Sunday of the Myrrh-bearing Women

Christ is Risen!!!

Today, on the third Sunday after Pascha, we commemorate the holy Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodimus – the secret disciple of the Lord – and the myrrh-bearing women: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Cleopas, Salome, Joanna, Martha and Mary – the sisters of Lazarus – and Suzanna, along with others who came with them to the tomb of the Lord. The myrrh-bearing women are specifically remembered on this Sunday because they were the first to see the risen Lord, and Joseph and Nicodemus because they were the ones who buried Him.

The great mercy of God reveals itself in the narration of today’s gospel: the frail women, bravely carrying the sweet spices to the Lord’s tomb, become the first witnesses of His resurrection from the dead. The frail women, desiring faithfully to serve the Lord, Who has fallen asleep, are the first to see the empty tomb. Faithful to the Lord even after His death, they are the first to learn that He is alive.

How harmonious is this narrative with the words of the Lord: “They that are faithful to the end, shall be saved!” How often, in our times, the faithful behold and come to know the great mercy of God! Thus, some, at the time of attentive prayer, unexpectedly behold the grace of the Holy Spirit, descending upon the holy gifts during the Divine Liturgy. Others see different mysteries of God, not asking Him for visions, but only having a desire to serve Him faithfully.

Let us remember the words of the Lord to Thomas, words which we heard last Sunday: “Blessed are they, who have not seen, and yet believed,” and let us not seek visions, lest we fall into beguilement and the deception of the devil. Let us ask help of the Lord, that we may keep the faith to the end, and together with the myrrh-bearing women, may obtain salvation. Amen.

Priest Viatcheslav Davidenko

Palm Sunday

Today is Palm (in Russia – Pussy Willow) Sunday.  People come to church with small bunches of pussy willows in their hands.  Everyone is in a festive mood.  Only one week, filled with wondrous divine services, is left until Pascha.

It would be nice to go back in time in order to draw a small lesson about the meaning of these pussy willows that everyone finds so cute.  This feast, according to the church ustav (rubrics) is called The entry of the Lord into Jerusalem.  Almost two thousand years ago, the Lord, in His humility, came to Jerusalem; to be exact:  He rode in on a donkey.  The day before His coming to Jerusalem, He worked a great miracle:  He raised His friend Lazarus, who was dead four days and already began to decompose and stink in the tomb, from the dead.  The news of such a great and until that time unheard of miracle spread quickly and reached Jerusalem.  For that reason, the people in great multitudes gathered at the entrance to the city in order to look upon this great Wonderworker, the Lord, Who raises from the dead.

The roads in those days were unpaved and, in the hot and dry climate of the Holy Land, very dusty.  That was the very reason why the people put their garments and wide palm branches on the road, making a sort of a carpet, so that when the Saviour were to come there would not be any dust in the air and it would be possible to see Him.  Palms do not grow in Russia, that is the reason why from ancient times there this feast among the people is referred to not as Palm (as it is in the warm countries), but rather as the Pussy Willow Sunday.

The action of the people offers us the following lesson:  the Lord often passes by us, very close to us, but we do not see Him.  In order to see the Lord noetically, we must undertake some labour, offer at least a small sacrifice to God.  People put their garments and palm branches on the road.  Both things are obtained with labour; even if they were to be bought with money, because that has to be earned first as well.  Similarly, in the spiritual life our labours according to our strength: prayer, fasting, and helping our neighbor cover the dust of the passions and cares of the daily life, giving us the possibility to see the Lord spiritually.

Alas, often we wish that others should labour instead of us:  let the father (the priest) pray in the altar, let the candle burn before the icon.  As for ourselves, we do not want to work and that is why we do not receive the grace of God and His consolation.

Standing in the church of God, holding pussy willows (palms) in our hands, let us remember how the people met the Lord during His entry into Jerusalem.  Let us cover the dusty road of earthy trials and sorrows with the possible labours unto the glory of God, with the keeping of His commandments.  Then we will see that this road, on the way to the death on the Cross, was travelled by the King of Glory Himself:  by the Lord Jesus Christ.  Having seen Him, we also will not be afraid of following Him and go to our cross.  Walking after Him, seeing His sufferings, His patience and absence of murmuring, we sinners also will be consoled, for how can one complain about our small trials, when looking upon the passion of the Lord, the passion that He endured for us and for our sake.