“Because of the savor of Thy good ointments Thy Name is Ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love Thee.” (Song of Solomon 1:3)
The Gospel passages which describe the coming of the Myrrh-Bearing Women to the Tomb of Christ makes us wonder & opens to us new dimensions for understanding the Resurrection in depth. The wondrous thing is that even though the myrrh-bearers came early in the morning to anoint the body of Jesus, they did not really anoint Him. The sweet savor of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14-17) has risen from the grave; He is risen; He is not here (Mark. 16:6).
The anointing of a dead man with myrrh was a loving act in order to compensate for the corrupted body. The Pharaohs thought about an illusory eternity for the body, when they anointed their dead. The Jews thought anointing gave honor to the dead. The real anointing is putting on incorruptibility. Christ rose from the grave, Himself being precious myrrh of sweet fragrance. Therefore, human nature carried this precious & new myrrh. The myrrh-bearing women did not anoint Jesus. After His Resurrection, the new myrrh-bearers, humanity, were given the opportunity to put on Christ, and not just to be anointed. In the Songs of Solomon, the Church cries out to the Lord, “Thy Name is Ointment.” This ointment, this myrrh, becomes an anointing of every Christian by the rising of Christ from the grave. St. Nicolas Cabasilas wrote that after its fall, humanity built a wall of enmity & of separation between it & God. After the Resurrection of Christ, however, humanity put on glory & incorruptibility in Christ, & instead of the wall, anointing.
So the resurrection of Christ from the grave as new myrrh made the Church a channel of ointment to all, & allowed every Christian to be a myrrh-bearer. The sacraments and rituals of the Church, & all her life, is an anointing movement with this new myrrh of Christ. The Christian as a myrrh-bearer approaches not to anoint but to be anointed with the heavenly myrrh, so that He may die with Christ & rise with Him in His resurrection.
According to St. John of the Ladder, the secret of the new myrrh-bearers is that this new ointment reveals the identity of the bearers. They become themselves myrrh & sweet, not just in soul but also in body. The relics of saints that give forth myrrh are not rare cases in our Church.
The Church calls the Virgin Theotokos the precious myrrh. This new balm is the life of virtue, & the bearers of it are the men of prayer, & the soul that is full of virtues, purified from the old life of passions & corruption. As the Lord’s Name is ointment poured forth, the myrrh-bearers are the ones who carry this Name. For all the saints were like St. Paul who was not just living, but had Christ, the heavenly Myrrh, living in Him.
The women myrrh-bearers went to the grave moved by their love towards the Lord, expressing their rejection of corruption. Their mission was realized in the Church where Christ, the Myrrh of incorruptibility, is, & by Whom we are anointed in the sacraments, carrying a life of virtue.
So let us put on Christ, being clothed with an incorruptible body for life eternal. Amen.
Metropolitan +PAUL of Aleppo was taken captive by Muslim militants in Syria in April of 2013, and prayers are offered at every Divine Liturgy for his release by the faithful of the AOANA.