Tag Archives: Pascha

In this case, He truly wasn’t there.

The second Sunday after Pascha we remember the myrrhbearers, the women who came early in the morning to Christ’s tomb to anoint his body. This article from our parish bulletin gave me great joy, as did the excursion I made with some others from church to several cemeteries this week, where we proclaimed Christ’s Resurrection to those in the graves. Our rector told us that we were also myrrhbearers that day, and he reminded us, “This is not a place of rotting and decomposed bodies, but a place of awaiting the Resurrection; what could be more joyful than that?”

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…The women came to anoint a body, a body that had ALREADY been anointed. What a strange thing to do. After all, as virtually every American mother assures her child the first time that he or she attends a funeral, the loved one isn’t THERE! Only his body! If the seven myrrh-bearing women were to have heard our 21st century dismissal of the human body, they would have been astonished. Perhaps they would have assumed that we are pagans, like the philosophers who declared soma sema — “the body is a tomb” — and who cremated their dead to allow the soul to escape that prison. But this was not the philosophy of our beloved myrrh-bearers. Mary Magdalene, when she saw the empty tomb, declared in grief, “They have taken away the LORD” and then asked, “Where have they taken him?” She didn’t ask, “Where have they taken his body?” In her mind, and to the mind of the Jewish faithful (except for the confused Sadducees!), a person was embodied: they looked for not mere spiritual continuation after death, but for the reunion of soul with body, a resurrection! And so do we as Christians! “I look for the resurrection of the dead.” Physical things matter to God….

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Anointing his body, then, was not such a bizarre thing to do. For this holy Tabernacle of God, this Prophet of prophets, this High Priest forever, this King of Kings, is worthy of every anointing honor that we can give him—though He has no NEED of our praise! In fact, it is He who anoints us with the Holy Spirit. But there is something for which He is looking—our faith. This ending of Mark summarizes for us many of the stories that are told in more detail in the other gospels. Briefly we hear about the women’s astonishment, and the  refusal of the apostles to believe, the surprise on the road to Emmaus, the disbelief in the upper room, and how Jesus “upbraided them” because of their disbelief. The One who struggled in the Garden with his chosen path knows what it is to be weak—though He himself was never faithless. And so, He calls to us, as he did to the early disciples, telling us not to be faithless but believing.

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simple barley koliva

The evidences of what He has done and is doing are everywhere around us and among us. Like the early disciples, we have confirmed before our very eyes the truth of His word. Anointed by the Spirit on Pentecost, they went out with the message, and braved many dangers, even death! As the last verse of Mark tells us, “…they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it.” (Mark 16:20)

We too, God’s little anointed ones, are led by the Spirit, as St. Paul puts it; that leading may take us places we would rather not go. “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of sonship. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:14-18)

–Excerpt from article by Edith M. Humphrey, Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Myrrhbearing women at the tomb
Myrrhbearing women at the tomb

Myrrhbearers

As St. Joanna was one of the women who bravely went to Christ’s tomb early in the morning to anoint his body, she is commemorated today as one of the Myrrhbearers — which makes today my name day!  I wrote a little more about this here; today I wanted to show an icon that was a gift from my husband, along with the eggs that daughter-in-law Joy knitted for me.

The angel came to the myrrhbearing women at the tomb and said, “Myrrh is meet for the dead; but Christ has shown Himself to be a stranger to corruption, so proclaim: The Lord is risen! Granting the world great mercy.”  — from the troparian of the day

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Every tongue and flower.

first sweet pea Pascha 14

My first sweet pea opened on Pascha. At church the roses are abundant, and I’m grateful to be in a temperate area of the Northern Hemisphere where we can be extravagant with our flowers.

Here at home our snowball bush is going all-out for Easter. When he was a boy, Mr. Glad and his sister often had their Easter Sunday photo taken in front of a snowball bush; today I brought some of the blooms in to put on the dining table.

snowball etc Apr 21 2014

Of course, if we lacked flowers, we would still have eggs to color, and white/bright clothes to wear with our smiles and beaming faces.

I surprised myself with a desire to color eggs this year, but time ran Paschal_Egg_ Bolton Ontario Canadaout, and I displayed our small collection of pysanky for the holiday. This red egg is not one of them – I found its picture on the Web.

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Another tactile and tasty symbol associated with this week is the loaf of bread called the Artos, about which I wrote last year when I was for some reason blessed to carry it in the Bright Monday procession.

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Today’s Artos

But this morning what most impressed me was the sounds of worship, because our parish had many guests from two other Orthodox parishes in the area, from the Antiochian and Bulgarian patriarchates. Our Orthodox Church in America made the third. Historical events and migrations of peoples have led to the development, over centuries, of these ethnic distinctions between parishes, and we look forward to the day when the situation can be rectified.

In the meantime, we have the opportunity locally to demonstrate our unity and the glorious historicity of our common liturgy by gathering on this brilliant and shining day to pray, and to sing “Christ is risen!” in more languages than I could identify or count, not just in the Arabic, Bulgarian and English of the clergy, but others including Russian, Spanish, German, and of course Greek. Not only the words, but the tones of the hymns and the styles of chant vary quite a bit, and maybe just because it is more exotic, to my ear the Arab-style chant is especially soul-stirring.

This 10-minute YouTube sampler of many styles of Orthodox Easter hymns includes some in English, some with the lyrics displayed on the screen with the icons, and quite a few are of the sort we might typically sing in our parish, but it doesn’t include anything like what I have heard in the Arab churches near here. This one comes the closest to the deep baritone voice and style of the cantor who has often led us in worship as he did this morning. But for today’s congregation of a majority of American-born converts, I was thankful that he sang most of the hymns assigned to him in English.

Truly the Kingdom of Heaven comes to us in the Divine Liturgy, and at Pascha, as is described in the scriptures:

After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.’

 Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!P1090660