My dear friends in our Lord; Christ is risen!
This holy day, this present Sunday, this Sunday of the Myrrhbearers is venerable, wonderful, and salvific, for on this day, as we recall the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, we should be touched with compunction on account of our passions, and at the same time we rjoice spiritually and are filled with gladness. For the Only-begotten Son of God Himself voluntarily went to His Passion and gave Himself up to be the purification and salvation of the whole world, to free us from the curse and from sin. Our all-good Master was lifted up on the tree of the Cross; though sinless. He stretched out His arms and was nailed to it. But in so doing, He bestowed on us the tree of life; He once more opened Paradise, which had been closed by the transgression and disobedience of our first parents. He committed His soul into the hands of the eternal Father and died upon the Cross, but at the same time according to the Gospels the dead arose, offering an assurance of the final and general resurrection. Our Lord was buried, but He rose again as One mighty and powerful. He destroyed death by death. He descended into Hades, but instead of being claimed by it, He led souls out of it, liberating them from their bitter condemnation to darkness and from the bonds in which they had been held. He ascended into Heaven, and He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, and He will render to every man according to his deeds. All these things serve as a kind of divine lesson for us, as well as being the practical and necessary remedy for our own infirmity. Christ raised Adam from the place to which he had fallen, saving him and elevating him to a higher and divine way of life. By Christ’s Passion we are renewed; we are granted life and salvation; we become partakers of the divine Mysteries; and we are given to enjoy heavenly and spiritual gifts and grace. And so, my friends, let us glorify and exalt the great and surpassing mercy of God towards us, His ineffable and infinite love for us. With this in mind, let us hear the Holy Gospel as it recalls to memory again today the great mysteries which we have witnessed in the past few weeks.
At that time: Joseph of Arimathea, a noble counsellor, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, came and went in boldly to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. But Pilate wondered that he should be already dead. And sending for the centurion, he asked him if he were already dead. And when he had understood it by the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph. And Joseph buying fine linen, and taking him down, wrapped him up in the fine linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewed out of a rock. And he rolled a stone to the door of the sepulchre.
Joseph of Arimathea was a member of the Jewish council, a rich and prominent man, and a righteous keeper of the Law. But he had also become a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ, and believed in Him freely and with a pure mind, even though not openly or publicly. Now, after the Death of our Lord, Joseph gives to our Lord this final tribute, this public recognition, of his submission and his pure faith. We see that our Lord’s regular disciples were seized by fear and terror, and all had run off. Only Joseph, who had formerly been a secret disciple of Christ, was found brave and fearless in this instance. This noble, honourable, pious and virtuous virtuous man did not fear to lose his repute or his honour; he did not fear being maligned by the Jews, or being expelled from the synagogue. He cared nothing for all such considerations and he spurned all worldly concerns. Rather, for the sake of the love of Christ and the confession of his faith, Joseph was ready to regard all things, even himself, as insignificant in comparison to necessity of receiving the Body of our blessed Lord. There is a lesson there for us, as well, my friends. The absolute necessity to prepare ourselves well for the worthy reception of our Lord in the sacred mysteries. It requires the same spirit and resolve that animated Saint Joseph of Arimathea. This boldness.
When Joseph had obtained custody of the Body of our Lord, he bought a shroud of fine linen, with which he wrapped the Body of our Lord. Then together with Nicodemus, another disciple of Christ who kept that fact secret for fear of the Jews, he honourably buried the precious and most pure Body of the Master with reverent awe, and rolled a large stone over the tomb.
And Mary Magdalen, and Mary the mother of Joseph, beheld where he was laid. And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalen, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought sweet spices, that coming, they might anoint Jesus.
