Pious women ran in tears to You, O Christ, bringing myrrh to You as dead;
but instead, they adored You in joy as the living God
and announced Your mystical Passover
to Your disciples.
From: Ode 7 Resurrection Matins
Think of people on whom you have been able to depend in your life. Your father - who went to work everyday even when he was sick because they didn’t have personal days in the mill? Your mother - who cooked and cleaned and washed and ironed and played with you and taught you and prayed with you and held you when you were sick? (And yes, I know fathers cook and mothers work outside the home, too.) Your spouse - who stood by you when you were ill or unemployed or suffering some loss or who insisted life go on as normal when they themselves were sick and dying? Your friend - who seems to know when to call or what to say when you feel alone? Your teacher - who made sure you passed and graduated by hard work? Your boss or employee - your support in your occupation?
The people we remember most fondly, the ones whom we love and trust and on whom we can depend - they aren’t necessarily beautiful, or rich, or talented, or educated, or famous, or popular. We don’t depend on them because of any superficial trait - including their skin color, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, marital status, social position, or sex/gender.
Today, liturgically, we remember those people upon whom Jesus depended. By tradition, there are seven women who are named as having attended to the needs of Jesus up to and through His crucifixion, in addition to His Mother, the Virgin and Theotokos. They were present at His burial and they prepared spices and oils with which to anoint His body after the Sabbath. When they arrived at the tomb, they found it empty and an angel (or two) instructed them to announce the Resurrection of the Master to His male disciples and apostles. They are Mary of Magdala, Mary the wife of Cleopas, Joanna, Salome, Susanna, and Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus. There were also two men named in the Gospels who buried the body of Christ in the tomb on Friday. Joseph of Arimathea was a rich member of the Sanhedrin, but also a secret disciple of Jesus. Nicodemus was a Pharisee and council member, who had come to Jesus by night to hear His teaching.
We remember them on this Third Sunday of Pascha, and throughout the forty days. Since the Apostolic Church, the Gospels have always told the tale of the faithful courageous women. We remember them because they were faithful and courageous not because they were women. However, at Matins on each Sunday of the year, we sing the “Hosts of Angels” and immediately after the “Hypakoe” (sent to proclaim) which are hymns specifically written about these women. The official Church does not shy away from proclaiming them as Women Disciples and as Equals to the Apostles.
This is not to say that life has been easy for women. Indeed, we have written before about the shameful treatment of women in many parts of the world, even today, by governments, religions, and societies. We support the rights of all persons, who are created in the Image and Likeness of God, to live free. In particular, we support the right to life of all persons, namely unborn women and men. This should be of particular interest and concern to women who have the honor to bear children, setting them apart from men. In some ways and certain places, women have risen to leadership roles. While painfully slow for some, there are signs of progress.
For instance, in our own nation, would I vote for a qualified woman for President of the United States? Yes. Would I vote for a candidate only because she is a woman? No. Would I vote for a currently declared female candidate? Never.
This weekend, we also pray for the women who are the Sisters of Saint Basil the Great in Uniontown PA. They are in the process of electing their provincial leadership team for the next five years. May they continue to be a sign to us of God’s blessings on our Church.
The above was written by a Byzantine Catholic priest in the service of the people of Pennsylvania.