Today the Orthodox Church commemorates the Holy Myrrh-bearer Mary, the wife of Cleopas and the daughter of Joseph. She was one of several women who went to the tomb with myrrh, hoping to anoint the body of Jesus. Having followed Him through His passion, His death, and the removal of His body from the cross, their hope for the kingdom their leader promised has died. They are completely grief-stricken—and also afraid of what might happen to them—and yet in their love for Christ, they bring myrrh to his tomb. Whether or not they believe that Christ has overcome death, they simply act out of love for Him.
I have a dear friend who does this on a regular basis. Whenever someone dies, she is there. She attends funerals, even of people she wasn’t close to, if she knows any of the deceased person’s loved ones. Although she doesn’t physically bring myrrh to these burials, she brings it symbolically, and she brings her love. Without judgment. It’s not up to us to judge the state of the soul of the person who has died. It is up to us to love them and honor their memory.
This modern day myrrh-bearer is an example to me of the “one thing needful” … love for our fellow man. Some Christians would say that love for God comes first. But I think it’s much harder to love God—to know God and His love—than to know and love another human being.
Saint Theophan the Recluse reminds us not only of the importance of this love, but also of not letting fear keep us from expressing that love:
So struggle, not fearing empty fears, and do not spare yourselves. The myrrh-bearing women were close to the Lord while being jostled by those who crucified Christ. You, too, do not look upon what is not within you. Let the world scream, let foolish superstition rage, let misfortunes arise—you follow your path, not looking back or to the side.
As we approach Memorial Day weekend, many of us will celebrate the beginning of summer with cookouts and other celebrations. But many will also visit cemeteries and show their love and appreciation for those who died, having served our country in one of the armed services. I’ll be in Jackson, Mississippi, for a wedding, and I’m hoping to visit the grave of my brother, Mike on Monday. He was a Marine.
Whatever your plans for the weekend, I hope you’ll pause to remember those who have gone before, and find a way to express your love for them. May their memory be eternal.