Over twenty years ago, St John Paul II wrote in his Apostolic Letter on the Dignity and Vocation of Women (Mulieris Dignitatem): ‘From the beginning of Christ’s mission, women show to him and to his mystery a special sensitivity which is characteristic of their femininity. It must also be said that this is especially confirmed in the Paschal Mystery, not only at the Cross but also at the dawn of the Resurrection.
‘The women are the first at the tomb. They are the first to find it empty. They are the first to hear Jesus. They are the first to embrace his feet (cf. Mt 28:9). They are also the first to be called to announce this truth to the Apostles (cf. Mt 28:1-10; Lk 24:8-11) (MD #16).
It is easy for us to forget the real courage, daring and ‘originality’ of these holy female disciples of Jesus Christ. St John Paul II reminds us that these women, along with the Beloved John, stayed by Christ in his Passion on the Cross, while all the other Apostles took fright and denied their Lord, or ran away in despair.
They kept vigil by the Cross and became the first luminous beacons of the Resurrection.
In the Catholic medieval tradition and today in the Byzantine and Orthodox rites, however these women are honoured and each is remembered by name. Holy icons of these fascinating women generally depict: Mary Magdalene, the two Marys who were mothers of disciples, Salome (part of Herod’s household staff), Martha and Mary of Bethany, and Joanna.
In the East, they are called the Holy Myrrh Bearing Women. The Gospels tell us, they risked danger, untold grief and the unknown in order to take expensive spices and oils from their own stores to anoint the Saviour’s lifeless body.
The Holy Myrrh Bearers, made up of women of different ages, vocations and histories, were disciples of Christ, drawn together by concrete encounters with His saving and Divine love. They also drew strength and inspiration together as women, manifesting what Pope John Paul II calls their “feminine genius”.
These women are the guardian saints and spiritual mothers of the Anima Women’s Network.
~ Article by Anna Krohn – Anima Women’s Network Convener.