Homily 542 – 3 Pascha
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
April 30, 2023
Epistle: (16) Acts 6:1-7 and (29) Acts 12:1-11
Gospel: (69) Mark 15:43-16:8 and (17) Luke 5:1-11
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Christ is risen!
The myrrhbearing women were simply doing their duty. One of the most important obligations of the Jewish faith was to bury the dead.
That custom involved embalming with ointments and sweet-smelling spices, like myrrh.
So, they were doing their duty. They couldn’t do it on the Sabbath, and there was a huge rush to bury Jesus – their Leader, their Master – before sundown when the Sabbath began.
So as soon as they could after the Sabbath day was over, they went to the tomb with the necessary spices and ointments to properly bury the body of their Lord.
I’m sure it was not something they looked forward to doing. Who would be excited about preparing their loved one for formal burial. The still hadn’t quite got over the shock of the events of the Friday before.
Betrayal. Arrest. Trial. The mockings, the scourgings. Denial and abandonment. No conviction of any crime, or any betrayal of the Law of the Jewish faith – but yet a death sentence.
It was difficult to imagine.
But their duty was clear and had to be done. They needed to bury, correctly and appropriately, the One they loved.
So before dawn, that fateful Sunday morning, they set out. They went to the garden, where the temporary burial had taken place, just as the sun rose.
They remembered something – the tomb had a massive stone covering the entrance. And they didn’t know how they would open the tomb. But they were diligent.
They had a duty to perform.
Then, a curiosity. The looked up, and the stone was no longer covering the opening. It had been rolled back.
The puzzled looks at each other as they shrugged and went in. They had a duty to perform.
Then – inside the tomb, an young man. That’s not something you often see. Sitting on the right side of where the body had been placed, clothed in a white robe.
Now, it was early. And they likely hadn’t slept much. The women probably each individually was not believing what they saw. And said nothing.
It’s probably an illusion, a vision if we’re lucky.
Then, the young man spoke.
Not a vision. Don’t be amazed. Don’t stand wondering if what you see is real.
It is. It. Is.
All of this came because of one thing – the women were doing what was expected of them. They were doing what their faith taught was their obligation. The right thing to do.
They had likely participated in preparing many bodies for burial. None like this, of course. This burial, the burial that would never happen, was unlike anything anyone ever encountered before, or since.
All because they had a duty to perform. They understood the role they needed to play. The role their community needed them to play.
Understand – there was no selfishness, not one bit, in this task. There wasn’t the opportunity to reflect on the “righteousness” or “worthiness” of what they did. There was no pride involved. They didn’t fight or argue for the “honor” of burying the Creator and their Lord.
It was their obligations. It was an expectation. It was that thing that was just – done.
We are also given expectations by our Lord, and by our Church. The expectations of us are that we will deny our own self-desires and self-wants.
We will fast. We will pray. We will give alms and treat our possessions as belonging to those we encounter instead of our selfish use.
And we do so even without a mystical spiritual experience every time – or any time – we do them. We do them without immediate reward.
We do them patiently, consistently, not expecting anything in return. Not even a “well done, servant.” We do them without encountering a young man robed in white telling us what to expect.
We do them without expecting anything. We do them out of love. Because God first loved us, even as we were – even as we are – disobedient, petulant, and selfish.
We should remain diligent. Because through diligence, we grow. We develop. We change.
The myrrhbearing women were doing their duty, fulfilling their obligation, and they were rewarded. Not with wealth, or honor, or status. But with knowledge. Knowledge that Christ would not be found in that tomb. That Christ was risen, He was no longer buried. No longer dead. Now, go tell the Apostles and Disciples. They won’t believe you – but tell them anyway, and let them find out that what you say is Truth.
We do our duty, fulfill our obligation, and we too will be rewarded. We will be united – reunited – with Christ. We may not realize it – but that reward is now. And it is consistent. And like the women at the tomb, it is miraculous and awe-inspiring and leaves us aghast in wonder.
We receive our savior in the Eucharistic communion. He gives us soil and seed, we plant. He gives growth. We harvest. We take the wheat and grapes and make bread and wine. We offer them to God, and He gives them back as Himself – His only-begotten Son.
And we too experience the wonder, the awe, of becoming united with God again.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Christ is Risen!