Live Audio File
3rd Sun. after Pascha Myrrhbearing Women; April 30, 2023 Mark 15: 43- 16:8 Fr Andrew
Christ is Risen!
The Myrrhbearing women – those who had faithfully followed Jesus right to the foot of the cross, even when the other apostles had scattered and were hiding out – were on their way to properly anoint their beloved Lord’s precious body, according to the Jewish customs. This was an act of great love and courage, given that they expected a Roman guard of soldiers to be at the Tomb. They were faithfully going to show their love for their dear Lord, not knowing that from the moment His body died, His soul headed straight for Hades, and that while they were waiting for the Sabbath day to end so they could go and properly anoint His dead and broken body; their beloved Jesus was spending the Sabbath fulfilling all He had come for, destroying Hades, binding the devil, freeing the captives, and paving a path for us all, to join with the thief on the cross and follow Him to paradise!
In the Myrrhbearing women’s eyes, seeing Christ die a painful death on the cross was an incomprehensible tragedy. The Romans on behalf of the Jewish religious leaders had seized their Lord and crucified Him, how could this happen? They had not yet come to understand that Christ wasn’t “seized” by His enemies, but rather “gave Himself up”, that this was all planned from the very beginning. Before Adam and Eve chose self-will over following God’s will, and in disobedience ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the plan of redemption was already in place. God protected us from eating from the tree of life and eternally suffering in isolation and sin, being cut off from Him who is the source of all life. God lovingly kept us from this tragedy, posting an angel to keep us from this tree and the garden, and sending His Son to free us from the fall, from death and sin. David and the Prophets had foretold this in great detail, and everything was now accomplished as Christ breathed His last breath saying, “It is finished.” What is finished? Christ’s redemptive work is completed, sin, death, and the devil are finished.
It is only our work that is not finished, as long as we have breath we need to turn to Christ.
But the Myrrhbearing women knew none of this yet. They only knew that they loved Christ with all their heart, mind and soul and they were sorrowful beyond words at His death. And in the middle of this sorrow, all they knew to do was to go to Him. This was not a reasonable logical decision, there was a guard of Roman soldiers, there was a stone sealing the door of the tomb that was far too heavy for them to move. These sealing stones were huge round thick flat stones rolled down into a groove at the bottom of the entrance and needed many strong men to roll them back up and out of the groove. Yet all they could think of was to go to Christ. When we are sorrowful, confused and wounded and think that nothing can help, we would do well to imitate the Myrrhbearing women and run to Christ. Don’t focus on the obstacles, focus on Christ!
Who will role away the stone from the door of the tomb? We struggle with the same question. Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb of our heart? The enemies of God and haters of mankind,, the demons do all they can to keep it in place, sealing it with a great wax seal. But the “demons will perish before the face of God as wax melts before a fire.” The Myrrhbearing women would be no match for the legion of guards guarding the tomb, any more than we are a match against the legions of the evil one. But there is really no contest, we do not fight the evil one, the Lord Himself fights this battle for us. (2 Cor. 12:9,10) “…My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness…For when I am weak, then I am strong.” The Lord sends His angels to disperse these fierce legions and they are immediately scattered, like smoke vanishes so they vanish in the presence of those who love God, who sign themselves with the victory sign of the cross. The demons run off and tell lies and invent excuses as to why this carefully guarded, and thoroughly dead tomb of our heart has now been transformed into a temple where the glory of God dwells! “Bearing life and more fruitful than paradise, brighter than any royal chamber: Your tomb O Christ has become the fountain of our resurrection!”
What is this stone guarding our heart? The holy fathers tell us that this heart of stone is a serious life-threatening condition which they call “insensibility.” This term is used to describe our deadness and insensitivity to spiritual things, to God and His kingdom, to His ever-present love. What are the danger signs? Our blind dedication and pursuit to building ourselves an earthly kingdom. We struggle with spiritual activity. We try to pray and are overcome by boredom, and even sleep, or are restlessness, irritable, not able to focus on spiritual things. We can’t find the time to read or listen to the scriptures and spiritual books or talks. We would rather do almost any project than take a course or listen to a podcast series aimed at developing our spiritual understanding. When we do try, our minds are not there, they are constantly wandering, thinking of the things of the world, the next project we should undertake, or our plans for the day or the week. We hurry to finish our prayer or reading so we can get back to “real work.”
We act as if our material accomplishments and wealth gathered here on this earth during our short journey here is permanent, and therefore all of our thoughts, plans, and energies are focused on this earthly life. The reality of our impending death and of how short our time here really is, when set against the timelessness of eternity, just doesn’t seem to penetrate our thick insensible skulls. We get greatly energised and enthused just thinking about our next project; about making a great profit, taking a wonderful holiday, climbing the corporate ladder, making a mark! Somehow, the ultimate permanent reality of the eternal kingdom of God, seems like a fleeting vapour – perhaps we will get more serious later, when we have time, having accomplished all our goals and completed our bucket list. This disease of “insensibility” confuses us, and we cling to the things of this world, pursuing our fame and fortune, or at least our ever-increasing material comfort and prosperity, with little thought for what is of truly eternal and lasting value. This is the stone which the evil one does everything in his bag of tricks to keep in place as a guard over our hearts – to keep us from awakening to the love and power of a sacrificial life truly given to Christ.
In our more lucid moments we get a glimpse of this stone and are suitably horrified. When we do, this is a moment of immense potential. May we turn quickly to the Lord in repentance, asking Christ Himself to come, trampling down death by death and restoring us from our cold dead tombs to life. We will find like the Myrrhbearing women, that Christ has already accomplished all, that the stone is removed, the demons are scattered, and the Risen Christ is with us! It is truly finished! Christ is Risen!!!
We like the Myrrhbearing women see very little of what is really going on. But do we, like them, run to Christ as our default response? We in the Church know that Orthodoxy is Paradoxy; that the first will be last; that we need to die to live; and that if we find our life we will lose it – but if we lose our life for His names sake we will find it. May God grant that we act on this knowledge. May God roll away the stone covering our heart that keeps us from experiencing His full presence. May we, even as the Myrrhbearing women, run to Christ, even in the middle of bewildering pain and great confusion, even when nothing makes sense, may we too, simply turn to Christ and find that He is always right there with us until the end of the ages. Christ is Risen!!!