The Holy Myrrhbearers

Commemorated on the Third Sunday of Pascha

Matins Gospel: Mark 16:9-20

Epistle: Acts 6:1-7

Gospel: Mark 15:43–16:8

On the second Sunday after the Resurrection, the Church celebrates the first witnesses of the Lord’s Resurrection — the women who came to anoint His body with fragrant oils, the “Myrrhbearers” — and the men who buried Him, St. Joseph of Arimathea & St. Nicodemus.

Jesus Christ was crucified on Friday — the day before the Sabbath (Saturday) and the day before the Old Testament Passover feast. When He died, it was imperative that He be buried before the Sabbath, because it was against the Law to work on the Sabbath. SS. Joseph & Nicodemus took His Body down from the cross, hastily anointed the Lord with aloe and myrrh, and wrapped Him is a sheer strip of linen. They placed Him the newly-completed tomb — dug out of solid rock! — that was intended for the wealthy St. Joseph when he died, and sealed the tomb with a massive stone.

While St. Peter and the other male disciples slept, the women disciples of the Lord bought more expensive, fragrant oils and myrrh. They went to the tomb as soon as the Sabbath-day ended — in the middle of the night — to anoint His body properly. As they walked, they discussed how they could even get into the tomb, sealed by the huge stone that was too big for them to move.

When they arrived, the tomb was open, and He was gone! They made several trips back and forth to Jerusalem, telling the disciples the good news, leading them back to the tomb, and searching for His Body to confirm the Resurrection the angels proclaimed.

The faithful women who visited the tomb of Jesus Christ on the morning of the Resurrection included:

Mary Magdalene, from whom the Lord cast out seven devils — she was the first witness to the Resurrection
the Theotokos, referred to as “Mary the mother of Joses” (Joses was one of the sons of St. Joseph the Bethrothed by his first wife; Mary was his step-mother)
Joanna, the wife of Chouza, the steward/administrator of King Herod Antipas
Salome, a daughter of St. Joseph the Betrothed by his first wife, who was also the wife of Zebedee and the mother of the Apostles James and John

After the Resurrection, St. Mary Magdalene went to Rome. Tradition teaches that when Mary first met the Roman emperor, Tiberius Caesar, she held a plain egg in her hand and greeted him with the words, “Christ is risen!” Tiberius exclaimed: “How can someone rise from the dead? This is hard to believe. It is just as likely that Christ rose from the dead as it is that the egg you are holding will turn red.” Even as he spoke, the egg turned a brilliant red! She then preached the good news of Jesus Christ to the emperor and the imperial household.

Mary Magdalene told Tiberius all that Pontius Pilate and the leaders of the Jews had done to the Savior. Her testimony was enough to condemn them to death.

St. Mary Magdalene left Rome for the city of Ephesus, where she died and was buried by the Bishop there, the Apostle John (the Theologian)! Emperor Leo the Wise later moved her relics to Constantinople.

Paraphrased from the Synaxarion of the Lenten Triodion and Penetcostarion, pp. 184-187.

The feast of the Holy Myrrhbearer and Equal-to-the-Apostles, Mary Magdalene, is July 22nd (August 3rd).

Kontakion for St. Mary Magdalene (Tone 3)

With others standing before the Savior's Cross, weeping and suffering with the Mother of God, glorious Mary Magdalene offered praises saying: What is this strange wonder? He chooses to suffer Who upholds the whole creation! Glory to Your Power, O Lord!

Some Things To Do

Dye some hard-boiled eggs bright red for Pascha. Many parishes dye enough eggs to bless and pass out to everyone at the end of the Paschal Divine Liturgy; offer your family’s help during Holy Week to do this.
Discuss why the egg is an ideal symbol for the Resurrection (New life emerges from an egg. Eggs look solid and “dead” before they hatch.)
Read John 20:11-18 together as a family. Discuss why Mary didn’t recognize the Lord at first, mistaking him for a gardener (She was weeping and looking for His body, which she thought stolen or moved by the groundskeepers. He was radiant, and alive.), and He sent her away (He needed for her to spread the news to His apostles quickly, before His ascension.). X

by Nichola Toda Krause

© 2000 by Orthodox Family Life and the original author(s).
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