The Myrrh Bearing Women

myrrh_bearing_women_500The third Sunday of Pascha commemorates the women who came to Jesus’ tomb to anoint his corpse. These are the Myrrh Bearing Women. While wondering who would role away the stone from the door of the tomb for them, they witness an astounding site: the stone has been removed, a “young man” clothed in a white robe sits and addresses them: “Do not marvel! You seek Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him” (Mark 16: 6). Expecting the ordinary in a tomb, they encounter the extraordinary.

Though in the Paschal season, with the Gospel reading we are taken back to Jesus’ death. And we should think of a great contrast — the contrast of life and death. Though now alive, we must all acknowledge that death awaits us. Whether 15 years old or 85 years old, each day we live brings us one day closer to the day we breath our last breath, the day we’re put in a box, the day we’re placed in the earth. We who are alive in these mortal bodies must prepare for death. I am not referring to buying the plot in the cemetery, obtaining life insurance, or preparing a will — though they are prudent steps. Rather, we are to prepare for death by living. We are not to prepare for death by living the life of the world system which only augments the corruption, or death (sin), which resides in us. Rather, we are to prepare for our death by living out the reality of Christ’s resurrection in our lives.

Sacramentally, we are joined to his resurrection by baptism. St Paul instructs us: “We were buried, therefore, with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6: 6). Also, we are communicants of his resurrection life by our participation in the Eucharist:

Therefore, Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you do not have life in yourselves. The one who is eating my flesh and is drinking my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise him in the Last Day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. The one who is eating my flesh and drinking my blood abides in me and I in him (John 6: 53 — 56).

Jesus’ resurrected life is worked into our mortal being by faithfully consuming his Body and Blood given to us via the Eucharist. He indwells us, and we are in him. Thus, we become his body, and must live out Christ’s life before the world.

As the faithful, we are to bear Christ to the world, and be Christ to the world. Hence, we are to imitate Christ (Imitatio Christi). Here, by doing what Christ has done we act as Christ. And more, by acting as Christ acted we become Christlike. Christ is formed more fully in us. I put forward my favorite axiom: “to do we must become, and to become we must do.”

This is what the saints of all the centuries have done. Their imitation of Christ formed Christ in them — it was not they who lived, but Christ who lived in them. Christ was recognized in them by the holy lives they lived. Christ was recognized in them because they imitated Christ.
A few years ago there was a popular wrist band: WWJD, standing for “what would Jesus do?” Though perhaps trivial, and deserving of some mockery, it asked the proper question. The question, though, demands an answer and our response. We are to think like Christ and act like Christ that we might become like Christ. We are to do this that we may be fully prepared to die in Christ. We imitate Christ that we will enter into the reality of the likeness of his resurrection at the Last Day. By our lives in concert with Christ, by our imitations of Christ, let us also surprise the Myrrh Bearing Women.

In Christ,
Fr. Irenaeus

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