May 16, 2021

Sunday of the Myrrhbearers - The Risen One and the Myrrhbearers (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

"Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him" (Mk. 16:1).

In today's Gospel reading there is talk about the visit of the Myrrhbearing women "when the Sabbath was past" to the tomb, the encounter with the Angel and the information that "He is risen, He is not here." The encounter of the Myrrhbearers with the Lord is not described here, but we know very well that the Myrrhbearing women not only were found worthy of the angelic apparition and were the first to be informed of the Resurrection of Christ, but also were found worthy to see the Risen Christ. This is an event of great importance and significance. That is why in the person of the Myrrhbearers, female nature and in general all human nature is honored.

The Appearance of Christ to the Myrrhbearers

It is astonishing that the first appearance of the Victor of sin, the devil, and death, took place to women and not to the disciples. This issue has its explanation.

According to Saint Gregory Palamas, the resurrection of Christ is the renewal of human nature, the revitalization, the regeneration and the immortal return of Adam, who had returned to earth through sin and death. Just as Adam was not seen when he was created, since there was no one else then, except Eve after her creation, so now the new Adam, Christ, was not seen when He was resurrected. After His resurrection, a woman was the first to see Him.

But beyond this point of view, there is another patristic interpretation, which finds a correlation between Eve and the Myrrhbearing women. The woman (Eve) after talking to the evil spirit, fell and brought the message of the fall to Adam. Now the women (Myrrhbearers) after talking to the angel and then seeing Christ, brought the message of the Resurrection to the men (the disciples). Thus we have the restoration of female nature. The division and attribution of responsibility to women for the fall is abolished. The restoration of the female nature took place with the incarnation of Christ and His birth by the Virgin Mary, whom all ages had been waiting for.

A woman in the Church ceases to be a simple biological being and becomes a person, a spiritual being, who is deified. Of course there is still the biological difference of sex, but this too will be abolished in the common resurrection. Then the human person will remain. Therefore there is no difference between a man and a woman for salvation. The Apostle Paul says, "There is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28). Christianity is revolutionary here as well. It creates a great revolution through the Resurrection. The Resurrection of Christ renewed everything.

The Virtue of Bravery

With the first appearance of the Risen One to women, the virtue of bravery was honored. The Myrrhbearers counted as nothing, neither the hatred of the people, nor the strength of the soldiers, nor the night. They made a heroic outing and came to the tomb to offer perfumes to Christ. In their person is honored the Christian "anarchy" which is the healthiest expression of love for God. It honors the Christian "anarchy" that manifests itself not with bombs, which destroy, but with the love, gladness, and meekness (myrrh and tears) that build. Modern anarchists and modern feminists are blind to the heroic example of the Myrrhbearing women.

The Holy Fathers say that bravery is one of the four great virtues (wisdom, prudence, bravery, righteousness) that are necessary for an encounter with God. Bravery is born from the clash of the will with the internal, and the harmonization of bravery with wisdom creates the virtue of meekness which is also called dispassion, because it harmonizes the active forces of the soul with the corresponding body sensations and the energies of the senses.

More generally, we can say that bravery is born of faith in God, love for Him, and hope in His mercy. And these are possessed by the one who proceeds with the heart and not with cold reason. Reason also considers cowardice, as was done with the Apostles. The heart loves and progresses forward.

Bravery is necessary in the struggle against our passions and in fact in enduring in every good work and in overcoming the passions of the soul and the body. He who has bravery is not afraid in the difficult moments of the struggle. As has been said, even if he falls into sin and if he worships the devil, he does not lose his bravery, but turns to God in repentance and defeats his enemies.

On the contrary, the lack of bravery results in two great evils. The audacity that turns against his neighbor and the cowardice that leads to damnation. This is because the cowardly soul is muddled, despairs and finally is destroyed, and thus lost. This is what we often see in Christians today. They lose themselves easily. Maybe because they have not experienced practical philosophy. Maybe because they overlook the moral life, which is the basis of the spiritual life.

The Myrrhbearers of Human Nature

Encountering the Risen Christ was not the exclusive prerogative of some women. All human nature accepted Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. In the Song of Songs it is said: "Your name is like myrrh poured out" (1:3). Before the incarnation Christ was the Myrrh, after the incarnation He became the Chrism and anointed human nature. He gave it holiness and Grace. As Nicholas Cabasilas observes, human nature, after sin, separated itself from God, but when the flesh was deified then human nature took God as its essence and the wall became myrrh.

Therefore the Myrrhbearers are not only those women who went to the Tomb of Christ with myrrh, but they are all human nature after the Resurrection and Ascension and especially those who live sacramentally in the Church. They do not just hold the myrrh in their hands, but they have in their hearts the myrrh, the immortal Christ. They do not have only the virtues of goodness, love, truth, but Christ Himself, who is Goodness, Love and Truth. The Grace of Christ that exists in their hearts is poured out on their bodies as well, so that they are not just perfume jars, but these bodies are also transformed into myrrh.

Myrrhbearers are those people, who have been purified by the word of the gospel commandments, whose soul is blameless and fruitful in virtues, who have expelled all passions with meekness and are fervent in giving birth to spiritual meanings with discernment (Niketas Stethatos). A myrrhbearer is one who has inner unceasing prayer and such were and are all the saints.

The Resurrection of Christ is indeed the renewal of human nature. He anointed with myrrh and chrism all human nature. We can all have the privilege of becoming myrrhbearers of Christ.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.