A place for reflection

Homily 357 – 3rd Sunday of Pascha (Myrrhbearing Women)
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
May 12, 2019
Epistle: (16) Acts 6:1-7
Gospel: (69) – Mark 15:43-16:8

Christ is risen! Xristos Voskrese! Xhristos Anesthi! In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

It may be important to remember that several years went by before the Gospel accounts of Our Lord were compiled and written down.

This may seem like a minor detail – and perhaps it is. For me, I’ve always wondered why people in the life of Christ reacted how they did to our Lord.

When Jesus went with his parents to the Temple and was left, Mary scolded him. Yet it is written that Mary treasured these things in her heart. Mary had been told by the Archangel Gabriel that her son was of God and would save the people. And Mary treasured these things in her heart as well.

When the scriptures speak of treasuring things, what it seems to say is that the people thought about them a lot – reflected on them, contemplated them. After the resurrection, things began to make sense.

But only began to make sense. Twenty or more years later, the Gospels were written down. Matthew was an eyewitness, as was John the Theologian. Mark and Luke were not apostles, but likely were present for at least some of the events surrounding Christ.

So when we read the accounts, which is really a written testimony to the account of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord, the authors of the Gospels are giving us the important stuff.

Shaped by the Church, remembered by the faithful, these accounts bear witness – testimony – to Christ.

In most of the Gospel accounts we find the immediate reaction to Jesus to be one of wonder – How can these things be? How do these things happen? Who are you?

The contemplation and reflection of the authors, though, along with the understanding of the Church, allows us to see the impact of the events and words of our Lord immediately.

That insight isn’t universal. Sometimes the Gospels record events nearly like a replay, so that we can observe. That is what we find today – a replay of the events immediately following the crucifixion and burial of our Lord.

A little context may be in order. The Jews had laws about burial. There were rituals. Bodies were not necessarily embalmed, but they were anointed – in the sense that they were covered in lotions and spices to delay the onset of decay, and this was contained in linen wrapping.

Jesus has not been buried properly – he was buried hurriedly, as sundown approached when the Sabbath would begin.

Mark reports they were concerned about rolling back the stone which covered the entrance to the tomb.

The women came as soon as the law allowed them to – even before sunrise – carrying myrrh and spices to perform the burial properly. Thus, the reason we refer to the group as the Myrrhbearing women.

While they were grieving, they also were using the law and the ritual to both fulfill the obligation they had, and to help them come to terms with what had happened.

Likely, they had buried other loved ones before. This was nothing new, but rather something that they were intimately familiar with. But what they found when they arrived …

What they found was completely unthinkable. In the hymns we hear about the body being stolen – but who, and why? Christ was not buried with possessions or symbols of wealth and power – because He had none of that from a worldly perspective.

He had nothing. Nothing at all. Even the clothes on his back were taken by the guards that crucified Him.

So why? Why was the body that they were there to anoint and provide the final duty they had to provide suddenly gone?

Another miracle answered their questions – an angel (angel means messenger) was there. In Luke’s account, there are two there and the two gently chided the women. Why do you seek the living among the dead?

The two in Luke’s account is significant. In Jewish law, if two people testified to a particular thing, it was accepted as true. Throughout the scriptures we see that two witnesses are needed to establish fact.

And in Luke, there are two witnesses. So the women, having been commanded to tell the Apostles and Disciples this news, run back – and become the Apostles to the Apostles.

In the Church we honor these women. Many times throughout the Gospels we find it is the women who kind of “get it” first. Mary and Martha, the women who anointed Christ before His death, Photini at the well.

And now, it is the women who first learn of, and first proclaim, the Risen Christ.

What do we do with all this? I think we have to do exactly what the first believers did. They listened to the message they had been given – the testimony of the witnesses.

Then, it will be good if we contemplate the meaning of these things. We have seen the death and heard the proclamation of the Risen Christ. And now, we read another account of the discovery of the good news.

And finally – it is our obligation to proclaim that which we believe to be the Truth.

That Jesus of Nazareth, crucified and buried, has risen from the dead, and is the beloved Son of God.

This is not conjecture. This is fact. We can ignore it or deny it – but that fact doesn’t change. This is truth. Death is overthrown – Christ God is risen, granting the creation – the whole cosmos – great mercy.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Christ is Risen!