This past Sunday celebrated the Myrrh-bearing Women: Mary Magdalene, Mary the Theotokos, Joanna, Salome, Mary the wife of Cleopas, Susanna, and Mary and Martha of Bethany. These women, according to the testimony of the Gospels, were the first witnesses to the resurrection, the first to deliver the good news to the followers of Jesus hiding away from the crucifying authorites. The Troparion of the day records the angel’s command to the women to go, cry “The Lord is risen, granting the world great mercy."  The Kontakion declares them apostles commanded to preach the Resurrection:

You did command the myrrh-bearers to rejoice, O Christ!
By Your Resurrection, You did stop the lamentation of Eve, O God!
You did command Your apostles to preach: The Savior is Risen!

Earlier, during Friday of Holy Week the same story is read as a part of the service of Lamentations during which we simultaneously grieve the death of Jesus and celebrate the trampling of death and destruction of Hades. The icon of Jesus laid in the tomb rests at the front of the Church. It is surrounded by altar servers holding candles, in much the same way the Gospel book is surrounded when it is brought out of the altar and read. This one time of year, only this once, and only in some churches, girls dressed in white join their brothers at the front of the church, holding candles. We call them Myrrh-bearers, these young women, standing like their predecessors at the tomb of Jesus. Once a year. One service. Then, we send them back.

"Sunday of the Myrrhbearing Women"

by Irene Dimiris-Papageorgiou
(trans. from Greek)

I stand waiting. I know.
I know God is here. In silence.
Who believes me?
Me, a woman.
A woman waiting. Knowing.
Knowing death is trampled. Christ is risen! I tell them all.

I don't hear their affirmations.
Of God's resurrection. Of my witness.
Of me.

I wait for priests and bishops to see me. To know.
To know I am here. In silence.
Who believes the women?
The women, the first to see and hear.
The women still waiting. To be vindicated.
To be known by the Church as isapostles.1

Christ is risen! Our myrrh is unused!
We don't hear our Church's confirmation.
Of God's holy women. Of our witness.
Of me.

We were worthy then. We are worthy now.
As women. As disciples. As apostles. As priests.
As women in the image and after the likeness of God.

I stand waiting. I know.
I know God is here. In silence.

Christ is risen! 
My myrrh is unused.

© 2009 Irene Dimiris-Papageorgiou and © 2010 Gymflesh Corporation. A book of Mrs. Dimiris-Papageorgiou's poetry is forthcoming.

  • 1. "Equal to the Apostles".  A term referring to saints whose contribution to preaching the gospel earned them this special title.  Among the saints who are equal-to-the-apostles" are: Mary Magdalene, Photini (the "Samaritan Woman"), Thekla, Nina of Georgia, Helen and Constantine (mother and son), Olga and  Vladimir of Kiev (another mother and son), Patrick of Ireland, Innocent of Alaska and Nicholas of Japan.

Guest-Michael Plekon

Wed, 21 Apr, 2010 - 05:35

Beautiful poem and post. How central the holy women were--at the empty tomb, in the first house churches led by some of them, as co-workers with Jesus and with Paul and then silenced, distanced for so many centuries, though still witnesses in that silence and exile. Through the prayers of our holy mothers and fathers Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and save us.

Father Timothy Sas

Wed, 21 Apr, 2010 - 07:03

Christ is Risen!

As a first time visitor to your site, I am pleasantly impressed. I love the poem; and wonder if there is more poetry of this author translated into English. You are so right about our use of the 'once per year' myrrhbearers! My opinion is that we have really gone astray with the super-glorification of the ordained. Thus we've left no room for non-ordained men and (even less for) women to hold a truly substantive role of service, responsibility, and authority in the Church.

just the thoughts of a very simple and insufficiently educated priest...God grant you strength in your ministry.

fr tim

mariagwyn

Wed, 21 Apr, 2010 - 10:02

Frs. Tim and Michael,

Thanks for your comments.  Not only do I think that we have overly glorified ordination, we no longer recognize all the gifts for which we should grant ordination.  No single priest (or rather, the rare exception) can teach in a substantive manner, listen pastorally to his (or her) parishioners, administrate the church, provide new vision, maintain older essential ministries, provide a half-decent voice in liturgical leadership, visit the sick and imprisoned, bless homes, church children....  A vibrant church needs many leaders, both more ordained leaders (thus recognized as having both authority and responsibility by the community), and more 'ministers.'  This is one of the things we Orthodox can be reminded of by the many Protestants who have joined our communities, the "ministry of all believers."  Oddly enough, I think increasing the number of ordained might actually reduce its glorification as we see that normal people are ordained for specific tasks and roles in the Church, and that they work alongside non-ordained ministers of the gospel.

And please, feel free to share simple or complex, educated or uneducated comments.  Theology is best done in conversation!