Today is the Sunday of the Myrrhbearing Women--the first to bear witness to our Lord's rising on the third day. These three pious women--their hearts burdened by a depth of sorrow fully comprehensible only to the soul of a mother--were driven by a pure and selfless love to honor with due reverence the mortal remains of Jesus.
Having been touched by the poignant beauty of this scene, I confess that I have in the past paid scant attention to another hero of the faith also commemorated on this day: St. Joseph of Arimathea , "an honorable counselor, which also waited for the Kingdom of God," who "went in boldly unto Pilate, and craved the body of Jesus."
Like the Myrrhbearers, he too was driven by love. While the Holy Apostles were hiding behind closed doors "for fear of the Jews," he dared to boldly request, in the full light of day, the body of Jesus. Then having been granted his request, he received into his trembling hands the immaculate and sinless body of our Lord and reverently wrapped Him in costly linen which he himself had purchased. (Unlike the traitor Judas, he did not count the cost). And so he placed the precious and incorruptible Body in a newly hewn rock sepulcher and rolled into place at the entrance a huge rock. This he did, it should be noted, though soon afterwards the Myrrhbearers would wonder among themselves, "Who shall roll away the stone?"
As it turned out, it was an angel of the Lord who finally unsealed the entrance... though even had the stone remained, the Lord Who created in the beginning the heavens and the earth could in no wise be constrained by the narrow confines of the tomb. He Who entered the upper room through closed doors cannot be bound to the normal so-called "laws of nature" that govern the universe He Himself brought forth into existence ex nihilo--out of nothing.
According to tradition, St. Joseph later evangelized Britain, taking with him the cup of the Mystical Supper (the Holy Grail), hiding it from profane eyes within a well in Glastonbury. And while the whole truth of these legends may be shrouded in mystery, the fact remains that the noble Joseph remains as a manly counterpoint to the Myrrhbearing Women: A brave and steadfast man of honor and integrity, who took action at this moment that he might ensure for our Lord a dignified burial and place of repose--that having descended into hades and freeing those captives held in bondage to the power of death, He might trample down death by death--arising victorious on the third day.