“After Your Resurrection on the third day and the act of worship of the Apostles, Peter called out to You: ‘The women ventured while I was afraid; the thief confessed God while I denied Him. Will You continue to call me a disciple? Will You not make me again a fisher of the deep? Rather accept me repenting, O God, and save me.’” – Hymn from Orthros
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Christ is Risen!
Truly He is Risen!
Through the sentiments of the above hymn, we gaze into the mind of St. Peter, through the work of the poet/hymnographer/theologian of the Church, who reverently penned these words. Upon denying His Lord three times, only to see him condemned to a violent death and then placed in a strongly-sealed tomb, he was completely consumed with guilt, pain and suffering.
With over 20 years of experience in ministry, I have sadly witnessed the trauma of unsettled resentments at the time of a loved one’s death. After a person dies, you can’t take back the insult. You can’t seek forgiveness of the betrayal. You can’t make up for lost time. You can’t express what should have been said. Confrontations remain unresolved, while the argument endures. In the end, and after the fact, it’s too late.
So, thought St. Peter.
How could he ever imagine that his seemingly unresolved circumstances would be cleansed through the tears of his repentance, and evaporated by the brilliant countenance of the Resurrection? As he recognized his folly and sought to pursue the forgiveness of his transgressed-upon Lord, St. Peter relished in a specific example of the resolve, steadfastness, and strength which he longed to reacquire.
“The women ventured, while I was afraid.”
St. Peter curled himself up in cowardice, while the women walked into the dark. He shook with fear while they shook with anticipation. He sought forgiveness, they sought service.
He longed for Christ’s embrace.
They longed to embrace Christ.
Who are “they”? Who are these women? They are the holy Myrrh Bearing Women, and they are commemorated this Sunday, the Third Sunday of Pascha.
The Bible tells us that they were Mary Magdalene, Mary, another Mary, Martha, Salome, Joanna, Susanna. Even though the Righteous Joseph of Arimathia and Nicodemus were not myrrh bearers (or women), the Church lifts them up on Sunday as well.
What were they doing out there, bumbling around in the dark, unprotected, without light, and in grave danger with every step? Their task was inglorious and ghastly. Though the Myrrh Bearers’ intentions were rooted in the traditions of their faith, their actions were ironically, cause for excommunication and defilement.
They ventured out into the night in order to anoint the body of Jesus for Burial. To be sure, He was already buried. Joseph of Arimathia and Nicodemus took great care to properly receive Him from the cross, anoint Him, and place Him in a new tomb. As the Sabbath was quickly approaching, and the events of the Crucifixion lingered, the preparation and burial of Christ’s lifeless body was executed with great haste and corners were, no doubt, cut.
This hasty burial was seen as completely unacceptable to these pious women. Jesus was their master, rabbi, friend and absolute inspiration. They knew that His life should not have ended in such a way, and they were determined, at all costs – even to themselves, to go out there, find His grave, open it somehow, and finish what should have been done before He was committed to the tomb.
Their intentions were to properly, respectfully and tenderly wrap, anoint, perfume and preserve Him. How preposterous is it, to contemplate that these women would seek to prepare Christ for burial…following His burial?!?
Faith. Bravery. Love. Commitment. Tenderness. Understanding. Devotion. Obedience.
These are attributes which St. Peter lacked in his moment of weakness. These are the attributes which define the women who did not abandon Jesus, hanging on the wood of the cross, and who did not cease to minister unto Him, even well after death.
It is my fervent prayer that we can possess such unyielding commitment to the Lord. We enjoy His favor. Let Him enjoy our acknowledgement of His grace.
Though the Myrrh Bearing Women ministered unto a lifeless Christ, it is that same Christ who grants them, and us, life everlasting. If you are ever in need of an example of steadfastness in times of struggle, such as was endured by St. Peter, call upon these righteous women. They will continue to minister unto Him, by praying for you.
With Love in our Risen Lord,