The Myrrh Bearing Maidens of Oregon

 

(part 4 in a series about Keeping our Young People in the Church)

Mark 16:1-7  (NKJV)
16 Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.
But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is 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 into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”

As a young lady, I always treasured the story of the Myrrh Bearing Women. Women, were after all, the first to receive the good news, that Jesus had risen from the dead.   In the Orthodox Church we learn that the Myrrh Bearing Women were the first to see the empty tomb and the Risen Christ!  These faithful women were bringing spices and ointments to prepare Jesus’ body when they discovered that He wasn’t in the tomb.  Instead, they saw an angel who told them to “go, tell His disciples.”  Jesus  had risen and the women were the first to bear the light of this news!  What an honor that He would choose these women to be the first to know!

Fast forward to Holy Week 2017.   During this week, I was chatting with a dear friend, Lia, who lives in Portland, Oregon.  I met Lia  years ago when she walked into St. John the Wonderworker Orthodox Church in Atlanta, Georgia. With four kids under the age of ten, she drew near to see and learn about the ancient faith.  I knew right when I met her that she was a person I wanted to know!  Eight years and 3,000 miles later we are still friends and I am blessed to be the godmother of her youngest child, Abbey.   On this day in April, she was telling me about Holy Week activities at their church out there in Oregon, St. John the Baptist.   Then, she mentioned the Myrrh Bearing Maidens.

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“What are the Myrrh Bearing Maidens?” I asked.  Her answer  is why I am writing this piece today!  When  I asked that question  I discovered a most remarkable tradition, handed down woman to woman, parish to parish.  This program invests in young ladies grades 3 – 8 and prepares them for a very important role to play during Holy Friday and Saturday services.  I absolutely love this parish tradition and I want to hand it down to you as well.

Myrrh Bearing Women

Just as the Myrrh Bearing tradition has been handed down parish to parish, so has my discovery of its origin at St. John the Baptist!  Lia connected me with Jennifer, who has daughters, 15 and 21, now graduates of the program.  Jennifer, who has organized the Myrrh Bearing Maidens since 2005, learned about the idea from two Arizona ladies.  They, in turn, participated in the program when their mother coordinated it.

According to Jennifer, the Myrrh Bearing Maidens are young ladies who serve during Holy Week by processing around the tomb of Christ on Good Friday.  As they process, they toss rose petals around the tomb, then they follow the tomb outside in the larger procession with candles.  The next night, at Pascha, they receive the first light from the priest to offer to the congregation and to the world.  From there, they process outside, just behind the altar boys and greet the parishioners with singing and joy as they reenter the church.   Jennifer shared with me last August, ” I  have always loved this way for our daughters to serve during Holy Week, and the girls and parishioners love it, too. They wear white dresses and gloves, and have several important parts to play.”

The young ladies rehearse two or three times before Holy Week so that they are ready.  Jennifer tells me, “On Lazarus Saturday we have a Myrrh Bearing Maidens retreat at my small farm, where the girls prepare a luncheon for their moms, hear a spiritual talk (given by Lia this year), and then play with the chickens, sheep, cats and horses outside.”  A couple of weeks after, they meet  to debrief on the event and eat treats.  At this meeting , the outgoing maidens receive a small icon of the Myrrh Bearing Women.  The cycle continues as some of the graduates serve as assistant coaches for the next season.

Here is what Petra Rich, 15,  had to say generally about her experience:  “For me, being a myrrh-bearing maiden was a chance to sacrifice a small amount of practice time for a special moment in the presence of God. It enabled me to connect with the young women of the church and I am now helping coach it with my older sister. Myrrh-bearing maidens bring the women of the church into light, which I believe there should be more of. Overall, this is a very special group, who join together each year to bring themselves before God. It is truly amazing.”

