By Archpriest Andrew Phillips
Re-published here by permission
Last week we recalled all those who beheld Christ’s Crucified and Risen Body: the Myrrhbearing Women; the Righteous Joseph of Arimathea and the Righteous Nicodemus.
We can only imagine how difficult it must have been for them to associate with Christ at this time and to be witnesses of His Crucifixion and Resurrection:
Thus, Nicodemus, one of the Pharisees, as the Gospel of St John tells us, spoke to Christ under cover of dark, spent a huge sum on a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes, and then was cast out of the synagogue and suffered for disclosing the Jewish plots to hide and deny the truth about Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection. Joseph, Jesus’ disciple, who begged the body of Christ from Pilate, gave his money for a shroud, gave up his own tomb and was then sorely persecuted for telling the Truth about Christ, Crucified and Risen.
The myrrhbearers, who selflessly sacrificed all for precious myrrh with which to anoint and care for the Body of Christ, and then announced the Resurrection of the Crucified, when others hid in fear.
All of them should have been in fear, and yet they loved Christ to such a degree that they feared not and they all revealed the Truth of His Crucifixion and Resurrection and suffered for it.
This concerns us as in a sense we are all myrrhbearers. Since the Body of Christ, in the words of the Holy Apostle Paul, is the Church, therefore all members of the Church are members of the Body of Christ. Therefore, we know and confess the Truth of His Crucifixion and Resurrection, and so become myrrhbearers. We too must know how difficult it is to be myrrhbearers, to care for the Body of Christ, to care for the Church, which is crucified by the world to this day.
For example, the world tries to condemn the Church, because the Church’s values are contrary to those of this world, ‘which lies in evil’. At other times the world tries to wound, superficially, the Body of Christ. Infiltrating the outer surface of the Church, this world creates some scandal or other and so disheartens and turns people away from the Church. Those who are turned away thus accomplish the will of this world, and of the Prince of this world, Satan.
To do anything for the Church, for the Body of Christ, in this world, is difficult, because it requires faith. And those of little faith have little time and patience for the Church.
For instance, recently a lady came here and said: ‘You are so lucky, you have a beautiful church’. I was astonished by such an attitude. Firstly, there is no such thing as ‘luck’. Secondly, the little that we have here belongs not to us, but to God. And thirdly, anything that is here is certainly not the result of luck, but of one of two things: either it is the result of God’s undeserved blessing, which can be given to us and can be taken away from us. Or else it is the result of tears and sweat and blood, sacrifice and hard work, in other words – myrrhbearing, selfless caring for the Body of Christ. And myrrhbearing is not only participating in the sacraments, preaching the Gospel and confessing the Faith, it is also doing that myriad of things which are so difficult because they require our sacrifice. For:
Those who sing in church are myrrhbearers.
Those who clean the church are myrrhbearers.
Those who prepare the flowers for the services are myrrhbearers.
Those who look after the garden are myrrhbearers.
Those who sew vestments and altar-coverings are myrrhbearers.
Those who bake prosphora are myrrhbearers.
Those who prepare tea or donate food or wash up are myrrhbearers.
Those who donate icons or make offerings of money are myrrhbearers.
Even those who simply come and pray for the salvation of all are myrrhbearers.
All those who work for the Body of Christ, the Church, in this world, but are not of this world, are myrrhbearers, because they show that they too selflessly love Christ.
And what is the reward of myrrhbearers?
It is to be the first to see and know the Crucified Body of Christ Risen, the first to hear the words of the Angel resplendent and whiter than snow: Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is Risen!
This is our joy, not only to feel, but also to know that the Body of Christ, the Church, is Risen, for She is the place of the Resurrection, and we are witnesses of Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection. Moreover, when we care for the Church, the Church cares for us, for we are risen with Her.
May we all always have and cherish this inner knowledge of the Truth of Christ, being myrrhbearing witnesses to His Crucifixion and His Resurrection.
Archpriest Andrew Phillips is the priest of St John’s Orthodox church in his native town of Colchester, Essex. He writes prolifically for the Orthodox England website. He lives at Seekings House with his wife, six children and their grandparents, three generations of Orthodox Christians.
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