and brought to Arimathea, his homeland. After arising, Christ appeared to him while he was still in fetters, and gave him greater assurance of the mystery of the Resurrection. Although Joseph suffered greatly at the hands of the Jews, he was no longer able to keep silent about this mystery, but boldly recounted to everyone what had happened. It is said of Nicodemos that, by virtue of his writings, he was the first to explain in detail the events surrounding the Passion and Resurrection of Christ, because, coming from the synagogue, he was better informed about the schemes and deliberations of the Jews, and, in short, he knew everything about them. And because, as we have said, Joseph and Nicodemos were reliable witnesses of the Lord's burial, they were ranked together with the women who beheld the Resurrection.
These women were the first to behold the Resurrection, and it was they who announced the glad tidings to the Disciples; for it was fitting that the sex which has first fallen to sin and had inherited the curse should be the first to behold the Resurrection and to hear the joyous greeting, having formerly heard the words: "in pain thou shalt bring forth children." They were called Myrrh-Bearers, because Joseph and Nicodemos, being in a hurry to bury the body of the Lord on the Friday, since the next day was the great day of Sabbath, 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; for this reason, having an ardent love for Christ, as disciples of His, these women purchased costly myrrh and came by night, both for fear of the Jews and because the Law permitted them to mourn earlier in the day and to anoint the body, thereby making up for a deficiency that had been due to pressure of time. When they arrived at the tomb, they saw different sights: the two Angels inside the tomb, and the other sitting on the stone; after this, they beheld Christ and worshipped Him; Saint Mary Magdalene asked Him about Himself as if He were the gardener.
Many were the Myrrh-Bearers, but the Evangelists mentioned only the important ones, leaving the others aside. First of them all was Mary Magdalene, from whom Christ had cast out seven demons; after the Ascension of Christ, she went to Rome, as the story has it, and delivered Pilate and the High Priests to an evil death, after relating to the Emperor Tiberius the events surrounding Christ; she later reposed in Ephesus and was buried by Saint John the Theologian; her holy relics were translated to Constantinople by Emperor Leo the Wise. The second was Salome, who was a daughter of Saint Joseph the Betrothed and whose husband was Zebede; she gave birth to Saint John the Evangelist and Saint James. For Joseph had begotten four sons: James, called the Less, Joses, Simon, and Jude; and three daughters: Esther, Thamar, and Salome, the wife of Zebede. Hence, when you hear in the Gospel about Mary, the mother of James the Less and Joses, keep in mind that she is the Theotokos; for the Theotokos was reckoned to be the mother of the sons of Joseph, and, as it turns out, Saint John the Evangelist was a nephew of Christ, since he was the son of a sister. The third of the Myrrh-Bearers was Joanna, the wife of Chuza, the administrator and steward of King Herod's household. The fourth and the fifth were Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus. The sixth was Mary, the wife of Clopas, whom some call Cleopas. The seventh was Susanna. And there were very many others, as the Divine Luke records, who supported Christ and His Disciples from their own resources.
Because these women proclaimed the Resurrection and contributed greatly to assuring us, with utter certainty, of Christ's Resurrection, the Church of God received the tradition of celebrating them after Saint Thomas, for they were the first to see Christ Risen from the dead, preached the message of salvation to all, and most excellently pursued the life according to Christ and as befitted women who were disciples of Christ.
By the intercessions of the Holy Myrrh-Bearers, O God, have mercy on us. Amen.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Second Tone
When Thou didst descend unto death, O Life Immortal, then didst Thou slay Hades with the lightning of Thy Divinity. And when Thou didst also raise the dead out of the nether-most depths, all the powers in the Heavens cried out: O Life-Giver, Christ Our God, glory be to Thee, Glory...The noble Joseph, taking Thine immaculate Body down from the Tree, and having wrapped It in pure linen and spices, laid It for burial in a new tomb. But on the third day Thou didst arise, O Lord, granting great mercy to the world. Both now...Unto the myrrh-bearing women did the Angel cry out as he stood by the grave: Myrrh oils are meet for the dead, but Christ hath proved to be a stranger to corruption. But cry out: The Lord is Risen, granting mercy to the world.
Kontakion Hymn. Second Tone
When you said to the Myrrh-Bearers, "Rejoice!", O Christ our God, You ended, by Your Resurrection, the lament of Eve, the first mother. And, You commanded Your Apostles to proclaim, "The Savior has risen from the grave."
(Posted by John Sanidopoulos)
ABOUT JOSEPH AND NICODEMOS
Together with them we celebrate also the secret disciples of the Savior Joseph and Nicodemos. Of these, Nicodemos was probably a Jerusalemite, a prominent leader among the Jews and of the order of the Pharisees, learned in the Law and instructed in the Holy Scripture. He had believed in Christ when, at the beginning of our Savior's preaching of salvation, he came to Him by night. Furthermore, he brought some one hundred pounds of myrrh-oils and an aromatic mixture of aloes and spices out of reverence and love for the Divine Teacher (St. John 19:39). Joseph, who was from the city of Arimathea, was a wealthy and noble man, and one of the counselors who were in Jerusalem. He went boldly unto Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus, and together with Nicodemus he gave Him burial. Since time did not permit the preparation of another tomb, he place the Lord's Body in his own tomb which was hewn out of rock, as the Evangelist says (St. Matthew 27:60).
"Since the Body of Christ, in the words of 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 myrrhbearers. We too must know how difficult it is to be Myrrh-Bearers, to care for the Body of Christ, to care for the Church, which is crucified by the world to this day.
For example, the world tries to condemn the Church, because the Church's values are contrary to those of this world, 'which lies in evil'. At other times the world tries to wound, superficially, the Body of Christ. Infiltrating the outer surface of the Church, this world creates some scandal or other and so disheartens and turns people away from the Church. Those who are turned away thus accomplish the will of this world, and of the Prince of this world, Satan.
To do anything for the Church, for the Body of Christ, in this world, is difficult, because it requires faith. And those of little faith have little time and patience for the Church.
For instance, recently a lady came here and said: 'You are so lucky, you have a beautiful church.' I was astonished by such an attitude. Firstly, there is no such thing as 'luck'. Secondly, the little that we have here belongs not to us, but to God. And thirdly, anything that is here is certainly not the result of luck, but of one of two things: either it is the result of God's undeserved blessing, which can be given to us and can be taken away from us. Or else it is the result of tears and sweat and blood, sacrifice and hard work, in other words-myrrhbearing, selfless caring for the Body of Christ. And myrrhbearing is not only participating in the sacraments, preaching the Gospel and confessing the Faith, it is also doing that myriad of things which are so difficult because they require our sacrifice, For:
Those who sing in church are myrrhbearers.
Those who clean the church are myrrhbearers.
Those who prepare the flowers for the services are myrrhbearers.
Those who look after the church garden are myrrhbearers.
Those who sew vestments and altar-coverings are myrrhbearers.
Those who bake prosphora are myrrhbearers.
Those who donate holy icons to the church or make offerings of funds are myrrhbearers.
Even those who simply come and pray for the salvation of all are myrrhbearers.
All those who work for the Body of Christ, the Church, in this world, but are not of this world, are myrrhbearers, because they show that they too selflessly love Christ.
And what is the reward of myrrhbearers?
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 resplendent and whiter than snow: 'Why seek ye the living among the dead? 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. Moreover, when we care for the Church, the Church cares for us, for we are risen with Her.
May we all always have and cherish this inner knowledge of the Truth of Christ, being myrrhbearing witnesses to His Crucifixion and His Resurrection." (Source: Orthodox England)
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
With sincere agape in Our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God