SUNDAY OF THE MYRRH-BEARING WOMEN
Sunday of the Myrrh-Bearing Women, Synaxis of the Holy Powder (or manna) which emitted from the tomb of Saint John the Theologian , Arsenios the Great
ST. JOHN’S FIRST UNIVERSAL LETTER 1:1-7
THAT WHICH WAS from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us – that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing this that our joy may be complete.
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
MARK 15:43-47; 16:1-8
At that time, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. And Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. And he bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud, and laid him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.
And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week they went to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they were saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?" And looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled back; for it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, "Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you." And they went out and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
The Myrrh-bearing women are those women who followed the Lord, along with His Mother. They remained with her during the time of the saving Passion, and anointed the Lord's body was with myrrh. Joseph and Νikόdēmos asked for and received the Lord's body from Pilate. They took it down from the Cross,wrapped it in linen cloths and spices, then they laid it in a tomb, and then they placed a great stone over the entrance of the tomb.
According to the Evangelist Matthew (27:57-61) Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joses (Mark 15:40) were there sitting opposite the sepulchre, and they saw where He had been laid. This other Mary was the Mother of God. Not only were these present, but also many other women, as Saint Luke says (24:10).
Today the Church honors Saints Mary Magdalene (July 22), Mary the wife of Cleopas (May 23), Joanna (June 27), Salome, mother of the sons of Zebedee (August 3), Martha and Mary, sisters of Lazarus (June 4), and the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, who was the stepmother of her husband Joseph’s sons James (October 23) and Joses (October 30). Today we also remember Saint Joseph of Arimathea (July 31), who was a secret disciple (John 19:38), and Saint Νikόdēmos, who was a disciple by night (John 3:3; 19:38).
The holy right-believing Queen Tamara of Georgia is honored twice during the year: on May 1, the day of her repose, and also on the Sunday of the Myrrh-Bearing Women.
On this day the Church also remembers All Saints of Thessalonica, Saint Seraphim Bishop of Phanar (December 4,1610), the New Martyr Elias Ardunis (January 31, 1686), and the New Martyr Demetrios of the Peloponnesos (April 13, 1803).
The Church commemorates Saint John on this day because of the annual pilgrimage to his grave.
When Saint John was more than one hundred years old, he took seven of his disciples and went to a spot outside the city of Ephesus. There he told them to dig a grave in the form of a cross. Then he climbed into the grave and told his disciples to cover him with earth. Later, the grave was opened and the saint’s body was not there.
Each year on May 8 a red dust would arise from the grave which the faithful collected in order to be healed of their illnesses.
Saint John’s main Feast is on September 26.
Saint Arsenius the Great was born in the year 354 at Rome into a pious Christian family, which provided him a fine education and upbringing. He studied rhetoric and philosophy, and mastered the Latin and Greek languages. Saint Arsenius gave up philosophy and the vanity of worldly life, seeking instead the true wisdom praised by Saint James “pure, peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits” (Jas. 3:17). He entered the ranks of the clergy as a deacon in one of the Roman churches, dedicating himself to the service of God.
The emperor Theodosius (379-395), who ruled the eastern half of the Roman Empire, heard about his erudition and piety, and he wished to entrust Arsenius with the education of his sons Arcadius and Honorius. Arsenius, however, protested that he had given up secular studies in order to serve God. Against his will, but in obedience to the will of Pope Damasus (December 11), Saint Arsenius agreed to teach the imperial children, hoping to teach them Christian piety as well.
When he arrived at Constantinople, Arsenius was received with great honor by the emperor Theodosius, who charged him to educate his sons not only in wisdom, but also in piety, guarding them from the temptations of youth. “Forget that they are the emperor’s sons,” said Theodosius, “for I want them to submit to you in all things, as to their father and teacher.”
With fervor the saint devoted himself to the education of the youths, but the high esteem in which he was held troubled his spirit, which yearned for the quietude of monastic life. Saint Arsenius entreated the Lord to show him the way to salvation. The Lord heard his prayer and one time he heard a voice telling him, “Arsenius, flee from men, and you shall be saved.” And then, removing his rich clothing and replacing it with old and tattered garments, he secretly left the palace, boarded a ship for Alexandria, and he made his way to Sketis, a monastery in the midst of the desert.
