Friday, May 20, 2016

Fr Georges Massouh on the Myrrh-Bearing Women

Arabic original here.

Imitate these Women, O Men

Saint John Chrysostom (d. 407), the Syrian Antiochian patriarch of Constantinople, praises the bravery of the noble women who accompanied Jesus during His life and His death. The Myrrh-Bearing Women, as the Church calls them, were did not fear like His closest disciples feared and fled from facing their Teacher's humiliating fate, breaking their promises to share in His fate, or at least to accompany Him... all before the cock crowed.

Chrysostom says, some fifteen centuries before the women's movement, that men must imitate the courageousness of the women who went to the tomb to anoint Jesus' body: "So let us imitate these two women [i.e., Mary Magdalene and the other Mary], O men! Let us not abandon Jesus at the time of trial! They spent much of their money on Him when He was dead and subjected their life to danger. But we men, I will repeat, did not feed Him when He was hungry and did not clothe Him when He was naked. When we see Him begging, we turn our backs to Him. But if you truly saw Him, you would strip yourselves of everything that belongs to you."

Before the Myrrh-Bearing Women, there had appeared a young girl who was more courageous and audacious than them, Saint Mary, the Mother of Jesus or the Mother of God, as the universal Church affirms. This girl accepted, by her free will and her obedience to the word of God, to conceive Jesus from the Holy Spirit without being married. She risked being convicted of adultery and being killed, had her betrothed, Saint Joseph, not rectified the matter and declared her to be his wife before the people without her in fact being his wife. We say that she faced the danger of death by stoning because she believed what the angel of the annunciation said to her, before receiving Joseph's agreement to cover for her before her compatriots. She did not consult any person when the Lord called her to accept her most sublime calling, to give the Son of God flesh.

In both cases there was a Joseph on the scene, Joseph, Mary's betrothed, the great silent figure, and Joseph of Aramathea, who asked for the body of Jesus who had given up His spirit on the cross in order to bury Him appropriately. The first Joseph did not did not hesitate to embrace Mary, who was called to contribute to the divine dispensation by accepting the angel's news, and the second Joseph who dared to ask Pilate to hand over Jesus' body. Chrysostom says of Joseph of Aramathea, "Joseph had previously hidden his discipleship, but he became very bold after Christ's death. He was not obscure or forgotten, but rather notable and very respected, a prominent member of the council. From this it is clear that he was bold and daring. He risked death and incited all to love for Christ."

If we take this comparison into symbolic proofs, then we would repeat with Saint Jerome (d. 420) who observed that Jesus was placed in a new tomb in which no one had previously been placed and said that "the new tomb resembles Mary's virginal womb." Just as Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, so too He emerged from the virgin tomb as a new birth.

Joseph of Aramathea and the Myrrh-Bearing Women were not members of the twelve chosen disciples. The closest disciples denied at their time of trial that they knew Jesus and one of them handed Him over to be crucified. But one who was not of their number dared to openly announce his faith and became a disciple of Jesus. The true disciple of Jesus, whether a man or a woman, is not the one who carries a Christian identity on account of having been baptized, but the one who imitates the courageousness of Joseph of Aramathea, the Myrrh-Bearing Women, and the martyrs who offered themselves up in order to hold fast to their faith... only the courageous deserve to be beloved of Jesus.

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