Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
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—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.” Mark 16:1-7 Bright Thursday
Good morning Prayer Team!
Christ is Risen!
The account of the Resurrection from the Gospel of Mark is the account that is read at the Resurrection Service at midnight on Pascha. In this account, three women—Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James and Salome—went to the tomb.
The hour of the Resurrection is not known. “When the Sabbath was past” can refer to any time after sunset on Saturday, the Sabbath. The Jewish (and later Byzantine and Orthodox) day ended and the new day began with the sunset each evening. So, the Sabbath, for instance, lasted from sunset on Friday until sunset on Saturday. This is why the Body of Jesus needed to be removed from the Cross and buried before the sun set on Friday. The women came before the dawn of the first day of the week. So the Resurrection occurred sometime after sunset on Saturday before the dawn of the first day of the week. Which puts it between 9:30 p.m. on Saturday and prior to 6:00 a.m. on Sunday. The Resurrection Service in the Orthodox Church is traditionally held at midnight, with the calendar day of Saturday passing and before the dawn of Sunday morning.
The women take great courage, walking through a hostile city in the dead of night. Imagine the most hostile part of your city. And then imagine walking through it at night with one or two friends, or even by yourself. That would be a courageous act indeed. There was also some faith involved. The women realized that the stone covering the door of the tomb was very large and they weren’t sure how they would roll it aside. Would God give them strength? Would the Roman soldiers guarding the tomb show some kindness and compassion and remove it for them? Faith is when you don’t know the outcome of something but you do it anyway and believe you will have success. The journey of the women that morning was most certainly an act of faith.
The purpose of the journey of the women was to go and anoint the Body of Jesus. It was the Jewish custom that spices were put over the body, as part of the burial process. This also showed great respect to Jesus in death. Because the burial had happened so quickly on Good Friday, and all work had to stop on the Sabbath for the required day of rest, it is likely that the women were going early in the morning with the spices in order to anoint the body to complete the burial process.
When they arrived at the tomb, they found the stone rolled back. The Gospel passage does not say how this happened. They entered the tomb and found a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe. The Gospel of Matthew refers to the person at the tomb as an angel. St. Mark calls him a young man. St. Luke says that there two men. And St. John has no one at the tomb.
There is a tradition in the Orthodox Church that during the Orthros (or Matins) service on most Sundays, one of the eleven post-Resurrection Gospel passages are read. Since most Sundays commemorate the Resurrection of Christ, these Gospel passages are read on a rotating basis every eleven weeks. And the priest who reads the Gospel reads from the right side of the altar table, representing the young man from the Gospel of Mark who sat at the right side of the tomb to proclaim the good news of the Resurrection.
In this Gospel account, as in Matthew, the women are afraid, and they are comforted by the young man they encounter who encourages them to go tell the Disciples that Jesus is going before them into Galilee. The lesson from this passage is that the faith of the women won out over their fear and uncertainty. They wanted to do the right thing for Christ and ventured into the darkness, undaunted by the hostile city or the large stone, in their desire to do the right thing.
The Myrrh-bearing maidens anticipated the dawn, and sought as those who seek the day, their Sun, Who was before the sun, and Who now had set in the Grave. They cried to each other, “Come, let us anoint with spices His Life-bearing and entombed Body, raising the fallen Adam lying in the tomb. Let us go, hastily like the Magi, let us worship, and bring myrrh as a gift to Him, Who is wrapped now not in swaddling bands, but in a sheet. Let us weep and cry aloud, ‘O Master, arise! You, who grants to the fallen resurrection.’” (Oikos, read at the Orthros of the Pascha, Trans. by Fr. George Papadeas)
May our faith always win out over fear and uncertainty!
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