by Fr. Vladimir Berzonsky
from The Word, April 1968
“Now on the first day of the week at early dawn, they came to the sepulcher bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold two men stood by them in dazzling garments; and as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them: ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead?’. . . And they remembered His words, and returning from the tomb they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told this to the apostles; but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” (ST. LUKE 24:1)
SOMETIMES we are too hasty and pass lightly from our Lord’s crucifixion to the resurrection. Before the joy and the victory of the good news that “He is risen,” Jesus’ followers felt total despair that accompanied the tragedy of failure.
For two reasons we cannot afford to forget the disciples’ sense of abandonment on that unique Sabbath: if ye dare assume that by baptism we have been adopted into the family of His followers, we must make their emotions our own; secondly, by empathy with those in the Upper Room, by knowing their fear and confusion after the One person who gave their lives meaning, direction and beauty had been murdered, we can begin to deal with tragedy when it enters our personal lives.
If we enter that company of His followers who had just witnessed the death and burial, we would gain a new respect for the women of the group.
A man has a need to give his life for some conviction an ideal cause greater than himself becomes his purpose for existing. No man really lives by bread alone.
However, a monumental pride accompanies that life principle which can lead to a form of suicide if the ideal is not attained and the life plan collapses. Man wants to be like God and create ultimate alterations to history. When his goals are shattered, he would prefer to go down with his dreams.
While the apostles remain hidden, the women of the company do what has to be done. Women have some mysterious, instinctive way of helping to renew and restore God’s world. They find the strength within themselves to overcome death and despair and continue the process of life.
These, then, are the women who went to the new tomb where they thought Jesus lay, to perform the customary ritual of anointment with spices — bearing their grief, yet overcoming it.
No human can live without such periods of doubt and utter frustration; it takes courage to affirm the meaning of life when we are crushed with despair. The Spice-bearing women teach us by their humility that we too can muster the power to put down our pride and give ourselves over to a Greater Plan for the world, known to God Alone, even if we cannot understand it.
Holy Apostle James, Brother of the Beloved Disciple - April 30
As a disciple and soldier of the Lord thou wast ranked among the choir of Apostles together with thy brother, O James, and thou didst cleave wholeheartedly to the Saviour. Armed with the power of the Spirit thou didst preach Him unto all, and wast slain by the sword. Wherefore we honour thee.
Kontakion of St. James, Tone 2
When thou didst hear the divine voice calling thee, O James, thou didst disregard thy father's love and run to Christ with thy brother; together with him thou wast granted to see the Lord's divine Transfiguration.