Myrrh-Bearing Women

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by Cullen Schippe

There are often insights to be gained from an Eastward glance!

Several years ago, I had the privilege of attending a Ukrainian Catholic Liturgy during the Easter season. That Sunday has stuck with me ever since. Atop the parish bulletin were the words “Sunday of the Myrrh-Bearing Women.” How interesting!

The Liturgy mentioned Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea who provided a tomb for Christ’s body. Most of all, however, the event focused on the women who dashed to the tomb in the wee hours of a Sunday morning to care for the body of Jesus. They carried with them myrrh and spices to anoint his body for burial.

As they darted out the city’s gate, the women fretted about getting the heavy stone rolled away from the tomb. To their astonishment when they arrived, they found that the stone was moved and the tomb was empty.

From the lips of an unearthly young man they heard the words that have echoed down the centuries, “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. But go and tell his disciples and Peter” (Mark 16:6-7a).

Mark’s Gospel mentions only three women, but the Eastern Church tradition includes up to eight women: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus (whom the Eastern Church calls Theotokos—the God Bearer), Salome, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, Susanna, and Martha and Mary of Bethany.

To these ministering women was given the dawning Good News wedded to the task of announcing it to the disciples. What began as a desire to care for their crucified Master ended with a mission to announce his new life.

This wonderful event reflects how Christ has chosen to keep the Good News flowing. Although there certainly are many an amazing Joseph or remarkable Nicodemus in catechetical ministry, it is a statistical fact that most volunteer catechists are women.

All of you loving women rush to care for the Body of Christ. Day in and day out in your catechetical ministry, you are a living witness to that sparkling Sunday morning when Satan, slavery, sin, and death were crushed under a rolled-back stone.

You have heard the amazing message, but your amazement has quickly turned practical. You are acutely aware that this message has to be shared. You know that Jesus bade all those who would follow him also to “Go and teach!” And so you do.

You may do your own share of fretting. Yet, in a clutter of lesson plans, paste pots, scissors, and seating charts—or in the midst of rowdy youngsters or unwilling teens or seeking adults—you stand ever ready to proclaim your love for the living Christ and his Church, and to bear the Gospel in your eager hands and share it with others.

It is hard to imagine what the state of catechetical ministry would be without today’s reincarnation of the myrrh-bearing women. In your vocation, you help to overturn the banishment of the children of Eve and offer the soothing ointment of the Gospel.

Although the Western Church may not celebrate the valiant women of the Gospel in a special Sunday Liturgy, there is no reason why we cannot use an Eastward glance to stir a reflection of how essential you are to Christ and his Church.

The Kontakion, or hymn, from that Eastern Liturgy carries the mission heard and heeded by all—men and women—in catechetical ministry:

By your resurrection, O Christ our God, you told the women bringing ointment to rejoice; and you stilled the weeping of Eve, the first mother. You instructed the women to announce to your Apostles: “’The Savior has risen from the tomb.”

Cullen Schippe has been in Catholic publishing for well over 40 years and currently serves as Publisher of the Peter Li Education Group and Editor in Chief of CATECHIST.

Copyright 2014, Bayard, Inc. All rights reserved. This article is protected by United States copyright and other intellectual property laws and may not be reproduced, rewritten, distributed, redisseminated, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast, directly or indirectly, in any medium without the prior written permission of Bayard, Inc.

This article was written by the Catechist Staff and appeared in Catechist magazine, August 2014. 

Image Credit: Shutter Stock 578942014

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