Friday, April 12, 2013

The Silence and the Witness: The Sunday of the Myrrh-Bearing Women


Christ is risen!  Christos voskrese!  Χριστός ἀνέστη!

"They said nothing to any one, for they were afraid."  These are the last words we have just heard from the Holy Scriptures: are they not puzzling?  On a day we celebrate those women who loved Our Lord so greatly, those women who were called to proclaim the glorious truth of His Resurrection, why do we end with words that deny their role?  They were called to go and tell the disciples, and yet instead they are mute.  The Apostle to the Apostles does not seem to act so today.  Why is this?  Why does the reading seem to contradict the feast?

There is no way that a true contradiction exists, of course, for we trust the Church's Tradition, and it is this tradition that has formed the liturgical calendar.  She is not trying to undermine the feast, but to raise it up.  The ones who the Gospel tells us were too afraid to speak were later, and not much later, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and they went to fulfill their divine mission.  Their silence now shows the greatness of their witness later, a witness seemingly beyond their nature.

A silent prophet is nothing new for God: Moses did not wish to speak, and neither did Jonah, that type of Christ's triduum.  Before the great awe of that theophany of the bush, Moses stripped off his sandals, those dead skins, and trembled in awe: just so, when the Myrrh-Bearing Women heard the greatest news, "they went out and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them."  The great tremendum of God overawed them: He Who is incomprehensible and ineffable, Whose mind no man knows, Whose deeds we cannot fathom, accomplish an unaccomplishable deed, for He Himself died, and then He raised Himself up.  No outside force raised Him, as Jesus' power raised Lazarus and Jairus' daughter: God raised God on the Resurrection Day.  The message of this terrified the Myrrh-Bearing Women by its power, and thus they ran.

Should we not all tremble at this great mystery?  All the words of the Scriptures and all words of the the Fathers and all the hymns of the Church cannot convey the greatness of the Resurrection, for human words cannot contain something so great: it is truly ineffable.  That ineffability is what the Myrrh-Bearing Women felt that day: they experience the splendour of God, they received the fear of the Lord in overflowing measure.

Yet, though the mystery is ineffable, we may still speak of it: such as the paradox, the enigma, of Christianity, that He Who is ineffable is the Word, that He Who is intouchable is consumed by man, that He Who is uncircumscribable contains Himself in His physical Body.  The Women were overawed by God's majesty, by His transcendence, and yet they were still able to take His message to the disciples.  The disciples, in turn, could not even conceive and believe of this greatness, yet they became preachers of the Word, "dedicating themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word."  Last week we heard of the belief of the unbelievers, and this week we sing of the proclamation of those of whose silence we hear.

Let us be like them both, the Women and the disciples: let us be overawed by God's majesty, yet let us announce Him to the world.  Let us be martyrs of His Resurrection.  Let us all proclaim, in words and deeds, the message that the Myrrh-Bearing Women heard today: "Jesus of Nazareth, Who was crucified, is risen, He is not in the tomb, for He has trampled death by death and granted to those in the tombs, the tombs of Sheol and the tombs of sin, life eternal."

Myrrh-Bearing Women, Μυροφόροι, pray for us!

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