Weekly Resources, Activities, Lessons, and Crafts
May 3, 2020
Sunday of the Myrrh-Bearing Women
Below, you’ll find a variety of discussion questions, activities, lessons, and crafts arranged by age group.
Start your study by reading the Gospel for Sunday’s Divine Liturgy: Mark 15:43–47; 16:1–8
At that time, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. And Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. And he bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud, and laid him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.
And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, brought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week they went to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they were saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?" And looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled back; for it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, "Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you." And they went out and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Discussion Questions, Activities, Lessons, and Crafts
For the entire family
Music: “Hymn-Singing for Young People” from the National Forum of Greek Orthodox Church Musicians
- Continue singing and learning “Christ is risen” in both English and Greek all the way until the Ascension – check out this introduction to the hymn and music.
For children of all ages
Lesson and craft: “The Sunday of the Myrrh-Bearers,” adapted from Let Us Live Orthodoxy, vol. 3, by Pres. Georget and Fr. Dean Photos
For older children, teens, and beyond
Video: Live the Word #31: “The Ministry of the Myrrhbearing Women”
- In this episode, Steve discusses the beginnings of the early Church and tells the story of the Myrrh-Bearing women.
Video discussion questions:
- What does “apostle” mean?
- What did the Apostles do?
- What was the challenge that the Apostles had to deal with?
- How does the ministry of deacons help the early Church fulfill its mission of preaching the Gospel and caring for the vulnerable?
- The Myrrh-Bearers were planning to carry out a necessary task and ritual. What was it, and why did it become so important in the news of the resurrection?
- How did St. Stephen’s role change as a deacon?
- What task can you take on in the life of your parish?
- Take some time to answer the three additional questions posed at the end of the video.
Activity: The Empty Tomb Role Play
- Create a “tomb” from sofa cushions and pillows or blankets, with a large cushion as the “stone” to be rolled away.
- Designate children or other family members to play the roles of angel (“young man” in a white robe), Myrrh-Bearing women, and disciples.
- Have the Myrrh-Bearing women enter the room with the tomb while the disciples “hide” in another room with the door closed.
- This week’s Gospel reading from Mark ends by saying the women were afraid and told no one, but the other Evangelists explain that Mary did go to the disciples afterward. Have the Myrrh-Bearers go find the disciples and explain what they saw, and what they didn’t see.
Coloring sheet: The Myrrh-Bearers by Fr. John Matusiak
Discussion questions for Gospel reading:
- Where did they bury Jesus? (a cave)
- What did they use to close the cave? (they rolled a giant rock to close it)
- Who came to the cave to anoint Jesus’s body? (three women)
- We call them the “Myrrh-Bearing Women.”
- What happened when they got to the cave? (a man in a white robe told them that Jesus had risen)
Craft and activity: “Learning about Pascha” from Orthodox Pebbles
- Using this printable resource, cut out the scenes of the crucifixion and resurrection and arrange them in order (pages 9–10).
- From the same resource, cut out the paper puppet characters of Mary Magdalene, the angel, and the tomb, and use them to reenact the scene from today’s Gospel (pages 11–15).
Discussion questions for Gospel reading:
- Who took Jesus’s body to a “new tomb”? (Joseph of Arimathea)
- Why were the women going to the tomb? (to anoint Jesus’s body)
- What were they saying to each other as they walked to the tomb? (they were wondering who was going to roll away the stone from the entrance of the tomb)
Action item for the week:
- Jesus’s empty tomb was a sign of hope when everything was hopeless. It’s normal to feel sad and even hopeless sometimes, especially during a time of widespread disease and many deaths. This week, try looking for signs of God’s hope and promise in your life, even if they are hard to believe right now.
Discussion questions for Gospel reading:
Article: “Finding Courage” from the Orthodox Church in America Department of Christian Education
- Risk and courage are outstanding elements in the lives of the Myrrh-Bearing women and also Joseph of Arimathea, who asked for and buried the body of Jesus Christ. Why is it important for us to know those details?
- As courageous as the Myrrh-Bearing women were, the last line says that they said nothing because they were afraid. Why were they afraid?
- Have you ever had the truth and were courageous in speaking it? Have you ever been afraid? What was the difference?
- How can we be more courageous about speaking our faith?
- Has it ever been difficult or scary for you to tell the truth about something? Were you afraid of what might happen, or whether or not you’d be believed? Why do you think it’s sometimes so difficult to tell the truth?
- Try putting yourself in the Myrrh-Bearers’ shoes (sandals). What do you think they were thinking and feeling after Jesus was crucified and buried? Why do you think they were afraid after the angel told them Jesus had risen from the dead?
Action item for the week:
- Identify an area in your life in which you could be more courageous. Write down three specific actions you can take to help you move in that direction.
- For example, you could decide that you would like to do more to take a stand against harassment on social media, and then write three posts or messages telling bullies to back off, or giving encouragement to those being attacked.
