By Protopresbyter Dr. Georgios Lekkas, priest of the Orthodox Diocese of Belgium
Belief in the Resurrection of Christ is a power given ‘from on high’ that makes us bearers of the Holy Spirit. According to the Holy Evangelists, this divine power, which emanates from the tomb of the Lord Jesus Christ, first touched the Myrrh-bearers when they came to the tomb of the Lord, but on the day of Pentecost it would become for them a ‘possession forever’.
The Evangelist Mark describes the noble feelings of these women whose faith in the God-man Jesus had been stricken by His death on the Cross, no less than that of the close circle of His male disciples.
\However, even if their faith in the God-man Jesus was temporarily weakened, their compassionate human love for Him who had been so unjustly put to a painful and dishonorable death was not at all affected; on the contrary, it was increased through their recognition of His self-sacrifice.
Mark feelingly describes the whole range of their elevated feelings: wordless grief when they saw him lying in the grave, a longing to go to the tomb to anoint him with perfume as if he were still alive among them, terror, and ecstasy when they heard the words proclaiming His Resurrection that thrust them into an incomprehensible reality, which for a period overwhelmed them and almost made them mad.
The God-forsakenness experienced by Jesus Christ Himself on the Cross became their own fate for a while, but their noble and courageous love for the Master who had been taken from them so unjustly was immediately rewarded when they became the first to receive the redemptive proclamation of His Resurrection.
In fact there emanated from the tomb of Christ a Power that allowed exhausted men and women to suspect, in the Holy Spirit, the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, to see with their natural eyes the Risen Lord through the Holy Spirit and, culminating in Pentecost, to believe so much in Him, as the Son of God and Lord of Life and Death, that they became witnesses to His life and work through their own lives and their own often agonizing deaths, though not before they had traveled almost to the ends of the known world.
God-forsakenness, about which Saint Sophrony the Athonite spoke to us so pertinently, is not the exclusive privilege of Orthodox ascetics, but a spiritual law that has governed mankind in every epoch and in every corner of the Earth, from the very first moment of its creation. But unwavering belief in the Resurrection of Christ, as a Divine Gift that first emanated from His tomb, greatly reduces the learning period of God-forsakenness.
Christ does not wish us to be exhausted and sick, but He allows us even exhaustion and sickness in order that he might see us encircled by the ‘power from on high’ which He promised to us before He ascended into Heaven. This is because ‘power from on high’ fails to strengthen us until we have first acknowledged our complete incapacity for any good without it. In other words, the myth of our imagined autonomy must first be completely dispelled within us, so that the power of Christ’s Resurrection can resurrect us as well.
Finally, whosoever believes truly in the Resurrection of Christ will come to understand through the Holy Spirit that the Lord and God Jesus Christ is not just our friend, brother, or even father, but our deepest self, through whom alone our ontological relationship with the Holy Trinity is fully restored. (Cf. Epistle to the Colossians 3.3).
8.5.2022. Sunday of the Myrrh-bearers
Protopresbyter Dr. Georgios Lekkas is a priest of the Orthodox Archdiocese of Belgium. He studied Law, Philosophy, and Theology at the University of Athens. He has a Ph.D. in Greek Studies from the Sorbonne (Paris IV) and was a postdoctoral researcher at the French National Research Agency (2000-2005). He taught Greek philosophy in Greek Higher Education from 2005 to 2017. His latest poetry collection, PROSECHOS ANAGENNISI (IMMINENT REBIRTH) has been published by To Koinon ton Oraion Technon (Athens, 2021, pp.79).