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Holy WeekThe Gospel of Saint Mark

Holy Week | Holy Saturday | The Easter Vigil

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The Gospel Of Saint Mark – Chapter 16

 

1 AND when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.
2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.
3 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?
4 And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.
5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.
6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.
7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.

It is a time of vigil while Jesus rests and we await his resurrection on Easter Sunday. Jesus has died to free us from our sins. While he rests, the church is a quiet and sombre place. We think of Jesus’ first followers and of what they must have felt and thought through this time. They must have felt very alone and abandoned, and indeed at risk of losing their own lives.

The strict Jewish laws meant that the holy women could not arrange things on the Sabbath day to anoint the body of our Lord Jesus. It is now, which day is what we now call the Lord’s Day, that the women have their first opportunity to go to care for Jesus’ body. They do so very early in the morning. Such is their devotion to our Lord that they are impatient to tend to him.

Their strength and devotion to Jesus is manifest. Through the Passion and crucifixion of Jesus, the women have proven stronger than those of the men who fled from what was happening. Perhaps it is strange as well that the first news of Christ’s resurrection should be given to the women. In Bible times, their testimony, as women, would not have been seen as being as valid as that of men. Indeed, in Mark’s Gospel, when Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene and she tells the disciples, they do not believe her. We may, therefore, be additionally assured of the historical veracity of the events recorded.

The women, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, are confused by what they see now. Perhaps they may have feared that something terrible had happened, that the body of our Lord had been taken away, perhaps because of the Jewish authorities’ fear and for political reasons, perhaps for some other nefarious purpose. It is now that they meet the angel who has come to give them the good news, sent by God to reassure those he cares about.

The angel confirms that the man who was crucified and who has risen from the dead are one and the same: Jesus of Nazareth. He tells the women to go and share the good news, to tell Jesus’ disciples that Jesus’ promise was true, and he has gone before them to meet them again, as he said he would. Peter is mentioned by name, perhaps to indicate especially that his denials have been forgiven him. As we have died with Christ, so now we are freed from the power of sin and death; we are raised.

‘What is happening? Today there is a great silence over the earth, a great silence, and stillness, a great silence because the King sleeps; the earth was in terror and was still, because God slept in the flesh and raised up those who were sleeping from the ages. God has died in the flesh, and the underworld has trembled.

‘Truly he goes to seek our first parent like a lost sheep; he wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, he who is God, and Adam’s son.’ An ancient homily