The Reluctant Orthodox – Volume 27 “Myrrh Bearing Women”

myrrh bearing

There were eight of them. Eight who on Palm Sunday were overjoyed with the honor given to their teacher, their rabbi. Eight of them who on Wednesday could not believe that this man Jesus, a man who they had followed and loved, this man who had known their deepest sins and pains was unlawfully arrested and taken into custody. Eight who on Friday wept soul-tears at the foot of the cross as they looked at the bruised and battered body of their Lord.

Eight who were in a white fog of grief on Saturday.

But on Sunday they got up and did what they had to do. They got up and went to the tomb of Jesus to bathe the body with oils and spices, committing his body to the grave and the ground. Because as women that’s what we do. We grieve for a time, and then we get up and do what has to be done.

That is why the Orthodox church has a Sunday set aside specifically for the myrrh bearing women. Last Sunday was that Sunday and on this, a day set aside to honor Mothers in our society, I think of these women.

Tradition tells us that these Myrrh Bearing Women were Mary Magdalene, Mary the Theotokos, Joanna, Salome, Mary the wife of Cleopas, Susanna, Mary and Martha, both of Bethany. Each of the Gospel accounts talks about these women and it is thought that they arrived at different times and in different groups. Several of these women were women of means, they had given of their time and their money for the years of Jesus’ ministry. All of them had tasted of his grace, all of them knew of his love. And all of them saw it end on a cross in a common criminal’s death.

And that is the wonder of what happened next — because these Myrrh Bearing Women would be the first to find that the tomb was empty. They go down in history as being those that went to the tomb early morning, only to be greeted by an angel and told those most precious words “He is not here for He is Risen – just as he said.” It was these women who were told to go tell the apostles what had happened. It was these women who were entrusted with this incredible joy.

But imagine if they had let the white fog of grief overtake them? Imagine if they had decided not to go to the tomb – because it was too hard. Imagine if they had missed the glorious proclamation of the Risen Lord? That’s where my mind goes. Because I know how easy it is to sink into despair, to think that circumstances will never change, that God cannot do the impossible. 

And so I miss out. I miss out on the gifts that are there when you show up. The more I learn of this faith journey the more I realize that some of this is about showing up. Some of it is about not knowing anything more that that you are supposed to get up and go. And when you arrive – that’s when you find out why.

Though weary from tears and heavy with grief these women stand out in history. They showed up and that’s when it made sense. With tears in my eyes and a prayer on my lips, I think about these Myrrh Bearing Women and I ask for strength to show up. 

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4 thoughts on “The Reluctant Orthodox – Volume 27 “Myrrh Bearing Women”

  1. Absolutely love this. Just yesterday Jonathan and I were talking about some of the ministry opportunities we have been given/are being given in life, and we just laugh, because we never set out to do ANY of this. We just showed up, willing to serve, and sometimes the service opportunities have been out of this world amazing, definitely shaping who we are, and giving us a glimpse of God’s sense of humor for sure.

    This part, though: “We grieve for a while, and then we get up and do what has to be done.” My best friend once read something like this about Mary the Mother of Jesus. Something about how eventually she had to just start cleaning up messes again, because somebody had to do it, and that somebody is usually a woman. I am going to have to go ask her now . . .

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  2. Marilyn, thank you for honoring these myrrh-bearing women for showing up in contrast to the others who were hiding out. How brave this was to visit the tomb of Jesus during this dangerous time. I love the spotlight on these quiet, faithful women.

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    1. I love.love that you get this so well. Thank you for showing up. I still remember many of the things you taught me in Cairo– and one of the things I love best about you is that you are always thinking :) happy Mother’s Day!

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