Arriving at the church, he asked the priests to accept him into the monastic brotherhood, calling himself a wretched wanderer, though his very manner betrayed him as a cultivated man. The brethren led him to Abba John the Dwarf (November 9), famed for his holiness of life. He, wishing to test the newcomer’s humility, did not seat Arsenius with the monks for the trapeza meal. He threw him a piece of dry bread saying, “Eat if you wish.” Saint Arsenius got down on his hands and knees, and picked up the bread with his mouth. Then he crawled off into a corner and ate it. Seeing this, Elder John said, “He will be a great ascetic!” Then accepting Arsenius with love, he tonsured him into monasticism.
Saint Arsenius zealously passed through his obediences and soon he surpassed many of the desert Fathers in asceticism. The saint again heard the Voice while he was praying, “Arsenius, hide from people and dwell in silence, this is the root of virtue.” From that moment Saint Arsenius settled in a solitary cell deep in the desert.
Having taken on the struggle of silence he seldom left his seclusion. He came to church only on Sundays and Feast days, observing complete silence and conversing with no one. When Abba Moses asked him why he hid himself from people, Saint Arsenius replied, “God knows that I love you, but I cannot remain with God and with men at the same time. The Heavenly Powers all have one will and praise God together. On earth, however, there are many human wills, and each man has his own thoughts. I cannot leave God in order to live with people.”
Though absorbed in constant prayer, the saint did not refuse visiting monks with his counsel and guidance, giving short, but perceptive answers to their questions. Once, a monk from Sketis saw the great Elder through a window standing at prayer, surrounded by a flame.
The handicraft of Saint Arsenius was to weave baskets, for which he used the fronds of date palms soaked in water. For a whole year Saint Arsenius did not change the water in the container, but merely added a little water to it from time to time. This caused his cell to be permeated with a foul stench. When asked why he did this, the saint replied that it was fitting for him to humble himself in this way, because in the world he had used incense and fragrant oils. He prayed that after death he would not experience the stench of hell.
The fame of the great ascetic spread far, and many wanted to see him, and they disturbed his tranquility. As a result, the saint was forced to move around from place to place. But those thirsting to receive his guidance and blessing still found him.
Saint Arsenius taught that many take upon themselves great deeds of repentance, fasting, and vigil, but it is rare for someone to guard his soul from pride, greed, jealousy, hatred of one’s brother, remembrance of wrongs, and judgment. In this they resemble graves which are decorated outwardly, but filled with stinking bones.
A certain monk once asked Saint Arsenius what he should do when he read the Holy Scriptures and did not comprehend their meaning. The Elder answered, “My child, you must study and learn the Holy Scriptures constantly, even if you do not understand their power… For when we have the words of the Holy Scriptures on our lips, the demons hear them and are terrified. Then they flee from us, unable to bear the words of the Holy Spirit Who speaks through His apostles and prophets.”
The monks heard how the saint often urged himself on in his efforts with the words, “Rouse yourself, Arsenius, work! Do not remain idle! You have not come here to rest, but to labor.” He also said, “I have often regretted the words I have spoken, but I have never regretted my silence.”
The great ascetic and keeper of silence was given the gift of tears with which his eyes were constantly filled. He spent fifty-five years at monastic labors and struggles. He spent forty years at Sketis, and ten years on the mountain of Troe near Memphis. Then he spent three years at Canopus, and two more years at Troe, where he fell asleep in the Lord.
Our holy, God-bearing Father Arsenius reposed when he was nearly one hundred years old, in the year 449 or 450.
His only disciples seem to have been Alexander, Zoilos, and Daniel (June 7).
Saint Arsenius the Lover of Labor lived during the fourteenth century. This ascetic was distinguished by his love for toil, and living in asceticism in the Kiev Caves monastery of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, he knew no rest. He prayed constantly and partook of food only at the setting of the sun. For his humility and love of labor the Lord gave him the gift of wonderworking. His memory is also celebrated together with the Saints of the Far Caves on August 28.
Saint Pimen, Faster of the Caves, won fame by his exploit of fasting. The relics of the saint rest in the Far Caves. He is also commemorated on August 28.