The presence and the waiting of these women were necessary in providence, that they might see and know where Christ was laid, and might tell the disciples, and bring them the joyous good tidings of the Resurrection. Thus, it was woman who first heard falsehood in paradise through the deceit of the serpent, and now it was woman who first received the good news and the vision of the risen Christ. All those who stayed near the tomb were women who had followed our Lord in Galilee. These women showed their great dedication, courage, and patience before the whole world at the time of the Passion and Burial of Christ. When all the disciples whom Christ had known and loved fled from Him, these women waited with forbearance and zeal to see everything that transpired. When the Sabbath was past, they prepared sweet spices and went to the tomb to anoint the most pure Body of the Lord. Now, it is worth mentioning that the women did not have in mind things great, lofty, divine, or worthy of Divinity in so doing; rather they were being practical. Thus it is that we have a lesson here: the greatest works of God are often made manifest not when we seek signs, wonders, and miracles, wishing to be dazzled or fascinated, but rather when we simply do our daily duty in charity.
The women come unto the tomb, bringing ointment, to the end that they might go and pour the ointment over the most pure Body of Christ, anointing His Body according to the Jewish custom, so that It would remain fragrant and incorrupt. For the ointments had a properties, so that they would dry the body, preserving it, and keeping it from decay. Such were the thoughts of the women concerning Christ. And very early in the morning on the first day after the Sabbath; that is, on the first day of the week, they arose and went to the tomb, thinking about who would roll away the stone for them. While they had such thoughts in their minds, an angel rolled away the stone.
Who saith to them: Be not affrighted; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified: he is risen, he is not here, behold the place where they laid him.
First the angel by his word seeks to free the women from the great fear which understandably beset them. This is always a good way to start: Be not affrighted. Have no fear. And next he proclaims the good tidings of the Resurrection. He refers to our Lord as He Who was crucified; he is not ashamed of the Cross, since it is the salvation of mankind and the tree of life, the basis for all blessings. He is risen, said the angel; the Lord is not here. If you wish to be sure, behold the place where they laid Him. Indeed, it is for this reason the angel had rolled away the stone, so as to show them – and the entire world the place where Christ had been laid. The empty tomb stands before the all history testifying to the triumph over death, and to the reality of resurrection.
But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee; there you shall see him, as he told you. But they going out, fled from the sepulchre. For a trembling and fear had seized them: and they said nothing to any man; for they were afraid.
Just as the Lord had spoken to Peter separately from the rest of the disciples in giving to him the primacy, so also here we see that Peter is referred to separately. “Tell His disciples and Peter.” This is to re-assure Peter, who, you must remember, had last seen the Lord just as he, that is Peter, was denying Him.
If the women had come and said simply that they had been commanded to speak to the disciples, Peter might have said in himself: I denied Christ, and hence I am no longer His disciple; the Lord has rejected me. Therefore, the angel added, “and Peter,” mentioning him by name, so that Peter would not be grieved or led into temptation, thinking that he was unworthy of a word from the Divine Master because he had denied Him, or that he did not deserve to be considered a disciple.
The Lord directed the disciples to Galilee, to deliver them from their turmoil, and to free them from all fear and agitation. The women, however, were again seized by fear; in other words, they were struck with amazement by the apparition of the awe-inspiring angel of the Resurrection; and they said nothing to any man, for they were afraid. They were beside themselves with fear because of what they had seen; therefore, they did not say anything to anyone, even forgetting some of the things which they had heard from the angel. But as we hear these things and turn them over within ourselves with a faith fervent and pure, let us be moved in our innermost thoughts to fix these things as unforgettable, and let us be eager to preach Christ’s Resurrection to others. Today, let us worship and glorify the Risen Christ, our God. Let us give thanks to Him Who suffered and was buried for our sakes and Who became the Mediator of our resurrection; let us give thanks to Him Who bore our infirmities and Who rescued us from the bitter torments, from the snares and malice of the devil; let us give thanks to Him Who ever seeks and provides for our reformation and salvation. Let us become pleasing to God through a pure faith, good works, repentance, and confession.
Be brave as Saint Joseph of Arimathea and seek the Body of Christ; hear the words of the Angel and fear not; and choose resurrection, for death has been defeated.