April 30, 2023

First Homily for the Sunday of the Myrrhbearing Women (St. Luke of Simferopol)

 By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on May 20, 1945)

On this third Sunday after Pascha, the Holy Church remembers and glorifies the holy Myrrhbearing women, the first witnesses of the Resurrection of Christ, because the Lord was pleased that they were the first to see Him risen from the dead.

Who were these holy women? Why are they called Myrrhbearers? They loved the Lord Jesus Christ with all their hearts, served Him with their care for all His material needs, learned together with the apostles, listened to His holy discourses; to some extent, they can even be called female apostles: one of them, the first and most ardent, Mary Magdalene, is called Equal-to-the-Apostles.

The Lord knew that a woman's heart is extremely sensitive and full of love, that it comprehends everything great, mysterious and holy much more easily and simply than men's harder hearts comprehend, for it is natural for men to accept everything rationally and to believe, first of all, in what it confirms to their own mind. Women do not think as much, long and deeply, as men; they embrace all truth and facts quickly and easily with their hearts. For there is a twofold kind of knowledge — by the mind and by the heart. The heart comprehends the most important thing, that which the mind cannot understand. The heart is the organ of our higher knowledge, our communication with God, with the entire other world. The female heart is much more capable of this.

Therefore, let no one be troubled by the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ first appeared to Saint Mary Magdalene and other Myrrhbearing women (see Matt. 28:1–10), and only then to the holy apostles. He knew that the apostles had male hearts, and it was more difficult for them to accept the truth of His Resurrection than for the Myrrhbearing women, which is why He made women the first witnesses of His Resurrection.

You know from the Gospel that the Most Holy Theotokos, already immediately after the Nativity of Christ, hearing marvelous words about Him from the Angels and seeing the adoration of the Magi, and then hearing the extraordinary words that the Child Jesus spoke in the Temple of Jerusalem among the scribes and Pharisees, kept all this in Her heart (See Luke 2:8-12, 42-51). All these testimonies of His divinity and destiny from time immemorial were so deeply imprinted in Her holy heart that She, of course, could never doubt anything. She accepted all the words of Christ with complete faith, with complete conviction of their truth.

Even the holy apostles sometimes did not understand their Teacher when He told them that He would be betrayed into the hands of sinners, that He would be beaten and mocked and crucified on the Cross. But this fit into the immeasurably deep heart of the Most Holy Theotokos. She was waiting for that terrible hour when she would see her Son tormented by indescribable torments on the Cross of Golgotha. However, before Her mental gaze always stood the picture of the Resurrection of Christ, shining with heavenly light. She knew that it would be as Christ said, that He would not only be crucified, but also rise again on the third day.

The Holy Church believes that the Lord first of all appeared to His Most Pure Mother. Saint Dimitri, Metropolitan of Rostov, out of his ardent love for the Most Holy Theotokos, taught that She, too, was among the Myrrhbearing women. For the Gospel says that Mary Magdalene and another Mary came to the Holy Sepulcher (see Matt. 28:1); and the other Mary was precisely the Mother of God. The Gospels, as the evangelists themselves testify, do not record much of what Christ did and taught (see John 20:30, 21:25). And if we do not find anywhere a record of the appearance of the Lord after the Resurrection of the Most Holy Theotokos, this does not mean that this did not happen. Undoubtedly, in His all-encompassing filial love, He appeared to Her and had the deepest communion with Her. No Christian heart can doubt this.

And now we are celebrating the Christian Women's Day - the day when the woman's heart is glorified and exalted in the persons of the holy Myrrhbearing women. Today we are celebrating the sacred right of all women to achieve the highest human dignity, immeasurably higher than any political and civil dignity, the right to holiness, to the closest friendship with the Lord Jesus Christ. For which of the earthly rulers is higher than the Equal-to-the-Apostles Mary Magdalene and Nina the Enlightener of Georgia? Which of them is higher than the holy martyrs and great martyrs and a huge host of venerable women? This is the blossoming of humanity, this is the height of human dignity.

All the saints, His closest disciples, the Lord set for us as an example and a model. The whole Christian world imitates the holy apostles. The holy Myrrhbearing women should be imitated by the entire female Christian world. All women must follow the same path that the holy Myrrhbearing women walked - the path of the most ardent devotion, the most selfless love for our Lord Jesus Christ.

You cannot directly bring your worries and labors to Him, as the holy Myrrhbearing women did, but have you not heard what He said about the poor and all those who suffer? Don't you know that in the person of every poor and unfortunate person the Lord stands before you, waiting for your cares? In His word about the Last Judgment, He condemned ruthless people because they did not feed Him when He was hungry, did not clothe Him when He was naked, did not visit Him when He was sick and in prison. And when the sinners asked Him with wonder: "Lord! When did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not serve you?" - He said to them in response: "Truly I say to you, since you did not do this to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me" (Matt. 25:44-45).

This means that even now every woman's heart that wants to pour out its love for Christ is given the opportunity to do so. Caring for the lesser brethren of Christ will be exactly the same service to Him that the holy Myrrhbearing women carried. They are called Myrrhbearers because they hurried to the Sepulcher with alabaster vessels of spices and aromas to anoint the Body of the deceased Lord Jesus Christ. And you should bring to Him golden censers filled with incense of mercy for the poor and the afflicted.

Go along this holy path to Christ, following the holy Myrrhbearing women, and you will reach those holy abodes where they rejoice with eternal and infinite joy. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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