(Chapter 3 of A Year of the Lord Liturgical Bible Studies, vol. 4: Easter to Pentecost, by Rev. Dr. Ted Stylianopoulos)
- “The Myrrh-bearing Women: Fearless Females”: Daisy Sparks explores the metaphorical “stones” to be rolled away in our lives, especially during the pandemic.
- “Landmark Survey: Women's Ministry, Service and Leadership”: Patricia Fann Bouteneff presents the results of a 2017 survey of hundreds of women in leadership positions in the Orthodox Church (from PRAXIS volume 17, issue 2: “Women in the Church”)
- PRAXIS Volume 17, Issue 2: “Women in the Church” (complete issue available online)
Podcast: “The Myrrh-Bearing Women: Speaking the Truth in Love” by Fr. Thomas Hopko
- Fr. Thomas examines who the Myrrh-Bearing women were and clears up some misconceptions about Mary Magdalene in the process.
Exploring the Iconography of the Paschal Season
The Gospel reading for this Sunday is Mark 15:43–47 and 16:1–8. Worth noting is that the second part of the Gospel (beginning with Mark 16) was also read at the Anastasis service.
How Was Jesus prepared for burial and buried? The Gospels briefly describe what happened, but each offers different details. Joseph of Arimathea wrapped Jesus’s body in a linen cloth, which could mean anything from wrapped “mummy-like” (go back and look at icons of the Raising of Lazarus) with strips of fabric, or something more like a large tunic or towel over the body (think Shroud of Turin). Scholarship on this presumes that Jesus’s body, at minimum, would have been washed before any wrapping because the body would have been covered with blood. Washing was a basic requirement of the burial practice of the time.
Artistic Points: Icon for the Sunday of the Myrrh-Bearing Women
The tomb itself could have been one of two possibilities. The traditional understanding is that Jesus’s body was placed on a horizontal stone within a cave, which was sealed with a large stone. But it could have been a vertical burial space (like that we see in the icon of the Raising of Lazarus) that would be sealed with a stone. The icon usually shows a stone sarcophagus on the ground, with the cover removed, and the burial clothes inside.
The icon shows the women going to the tomb with small jars. What did they take to the tomb to complete the burial rites? How much did they take? The Gospel of Mark says that the women “took spices.” The other Gospel accounts provide more details about this, especially John. We don’t know if the spices were to be placed near the body, to offset the smells of decomposition, or if they were to be inserted in the wrappings of the linen shroud. In the Gospel of John, the women bring additional items, “myrrh” and “aloe,” which could have been used to anoint the body. We also are not sure about how much they may have carried. Roman measures are not like ours (see the Gospel of John, which says they took 100 pounds; the Greek says litras, and if it meant weight, a Roman litra was about 12 ounces. In liquid volume, it meant about ½ pint). Did they have oils only? Did they have powdered spices? Was it some combination? The Gospels probably assume the reader would know. For our purposes, it makes sense to presume that the women brought some combination of spices and oils. Of course, they didn’t end up using them!
As you look at the icon, notice the faces on the women. Under the eyes are dark triangles. These remind us that they had been crying. You can reflect on this question as you put yourself in their situation: Where have their thoughts been since the Passion began? What problems loomed in their future?
The angel in white points to the empty tomb. He tells the women to tell Peter what had happened. What might the fact the angel specified Peter imply about Peter’s status with the other disciples and what Jesus has planned for him?
- Place yourself in the situation of the women who encountered the empty tomb. Now imagine: What sort of unbelievable event would you not be able accept if you did not see it with your own eyes?
- How would you try to convince others of what you had seen?
- How do you retell your experience?
- Now put yourself in the situation of the apostles. How would you have reacted to the news from the women?
From the Fathers
St. Ignatius of Antioch: “At the sixth hour he was crucified. At the ninth hour he yielded up his spirit. Before sunset he was buried. During the sabbath he continued under the earth in the tomb in which Joseph of Arimathea had laid him.” (Epistle to the Trallians)
St. John Chrysostom (about Joseph of Arimathea): “This was Joseph, who had been concealing his discipleship. Now he became very bold, after the death of Christ. For neither was he an obscure person nor unnoticed. He was one of the council, and highly distinguished, and as we see, courageous. For he exposed himself to death, taking up himself the enmity of all by his affection to Jesus. He begged for the body and did not desist until he obtained it. Not only that, but by laying it in his own new tomb he actively demonstrated his love and courage.” (Homily on Matthew 88)
Peter Chrysologus: “The women were first to honor the risen Christ, the apostles first to suffer for him.”
Peter Chrysologus about “Who will roll away the stone for us?”: “Is it from the door of the sepulcher or of your own hearts? From the tomb, or from your own eyes? You whose heart is shut, whose eyes are closed, are unable to discover the glory of the open grave. Pour then your oil, if you wish to see that glory, not on the body of the lord, but on the eyes of your hearts. By the light of faith you will then see that which through the deficiency of faith now lies hidden in darkness.”
Corresponding items that can be purchased on Orthodox Marketplace: