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The Holy Myrrhbearers

The Reading is from the Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark [§ 69]. At that time:

15 43Joseph, a noble counselor, who was from Arimathea, and who himself also was waiting for the kingdom of God, came; and having become bold, he went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus for himself. 44And Pilate wondered if He were already dead; and having summoned the centurion, he questioned him if He died not long ago. 45And having come to know it from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. 46And he bought a linen cloth, and took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen, and laid Him in a sepulcher which was hewn out of a rock, and rolled a stone against the door of the sepulcher. 47And Mary Magdalene and Mary the Mother of Joses were beholding where He was laid.

16 1And the sabbath having passed, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the Mother of Iakovos, and Salome bought aromatic spices, that they might come and anoint Him.2And very early in the morning on the first day of the week they came to the sepulcher, after the sun rose. 3And they were saying among themselves, “Who shall roll away the stone from the door of the sepulcher for us?” 4And they looked up and saw that the stone had been rolled away, for it was exceedingly great. 5And after they entered into the sepulcher, they saw a young man sitting on the right, clothed in a white robe, and they were amazed. 6And he saith to them, “Cease being amazed. Ye are seeking Jesus the Nazarene Who hath been crucified. He was raised, He is not here. Behold the place where they laid Him. 7“But go and say to His disciples, and to Peter, that He goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see Him, even as He told you.” 8And they went out and fled from the sepulcher. And trembling and ecstasy held them fast, and to no one did they say anything, for they were afraid.

Troparion, tone II:

Standing before the myrrh-bearing women at the tomb, the angel cried: “Myrrh is meet for the dead, yet Christ hath shown Himself to be a stranger to corruption! But cry aloud: The Lord hath risen, granting the world great mercy!”

Kontakion, tone II:

Thou didst command the myrrh-bearers to rejoice, and didst console the lamentation of our first mother, Eve, by Thy resurrection, O Christ God; and didst command Thine apostles to preach: The Savior hath risen from the tomb!


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.

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