Saturday, May 2, 2009

Metropolitan Anthony on the Myrrh-Bearing Women

Here follows my translation of a brief word on the Sunday of the Myrrh-Bearing Women by Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapotivsky) of Kiev and Galicia (+1936):
“Truly Christ is Risen!” This joyful response to the exclamation “Christ is Risen” characterizes the Paschal days no less than do all the hymns.

Grief and sorrow accompany our entire life, but they are always replaced by joy. So too does joy knock at and enter our soul in these days, after the many sorrowful tears and grievous sorrows of Passion Week.

In order to understand the Myrrh-bearing Women one must experience their great grief and their great joy. Trying to understand them is deeply instructive. In their souls lived deep grief, and along with it lived the expectation of something joyful, of something for which their souls longed. They, of course, did not clearly understand for what they were longing, but they felt that it was not all over, that it could not all end in death, and therefore they were so drawn to the tomb.

Grief and joyful expectation: these feelings were as if united, settled in their women’s hearts.

O, if only we, too, in grief and in joy, would live in premonition of Christ, Who is coming to us! It should always be like this, and if we feel such expectation only in the holy days of Passion and Bright Weeks, then our faith is not firm. To explain the combination of grief and expectant joy is difficult, and it would be better simply to recall that Mystery performed in these days. This combination is also expressed in our Divine services. In them there is, as it were, the fear of disturbing the joy of the Resurrection; but we also sing “When Thou hadst fallen asleep in the flesh as one mortal” [Exapostilarion], which takes us back to that grief experienced so recently, and then once again the tender hymns are poured out quietly and joyfully, and the grief does not confuse our joy, only giving it a tinge of compunction.

But now, thinking of the Myrrh-bearing Women, grievous memories arise in my soul of the feelings they experienced as witnesses of the Passion. From the ages there had never been such grief on earth, which even the powers of nature could not endure. It is easy to imagine that they had a feeling of relief at the words from the Cross: “It is finished.”

You, too, should rejoice in this moment. This feeling should be repeated in the soul. The sorrows that we feel in these days do not resemble the suffering and pains that accompany our daily life. The greater our grief for Christ and for Christ’s sufferings, the stronger we will be bound to Christ, and our grief will turn into the joyful expectation of Christ, like that of the Myrrh-Bearing Women, and we too will be drawn to Him and meet Him as they did. For those who grieved as did they are worthy of celebrating His Resurrection.
Illustration: Portrait of Vladyka Anthony by Mikhail Nesterov, 1917.

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