Sunday of the myrrh-bearers

Two weeks ago we celebrated Pascha, the holy resurrection from the dead of our Lord and Savior Jesus. Why do the myrrh-bearers factor into our theological formation?

Recall that Jesus encounters myrrh twice: at the beginning and the end of his life. The gifts of the Wise Men were of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Myrrh is an aromatic oil that was used in burial to cover the stench of death. In the Middle East the oder of death is unforgettable in the heat. This practical gift, while thoughtful, also had a deeper, mystical meaning for Jesus and for us who follow him: the wise men foretold that the death of Jesus would be his glory, as we see especially in the Gospel of John. Theologians will say “It was his glory because his death on the Cross was the revealing manifestation of God’s infinite love for his creation. By death Jesus showed forth the victory of love, “trampling upon death by death and granting life to those in the graves” (DP).

One of the troparia sung today is dedicated Joseph of Arimathea, a secret follower of Jesus who becomes a caretaker of the mortal remains by taking the body off the cross, wrapping it in pure linen, anointing the body with spices (myrrh) and laying the Lord in a new tomb. Joseph’s mercy is remarkable because he brings us into deeper focus as to who Jesus was and who he is to become: The Christ —the Messiah (the Anointed One).

First Joseph and now the women. The anxiety of getting the body Jesus attended to fast due to political concerns meant that Jesus burial process was completed by Joseph. The women’s intentions were interrupted by an angel saying that on the third day, Sunday, “He is not here, he is risen.” The Myrrh-bearers have their mission changed from anointing to announcing the resurrection.