Sermon by Metropolitan Vitaly (Oustinov)
on the Sunday of the Holy Myrrh-Bearing Women
Beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord, since ancient times it was noted by the Holy Fathers and Teachers of the Church of Christ that all four Evangelists do not list a single time when a woman insulted Christ, berated Him, or treated Him with condescension or arrogance.
On the contrary, we see in the women of the Gospel examples of repentance, humility and meekness. The woman of Canaan, a member of a heterodox people, was not offended when her pleas for Christ to heal her daughter, who was possessed by demons, were answered with the words “It is not right to take the children’s [meaning the righteous Jews’] bread and toss it to their dogs.” The woman then served as an example of the words of King Solomon: “Rebuke the wise, and they will love you,” for she received the words of the Savior with genuine meekness, and gave her wonderful response: “But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table,” and was granted the healing of her daughter.
A certain woman of ill-repute washed Christ’s feet and kissed them, anointing them with valuable myrrh and wiping them with her own hair. Her bitter tears of repentance mixed with the expensive oil and became forever a symbol of the kind of sacrifice that is pleasing to God.
Women constantly served the Lord with their humble means, surrounding Him with love and attention, with that feminine observant trait that enabled them to silently learn from the Person of Jesus Christ.
One can state with confidence that the Pharisees, Sadducees and teachers of the Jews, smoldering with hatred for Christ, were met with resistance first of all within their own families, and this conflict fulfilled the words of the Savior: “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” It was only under the furious wrath of their husbands, before their rage, that their wives, through their innate submission, bowed their heads. But following Christ to Golgotha, weeping, they beat their breasts in sorrow.
The very sight of the lifeless Most-Pure Body of Christ temporarily slaked the thirst for vengeance in the Jewish men, but the Holy Myrrh-Bearing Women, after a sleepless night, arose early to hasten to the Tomb to pour forth their love for their Teacher and Guide in the form of the aromatic funerary fragrant oils.
Mary Magdalene was the first to whom the Lord revealed His glorious Resurrection, which was correctly interpreted as a symbol of Divine Providence.
Without a doubt, the Lord wished to reveal His Resurrection, and through it our emancipation from the snares of the devil and from sin, not to men first but to women, for they bore the greatest burden of original sin. In fact, we notice that the further a tribe or a nation falls into idolatry, the worse their women are enslaved, even to the point of being treated like animals. Even the ancient educated yet pagan nations, who one would think occupied a high level of culture and civilization, dressed their women in fine clothing, making them nothing but objects of lust, demeaning and degrading their humanity.
And so in our Savior, women instinctively and powerfully sensed their own Emancipator from centuries of degradation, humiliation and enslavement. Women reached to Him with their entire being, instinctively, and it was the woman’s soul that mystically recognized in Christ her own Savior, the Second Adam, Emmanuel [“God is with us”].
In Christian society, women have found their deserved place, and we see this as we gaze upon the icons of the holy martyrs, the holy nuns and sisters, women of righteousness and the innumerable humble, unnoticed mothers, able in the quietude of their hearths to nourish and nurture the spiritual giants that our own history has given us.
And now? More and more often we see how you, women myrrh-bearers, are the target of the devil, the hater of mankind, as he tries to steal from you the freedom and respect you earned at such a dear price. The ancient Deceiver is once again whispering into your ears, as he did to our fore-mother Eve, almost the same old song. But this time he does not dare trick you into believing the notion of your equality with God, but cunningly offers you a false equality and sameness in all things with men, luring you with notions of “emancipation,” forcing equality in all things, even to the point of donning the clothing of men.
The Lord divided the entire human race into two halves, adorning each with their own distinctive traits. These traits are not eternal, for upon our death, as the Savior said, all will be like angels of God in the Kingdom of Heaven, and there will be neither man nor woman. These distinctive qualities are given by Him as means to achieve spiritual goals in our temporary earthly wanderings. The essence of the podvig of these two halves of mankind consists of the self-sacrificial employment of these differences, in the work of compromise. Besides differences in the flesh, which belongs to our physical form, the two parts of mankind are rich in unique gifts they share with each other like pure gold.
If you, women myrrh-bearers, succumb to this cleverly-played panpipe, luring you into a false parity with man, and lawlessly toss away your womanly, feminine duties, you will deprive yourselves of honor and of respect. Impoverished, you will be left with nothing but your physical distinction—your weak flesh, which will not itself inherit the Kingdom of God.
An oak does not sprout leaves of the birch tree, and a birch tree does not grow pine needles. All in God’s creation knows its value and only mankind in his madness refuses to accept his nature. Pay heed, women and young girls, what our Lord says through the prophet Moses: “A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 22:5).
In his wonderful hymn of love, Apostle Paul says: “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly” (1 Corinthians 4:5). This must be understood as violating the good order established by God. Doesn’t this mean that any woman wearing a man’s clothing violates good order on earth, sinning against the commandment of love, and thereby against God, for Whom it is abomination? Punishment will not wait long.
Brothers and sisters, let us fear not only open sin, but the violation of Divine order, moderation, the way things must be to please God, for such order is the unseen temple itself in which we save our souls.
May the Lord bless you and give you wisdom to carefully and vigilantly preserve your souls. Amen.