Tag Archives: St. Joanna

Wordless flowers, and myrrhbearers.

When I had brought flowers into the house this afternoon, I thought to share them, by way of one of those “Wordless Wednesday Saturday” type of posts, because what could one say that’s better than what the flowers themselves are are already communicating? Unless they are communicating to you what a failure at flower-arranging I am…. My excuse is that I have such atypical flowers for arranging, excepting the callas. This is the first time I’ve used acanthus. The purple blooms are chives, and the white that aren’t callas are ixia.

I wouldn’t have written any of those words, if I hadn’t remembered that it’s Myrrhbearers’ Sunday: I always want to express appreciation for my patron saint Joanna who is numbered among the women who came to anoint the Lord’s body. Flower essences were likely used in the ointments that the women brought to the tomb, and flowers are often given to one’s mother around this time, so let my flowers be in her honor, who is one of my mothers in the faith.

The following I found on our parish announcement page:

Joanna the Myrrhbearer was the wife of Chouza (he was the steward-administrator of King Herod Antipas). She is listed as one of the women, along with Susanna, Mary Magdalene, and others, who “had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities” who accompanied Jesus and the Apostles, and “provided for Him from their substance.” (Luke 8:2-3)

In Luke 23:55–24:11, we have the story of how these same women went to the tomb of Christ as Myrrhbearers to finish the job of embalming Jesus’ body, which was hastily begun by Joseph and Nikodemos. They were perplexed when they found the tomb empty except for the grave clothes. An Angel appeared to them and proclaimed the Resurrection of the Lord. They believed and became the first evangelists of the risen Christ, and became “Apostles to the Apostles.”

Although not mentioned by name, Joanna is most likely counted as one of the women who joined the disciples and Mary, the mother of the Lord, in the upper room in prayer. She was among the group of 120 who chose Matthias to fill the vacancy that was left by Judas, as well as being present on the Day of Pentecost.

According to tradition, Joanna recovered the head of St. John the Forerunner after Herodias had disposed of it (Feb. 24). When Herodias had John beheaded, she cast the head out into an unclean place. Joanna took the head and buried it with honor on the Mount of Olives, on Herod’s land. Later, in the reign of Constantine the Great, the head was found.

An ossuary has been discovered in Israel bearing the inscription, “Johanna, granddaughter of Theophilus, the High Priest.” Whether this is the same Joanna as the Myrrhbearer is unknown.

Just as Joanna stood beside the tomb,
So also she stands beside the throne in the age to come.

—Liturgical verse

A bell named George.

Today and tomorrow there is so much going on! Of course, every day is like that, even in the liturgical calendar, but I noticed three of the events or commemorations secular and ecclesial overlap just now.

The second Sunday after Pascha is the Sunday of the Myrrhbearers, when we remember Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus who ministered to our Lord’s body, and the women who brought spices to the tomb to anoint Jesus, where they met an angel instead. The angel told them that Christ had risen! Joanna was one of those women, so today was my name day. 🙂

Earth Day is celebrated on April 23rd, about which I once wrote an article that I don’t know how to improve upon. And starting this evening, it’s the feast of St. George the Greatmartyr, who received the crown of martyrdom on April 23, 303.

It wasn’t until I was walking to the parking lot this afternoon at church and stopped to take a picture of the bells, that I remembered that our big bell is named after St. George. All of the bells have names, but the great one bears the name of the Greatmartyr. He has wisteria adorning, and a chain protecting him from thieves who would peddle his metal. One of our slightly smaller bells was stolen once and had to be replaced.

In the morning the bell George will be rung for the saint George. One hymn of the day includes these lines:

God raised you as his own gardener, O George,
for you have gathered for yourself the sheaves of virtue.
Having sown in tears, you now reap with joy…

May we all have good reason to rejoice on this day and every one.

My saint, and a buttonhole.

On June 27th we remember my patron saint, Joanna the Myrrhbearer. She is somewhat well-known among Christians as one of the women who cared for the needs of our Lord during his earthly ministry, and she was blessed to be present at the tomb on the morning of the Resurrection, and to hear the angel say, “Why seek ye the living among the dead?” The angel’s question is one that I have found it helpful to ask myself this year, since Pascha especially.

Today I read this poem by Naomi Shihab Nye on different ways to be famous, and it’s helping me enter into the spirit of my name day. I first read it in an anthology published ten years after the poet’s own collection that includes it, and somehow in my library copy of 180 More Extraordinary Poems for Every Day, selected by Billy Collins, the last two words of the poem had been changed to “did.” The meaning I extract from the one-word ending makes a big difference to me, and I prefer it, but I’m afraid it must have been a typo. I’m glad I read it the “wrong way” first, because it gives me two more possibilities to weigh and reflect on.


The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,

but because it never forgot what it could do.

-Naomi Shihab Nye, from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems



Tuning my heart with St. Joanna.

The robin outside my window this morning had his priorities straight. Before there was light enough to see by, before he even thought of going about his necessary business of sustaining himself by eating, he spent an hour and more in praise and song. I was unusually awake and he helped to me to tune my heart to the same frequency. Robin+vintage+graphic--graphicsfairy009bsm

That happy hour I spent with him was like a special gift I opened first thing on the occasion of my name day. In addition to Myrrhbearers Sunday, which is a movable feast, St. Joanna is commemorated on June 27 every year. It’s a good day to head over to church and do a little garden work along with some celebrations in the church.

This blog post contains a good overview of what we know of St. Joanna. It is from a man who was planning to name his daughter Joanna, though he admits she is a “relatively minor saint.”

I had my own reasons for choosing Joanna as my patron saint when I converted to the Orthodox Church in 2007, which were not exactly the same as the following that an anonymous Christian listed in a comment on that blog in the same year, but I am grateful for her thoughts and have added them to my personal list:

1. She did what she could. She couldn’t stop the beheading of John the Baptist, but she could give his head a decent burial, and she did that.

2. She went where Christ was–the cross and the tomb. She didn’t go alone–she was part of a group. I want to go where Christ is, and I need to go with the Church.

3. She had a name we can pronounce in English.

4. She died peacefully.myrrhbearers st joanna

One thing I can definitely relate to in Joanna is that she needed the angels to tell her not to seek the living among the dead. These lines from a hymn for Myrrhbearers Sunday will be good for me to sing all day:

The angel came to the myrrhbearing women at the tomb and said:
Myrrh is meet for the dead;
But Christ has shown Himself a stranger to corruption!
So proclaim: the Lord is risen,
Granting the world great mercy!