The term Myrrhbearers (Greek: Μυροφόραι, Myrophorae; Slavonic: Жены́-мѷроно́сицы; Romanian: mironosiţe) refers to the women who came to the tomb of Christ early in the morning and were the first witnesses of the Resurrection of Jesus. Also included are Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who took the body of Jesus down from the cross, embalmed it with myrrh and aloes, wrapped it in clean linen, and placed it in a new tomb. ( , , , , ).
The women followed Jesus during his earthly ministry in Galilee, providing for him and his followers out of their own means ( ). They remained faithful to him even during the most dangerous time of his arrest and execution, and not only stood by the cross, but accompanied him to his burial, noticing where the tomb was located. Because of the impending Sabbath, it was necessary for the burial preparations to be brief. Jewish custom at the time dictated that mourners return to the tomb every day for three days. Once the Sabbath had passed, the women returned at the earliest possible moment, bringing myrrh to anoint the body. It was at this point that the Resurrection was revealed to them, and they were commissioned to go and tell the Apostles. They were, in effect, the apostles to the Apostles. For this reason, the myrrhbearing women, especially Mary Magdalene, are sometimes referred to as "Equal to the Apostles."
Joseph of Arimathea was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly (Pontius Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus and, together with Nicodemus, hurriedly prepared the body for burial. He donated his own new tomb for the burial. A native of Arimathea, he was apparently a man of wealth, and probably a member of the Sanhedrin (which is the way the biblical Greek, bouleutēs — literally, "counselor" — is often interpreted in and ). Joseph was an "honourable counselor, who waited (or "was searching") for the kingdom of God" ( ). Luke describes him as "a good man, and just" ( ).). He went to
Nicodemus (Greek: Νικόδημος) was a Pharisee and also a member of the Sanhedrin, who is first mentioned early in the Gospel of John, when he visits Jesus to listen to his teachings, but he comes by night out of fear ( ). He is mentioned again when he states the teaching of the Law of Moses concerning the arrest of Jesus during the Feast of Tabernacles ( ). He is last mentioned following the Crucifixion, when he and Joseph of Arimathea prepare the body of Jesus for burial ( ). There is an apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus that purports to be written by him.
Names of the Myrrhbearers
The Myrrhbearers are traditionally listed as:
- Mary Magdalene
- Mary, the wife of Cleopas
- Joanna, the wife of Chuza the steward of Herod Antipas
- Salome, the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee
- Joseph of Arimathea
There are also generally accepted to be other Myrrhbearers, whose names are not known.
In the Eastern Orthodox and Greek-Catholic churches, the Third Sunday of Pascha (i.e. the second Sunday after Easter) is called the 'Sunday of the Myrrhbearers'. The Scripture readings appointed for the services on this day emphasize the role of these individuals in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus: Matins Gospel— , Divine Liturgy Epistle— and Gospel— .
Since this day commemorates events surrounding not only the Resurrection, but also the entombment of Christ, some of the hymns from Holy Saturday are repeated. These include the Troparion of the Day: "The noble Joseph..." (but with a new line added at the end, commemorating the Resurrection), and the Doxastikhon at the Vespers Aposticha: "Joseph together with Nicodemus..."
The week that follows is called the Week of the Myrrhbearers and the Troparion mentioned above is used every day at the Canonical Hours and the Divine Liturgy. The Doxastikhon is repeated again at Vespers on Wednesday and Friday evenings.
Many of the Myrrhbearers also have separate feast days on which they are commemorated individually in the Menaion.
There are numerous liturgical hymns which speak of the Myrrhbearers, especially in the Sunday Octoechos and in the Pentecostarion. Every Sunday, there is a special hymn that is chanted at Matins and the Midnight Office, called the Hypakoë, (Greek: Ύπακοί, Slavonic: Ўпаκои), which means, "sent", and refers to the Myrrhbearing women being sent to announce the Resurrection to the Apostles.
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- Sunday of the Holy Myrrhbearing Women