Sunday of the Myrrhbearing Women

Sunday of the Myrrhbearing Women

Published: Apr 20, 2010 by Maria Gwyn McDowell

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.