35 - Myrrhbearing Women. To Seek and To See. April 30, 2023

Acts 6.1-7

Mark 15.43-16.8

When the women return to the Tomb to anoint the LORD’s Body, they are incredulous to find that there is no body in the Tomb to anoint. They looked up to see an angel clothed in white (like the baptismal Robe of Light) sitting on the stone that had been rolled away. ‘You are seeking Jesus who was crucified,’ He said to them. ‘He is not here!’

This word of the angel is all heavenly irony! Centuries before He was incarnate, the LORD Jesus said: ‘I love those who love Me. Those who seek Me diligently will find Me.’ (Prov 8.17) Well, the Myrrhbearers were diligently seeking Jesus. But, they did not find Him! They found instead an Angel sitting upon the stone, who says to them, following the Greek, ‘Examine [ide] where they placed Him’ as a corpse!

In fact, it’s the same verb in St John’s Gospel from last week. The LORD says to Thomas, ‘Examine my hands and be no more unbelieving but believing!’ (Jn 20.27)

So, let us examine where they placed Jesus’ Body. It’s very easy for us to do, because no body is there to see any more than there’s a body here to see! There was a body there, a dead body, a corpse. But it’s not there now! Where is it? The angel tells us: ‘He is risen! Lo! He goes before you into Galilee. There you will see Him as He told you!’  Here, the Greek verb means to see and to know from experience.

What does all this mean? What is this ‘where’ that we are to examine? What is Galilee where we are to see and come to know and be no more unbelieving but believing?

Where they placed Him was in the Tomb. So is it death we are to examine? But not just death. We need to examine the death of God who died in His body of flesh and blood that He shares with us. Look and understand! He is not here! He is risen! In the same Body of flesh and blood that He shares with us, He is risen from the dead!

Note well, then: the angel says, ‘Examine where they placed Him.’ Examine the LORD’s death, not your own. For if we ponder our own death apart from the LORD’s death, we ponder death apart from Christ crucified, dead and buried, whom death could not hold! We ponder the darkness and not the Light shining in the darkness that the darkness could not put out! Look and understand! Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by His death in your body. Inside your death is the risen Christ Jesus who destroys death by His death. Look and understand, or you will fall into nihilism and despair.

So also, the LORD said to Thomas: Examine the imprint of the nails in My hands, put your hand in My side that was pierced by a spear. Examine, that is, the LORD’s wounds and see in the wounds inflicted on His Body the wounds inflicted on your own soul. But again, note well that the LORD says to Thomas: ‘Examine My hands and My side.’ Examine My wounds, not your own. For, if we study our own wounds apart from the sufferings of Christ, we fall into anger, self-pity, and despair.

But, if we ponder our death in the LORD’s death, our wounds in the LORD’s wounds, now we are ‘looking up’ with the Myrrhbearers to ‘see’ the mystery of God hidden from the ages that was proclaimed by the prophet Isaiah, and that is now revealed by the Angel in the empty Tomb: ‘Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities. Upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with His stripes we are healed.’ [Isa 53:4-5] Now we ‘look up’ and begin to see what St Paul is saying: ‘For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God’ [2Co 5:21] and be restored to our original beauty.

‘Lo! He goes before you into Galilee,’ says the Angel. He goes before you into your everyday life in the world. Follow Him into your everyday life and see Him doing what He did in all the towns and villages of Galilee after He was raised from the Jordan and the heavens were opened, and after He was led into the wilderness to triumph over the devil. Then He came into Galilee and made His home there. In the same mystery, He raises us from the Baptismal Font and the heavens are opened to us. He then goes before us into the wilderness of our soul to triumph over the devil in our everyday life. As we receive Him, and make Him our food and drink, He makes His home in us and in the Power of His Cross and in the Glory of His Resurrection He goes before us as He went throughout Galilee into all the nooks and crannies of our soul, healing our soul and teaching us. We become no more unbelieving but believing because we come to know Him from our own experience of Him healing the wounds of our soul, and opening our mind to see the ‘better and changeless Path that ascends to the Kingdom of Heaven that is within us.’

And now it says that they came fleeing out of the Tomb, for trembling and ecstasy [ekstasis] took hold of them; they said nothing to anyone, for they were terrified. There is deep theology here, far deeper than what I can see. But let me share with you what I can see.

When the LORD God brought the woman forth from the rib of Adam, it says, He put Adam in ekstasis, and Adam slept (Gn 3.21). Adam’s sleep, in which the LORD ‘builds’ the woman from Adam’s rib, is clearly an image of the New Adam’s death in which He builds His Bride, the Church, from His Body – even as His Body was fashioned in the Virgin’s womb.

‘Ekstasis’ (ecstasy) literally means a state of ‘standing away from.’ It is to be in a ‘place’ outside of oneself. Is the terrifying ekstasis that took hold of the women there in the Tomb the New Adam’s Resurrection? Christ’s death and resurrection raises us up out of ourselves, out of the isolation of the corruption of lust, and into our inner man, into the image of God that we are, into our heart where we are ‘deep beyond all things’ (Jer 17.9 LXX), where we find ourselves in ‘ekstasis,’ in a ‘place outside of ourselves,’ wherein we ascend into the mystery of ‘Christ in you’ to become partakers of the divine nature.

If this is so, then the ‘ekstasis’ that took hold of the women there in the LORD’s Tomb is the ‘place’ of the Kingdom of Heaven that is within you; it is the mystery of God hidden from the ages now revealed to be ‘Christ in you.’ This mystery of ‘ekstasis’ is not of this world; it is ‘beyond all things.’ It is holy and pure and eternal, and for us to encounter it, withered and desiccated as we are by our enslavement to the corruption of our lust, is terrifying. But it is also, so we are given to understand from the testimony of the saints, ‘stuffed’ to overflowing with the extreme humility and compassion of God. Those who experience this divine ‘ekstasis’ bear witness that the heart feels like she’s bursting – not from grief but from joy. The heart cannot contain it. I wonder if all of this is what the myrrhbearers experienced?

But, examine where they laid Him! This ‘ekstasis’ of the risen Christ is neither outside of us nor is it alien to us! By His death He came out of Himself in ekstasis, He emptied Himself and became flesh and blood with us, and descended into the tomb of our heart where we were dead in our sins and trespasses. And He rose from the dead and destroyed the bonds of death! His dread Resurrection, the ‘ekstasis,’ the ‘place that is outside of us’ is within us! The risen LORD Jesus, terrifying in His Might, is inside our corruption, desiring to heal our soul; He is inside our death, longing to raise us to eternal life. And all we need to do to receive Him is to ‘turn around,’ to repent, and begin seeking this eternal Wisdom of God who became bone of our bones and flesh of our flesh so that He could raise us from death and out into the deep beyond all things, into His ekstasis, restored to our original beauty as bone of His bones and flesh of His flesh.

In the fear of God, with faith and love, then, let us flee the corruption that is in the world because of lust and come out of ourselves into the ‘ekstasis’ of Christ’s Resurrection that is within us, and begin to seek Him who first loved us. Let us make ready now to lay aside all earthly cares in order to draw near to Him in Galilee, to His Church, to His crucified and risen Body that is in the world here in our everyday life, to receive His Body, risen from the dead, and His Blood, the Fountain of Immortality, and become partakers of His divine nature in the ‘ecstatic’ joy of His Holy Resurrection!