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hmily for 4/18/10 - Pascha 3 - Myrrhbearers Sun

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  • Fr David Moser
    Mark 15:43-16:8 As Christians we strive to follow the example and commandments of our Lord Jesus Christ. One of the things that He said to His disciples was to
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 18, 2010
      Mark 15:43-16:8

      As Christians we strive to follow the example and commandments of our
      Lord Jesus Christ. One of the things that He said to His disciples was
      to do good unto others without any expectation of reward or even a
      return of good to yourself. There is nowhere that this kind of attitude
      can be expressed more than the care for the departed, for those who have
      died have no ability to repay or return your good works. Their capacity
      to act in this world is gone and so whatever we do for them will go
      unrewarded. When we care for the body of the deceased or when we pray
      for the repose of their souls, there is never any expectation of a
      payback – it is an act of pure love and charity toward that person.

      After Jesus had died on the cross, two prominent members of the Jewish
      people came to Pilate to claim the body. Joseph of Arimathea and
      Nicodemos came and having received the permission of Pilate the
      governer, they took the body of Jesus down from the cross, washed it and
      wrapped it in a clean linen cloth. They then took the body of Jesus and
      placed it in a new tomb – the tomb which Joseph of Arimathea had had
      prepared for himself – and there laid it to rest with fragrant herbs
      around it. This was all they were able to do, for the Sabbath – the day
      of rest when no labor could be done – was upon them. After the Sabbath,
      the myrrh-bearing women would come to the tomb with the fragrant spices
      to finish that which they had begun. How great was their love for Jesus
      that they would, even at such great personal risk (for Jesus was still
      considered a danger and those who followed Him remained suspect), come
      and care for His Body. Then, at the instigation of the rulers of the
      Jews and at the order of Pilate, a heavy stone was rolled into place in
      front of the grave and marked with a seal and a guard was put into place
      to prevent anyone from stealing the body and spreading the rumor that He
      had risen from the dead. On the third day, early in the morning
      following the Sabbath day, the women did come to the tomb with myrrh and
      spices but found not a body, but rather that the tomb was empty and
      instead of the guard, there was an angel proclaiming to them that Jesus
      had, in fact, risen from the dead.

      Who then were these men of courage, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemos
      who came to claim the body of Jesus from the cross and then lavish it
      with such great care and love? The Gospel tells us that Joseph was a
      rich man, a counselor (public official) and a secret disciple of Jesus.
      Nicodemos we know as the man who came to Jesus by night and asked how
      one might be saved. Nicodemos was also present at the meetings of the
      ruling council of the Jews, the Sanhedrin. It was he who spoke up and
      asked, “Doth our law judge any man before it hears him?” (Jn 7:51) Both
      of these men were prominent and well respected members of the community
      and they were both secret followers of Jesus. They followed Jesus in
      secret for fear that they would be cast out of the society of which they
      were prominent members if it became known that they were His disciples.
      But when Jesus died they broke their silence and by claiming the body of
      Jesus and lavishing it with such care they proclaimed their love for
      Him. What was once secret, of necessity became public. As our Lord said,
      that which is whispered is private shall be proclaimed from the
      housetops (Lk 12:3).

      This is also important for us in our lives. It is necessary for us to
      believe “in secret” – that is in our hearts – and to love Christ there
      first. If we do not have within ourselves this love for Him, then
      everything else we might do will be of no value. But if we love Christ
      in our hearts then that love must find expression in our lives. We
      cannot be secret Christians, having only love in our hearts, but like
      Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemos, at some point that love must become a
      public statement, it must be proclaimed from the housetops – it must be
      expressed in our lives. In order to be transformed by the grace of God
      our hearts must first be opened and filled with love for Him. This is,
      by its nature a “secret” act – that is, it is an act that is only
      between you and God. No one else can do this for you, but rather you
      must become alive unto Christ first in your heart. This is what is often
      referred to as the “conversion” experience or as it is sometimes called
      by heterodox Christians “accepting Christ”. It is a necessary part of
      our salvation and of our Christian life. The heart must be filled with
      the love of God before anything else is possible.

      But it is not possible that this love of God remain in secret, in the
      heart. At some point it must be openly expressed. That love must become
      the driving force behind everything that you do. The love of the heart
      must be expressed by the actions of the body in order for it to be
      actualized in us. It is not enough just to “accept Christ” or to be
      “converted” – one must then live according the love of Christ. That
      which is secret, in the inner chamber of the heart, must now be
      proclaimed from the housetops. Like Joseph of Arimathea, like Nicodemos,
      it is not possible to be a “secret disciple” of Christ but at some
      juncture we must proclaim that secret love for Him to the whole world by
      our lives, by our actions, by our works.

      On Holy Friday with the plashchinitsa and on Pascha night with the
      lighted candles, we imitate Joseph and Nicodemos and the myrrhbearing
      women as we go out of the Church and make a procession singing the hymns
      of the Church for all to see. We are part of a spectacle that proclaims
      to the world that we are followers of Christ. With Joseph and Nicodemos
      we take the body down from the cross and carry it to a tomb, lavishing
      it with loving care and fragrant herbs (and so we surround and cover the
      plashchinitsa with flowers). With the myrrh bearing women we come to the
      tomb early in the morning on Pascha and as we sing in the hymn, “Thy
      Resurrection O Savior, the angels in heaven sing…”, we find there the
      angels proclaiming the good news of the resurrection and we too
      proclaim, at the tops of our voices for the whole world to hear that
      “Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!” This is the good news, this is the
      secret that cannot be kept, this is that which we now proclaim from the
      housetops. Therefore we shout with our voices and proclaim with our
      deeds that Christ is Risen and that we are His disciples.

      Our belief in Christ begins in secret, in the inner room of the heart
      where we meet the Living God and where we become His secret disciples,
      being filled with love for Him. But our life in Christ does not end
      there. If it remains “in secret” that love will soon grow stale and cold
      and die out – it must be expressed our lives. That which is begun in
      secret must later be proclaimed from the housetops. We cannot remain
      “secret disciples” of Christ but we must proclaim our love for Him with
      our whole lives. Every action, every word, every breath that we take
      becomes the means by which we proclaim that we are the followers of
      Jesus Christ and that our hearts are full of love for Him. We are a
      candle sitting upon a stand – and that light cannot be hidden under a
      cover but must be held high so that it lights everything around it. We
      cannot be secret disciples of Christ, hiding the light that lives within
      us in the deep recesses of the heart, but we must hold that light high
      and proclaim the light of Christ that shines in our hearts to the whole
      world by all our actions, our words and indeed our every breath. Christ
      is Risen!

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org
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