Sermon Sunday of the Holy Myrrhbearing Women

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

Хритос Васкрсе! Ваистину Васкрсе!

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ today is the Sunday of the Holy Myrrhbearing Women. These women came very early in the morning to anoint the body of Jesus with myrrh and sweet smelling spices. When they arrived at the tomb they found the stone rolled away. They were the first to experience the resurrection. They were the first to hear the joyous words “He is risen, He is not here!”

What were these women doing to receive this joyous message? The answer to this question is that they were loving one that had died. These women were loving and caring for a lifeless body that could not return love to them. This was a selfless act on their part.

We find it very easy to love or care for those that are around us because there is always the hope of receiving something in return. All too often we find that our love and care for others is based our own selfishness. The deceased however have nothing to offer. This is what makes any love and care that we show for the departed selfless.

What are we asked to do for the departed? Most of all we are asked to remember them and to pray for them. We are reminded of this by the final prayer of the memorial service, or parastos; memory eternal or vechnaja pamjat.

Why should we remember the departed? We do this because they need our help. They can no longer change the course of their lives. It is through our remembrance of them that mercy and compassion can be given to them for things that they can no longer change about their lives.

The Church asks us to pray for the departed at particular times; the third day, the ninth day and the fortieth day after the departure of the soul from the body as well as on the yearly anniversary of the repose of the person.

Why do we pray at these specific times? We pray at these times because of what has been revealed to us by the saints regarding the transition of the soul from this life into eternity. Our Church believes that during the forty days after the departure of the soul from the body the soul receives particular judgments to determine where it will wait until the final judgment at the general resurrection. These judgments or trials are described in Ephesians, “For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

What we know of this judgment was described by the blessed Theodora in a vision to Gregory a disciple of Saint Basil the New. What was described by her is a spiritual reality in human terms.

On the first two days after the soul’s departing from the body the soul spends it time visiting places on earth that are dear to it.

On the third day the soul starts its journey through what are described as toll houses or the places that the particular judgments occur. The soul passes through twenty judgments or toll houses for the various types of sins. The soul does not go through this judgment alone. Two angles accompany the soul as its defenders. These angles use the good works and virtues of soul to defend it against the demons that make accusations against the soul because of its sins.

On the ninth day this period of trail is completed. The soul is then escorted by the angles through heaven and hell to give it a foretaste of eternal joy and eternal damnation. These visits of heaven and hell occur until fortieth day. During this period the soul does not know where it will find rest.

On the fortieth day after the separation of the soul from the body the soul receives its particular judgment or the determination of where it will spend eternity waiting for the general resurrection.

Through our personal prayers for the departed and the offering of prayers for the departed through the services we become like the holy myrrhbearers. We do this by performing acts of love for the departed so that the departed may be found in the in the heavenly kingdom at the general resurrection.

Through these prayers we share in God’s concern for the departed. Saint Nikolaj Velimirovic describes for us God’s concern for the departed with these words “He (God) is, …, constantly concerned about how to give resurrection to men. He constantly visits the graves of men,…,with His holy angles…..Caring for the dead, we also share in God’s concern, and become in this way God’s friends and fellow workers.”

So my dear brothers in sisters in Christ my prayer for you is that you remember the deceased that you may share in God’s work of bringing them to the resurrection of life by being like the holy myrrhbearers through acts of love both the departed and you may hear the joyous message of Christ’s resurrection “He is risen, He is not here!”


Хритос Васкрсе! Ваистину Васкрсе!

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

Delivered by Fr. Milan Medakovic at Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church, Youngstown Ohio on Sunday of the Holy Myrrhbearing Women 2009.


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