Sunday of the Myrrh-Bearing Women
This Sunday the church services are taken from the contents of the Gospel narration about the appearance of the risen Lord to the Myrrhbearing women. This all-joyful appearance of the Lord was the first after His rising from the grave and consequently it is glorified by the Church at the present time as the undoubted proof of His resurrection. Among the Myrrhbearers mentioned in the Gospel are the following: Mary Magdalene (Jul. 22), Mary Cleopas or James (May 23), Salome (3 Aug.), Johanna (Jun. 27), Martha and Mary, sisters of Lazarus (Jun. 4, Mar. 18) and Susanna (see Lk. 8:3; she is not mentioned in the Menologion). Besides these seven Myrrhbearing women, “there were also others, very many others, who served Christ and His disciples out of their means”. The Holy Myrrhbearing Women and the circumstance of the appearance of the risen Lord to them are glorified in the stichera and troparia of the Canon for the third Sunday after Pascha and on all the days of this week and consequently it is called the Sunday of the Myrrhbearing Women.
Besides the Holy Myrrhbearers, the church hymns glorify Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, the secret disciples of the Savior on this present Sunday. According to the explanation of the Synaxarion, the Holy Women Myrrhbearers were “the first to truthfully bear witness to the Resurrection, Joseph and Nicodemus to the burial, but this is the most important and best kept of our teachings. This is the reason that they are the true witnesses of the burial together with the women, who have seen the Resurrection, and it was established to celebrate them after the first verification of Thomas, which came before because it happened in eight days as the holy evangelist said”.
Calling its children on this day to praise “the wonderful Joseph together with Nicodemus, and the faithful Myrrhbearers”, the Holy Church in the hymns for this day mainly glorifies our Lord Jesus Christ, inspiring us thus, that He should always be the first, the primary subject of commemoration and glorification for us. As the Holy Myrrhbearers were witnesses not only of the resurrection of the Savior, but also His suffering, death and burial so the Holy Church in its hymns will also remember the “passions” of the Savior and, turning to Him, sings: “You were smitten for our sake, and You were spat upon by lawless men, O Jesus”, “You were given vinegar and gall to drink for our sake, O Savior”, “You were pierced in the life-creating side with a spear”, “You were counted among the dead”, “You were placed in the tomb”.
But this sorrowful memory of the suffering and death of the Savior will abundantly dissipate together with the comforting instruction on saving the fruits of the cross of the Savior for us and in the joy of His resurrection. The Holy Church exclaims, “O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? It was destroyed by the enlivening Rising from the dead”; “Let Zion be glad, also let heaven rejoice, Christ is risen, having raised up the dead”. Even the troparia of this Sunday (“The Noble Joseph”, “The angels came to the Myrrh-bearing women”), are taken from the service of Great Saturday where they mainly expressed pious grief and only a hint of the celebration, but on this Sunday they also are supplemented with the joyful instruction of the accomplishment of the resurrection of the Savior (see the endings of these troparia below). Through such comparison of sorrowful and joyful commemorations in the church hymns of this day the spiritual situation of the holy women, who received the Savior after the resurrection is shaded with special power “instead of weeping the unspeakable joy”, but equally this “unspeakable joy” of the resurrection of Christ, “who has illumined all the ends of the world is more deeply imprinted in our hearts”.
- By S. V. Bulgakov