What I love about this story is how St. John the Baptist incorporates young women into the very sacred traditions of Holy Week.   Rev. George Mastrantonis of the Greek Archdiocese reminds us:…We are invited to enter the sanctuary of  Holy Week, not as spectators, but as participants in the commemoration and enactment of the divine Acts that changed the world.”  The Myrrh Bearing Maidens participate in this very important role as bearers of light to the world.  As these ladies age – up and assist the younger groups coming  through the ranks they maintain that light into the future.  As you can see, this is a wonderful parish effort and blesses so many people during the service and then years after.   Wouldn’t it be excellent, with the blessing of our pastors, to launch such a program at our own churches? And then, to hand this tradition down year after year, daughter after daughter?  I definitely think so and I hope our mission  can one day offer this tradition for our young ladies to participate and to remember.

abbey as Myrrh Bearing Maiden

2018 – Kitchen Table Reflections Prompted by iPhone Photos

Today is a rainy, February, gloomy sort of a day.  I am at my kitchen table letting the gloom settle in on me like loose silly putty on an upholstered couch, getting depressed about the weather and my blog and my to-do list.  My favorite green tea is out and Monday is the first day of Lent!  With perturbation, I open my blog page to see that the last post here was November 26. Ouch!

I love writing here so much; yet, I haven’t been here in months.  I have literally pages of topics I want to write about and explore and share here with you.  So, what have I been doing that has kept me away?  A million things in a million directions.  And, since I haven’t been able to get myself back here in months due to, well you know, life… I am just going to start again.  I’m dusting off these keys and jumping in. These nimble fingers will bend to my will once again.  It is time!

Winter weather, childhood milestones, marches, sickness and parish life: These are the themes so far this year.  These iPhone pictures show where we’ve been and what we’ve been about.

From the get go, on day ONE, January 1, change was upon us. We had only a few days at Christmas to say goodbye to Ben who left for the Hermitage of the Holy Cross Monastery on Jan 2.

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Then, there was getting the # 1 daughter set up in her new apartment at UGA.  Mattresses, a desk, and a succulent collection were all important things to be hauled into the shared space on a 27 degree day.

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Then, there was a nasty sickness that managed to hang around our house for 2 weeks!  Coughing, sneezing, tissues, Tamiflu, ibuprofen, charting, and echinacea were all common vocabulary words around the fire those weeks.

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Then the snow came.  These southern chickens would not go out into their snowy run, so I had to bring the water bucket to their covered space.  Of course, having multiple days below freezing meant this urban farmer had to haul thawed buckets of water out to replace the frozen buckets twice a day.  Somehow, in spite of the bitter 7 degree temperatures, these 10 chicks laid a half dozen eggs in one day!

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With snow, came our favorite snowy past time, sledding!!  By the way, if you don’t have a Zipfy, like the green one my husband is holding below, you need to ask Santa for one next year.  Zipfy is the best, safest, most resilient sled known to man!  It works great on pavement, hills, ice, snow, even pine straw.

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Unfortunately, with the snow came a bitter frost that burnt the camellias and froze beer on contact in 20 minutes flat.

 

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Somehow, we managed to get some school in during January, but it was difficult.  I had an idea:  Let’s see if these jade plants will revive if we use fertilizer!  I figured, these jades were on their last leg, so nothing to loose.  So glad we’re studying botany!

 

On January 19, with most people healthy in our house, we made our way down to the Atlanta March for Life.  So glad I phoned Father Tom to join us.  He represented the Orthodox clergy in the area and gave us an anchor as we walked the streets of downtown.

Atlanta March for Life

The first week in February, our Riley had his Eagle Scout Court of Honor! He’s in the middle, literally!  He’s our middle child, # 3!  So proud of his Eagle Scout accomplishment and glad that COH weekend is over!!

Eagle Court of Honor

Pinewood Derby is always a rowdy activity in the winter!  Especially when you make your Pinewood Derby car into a taco.  Note how this slightly dramatic competitor is putting hot sauce on his taco car to make it “go faster.”

 

Thank God Father Paul has come to bless our house yet again in 2018.  We always have him do a double blessing on the teenagers’ vehicles, which he is doing here with a flourish of holy water.

house blessingWhich bring us to last weekend, which had us on a college visit to Georgia College on another wintry day …

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and Meat Fare!  Goodbye meat.  See you in April.

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So, you can see we’ve been pretty busy with all sorts of wonderful things and most of this business is just pretty typical at our house.  2018 is going by in a hurry as evidenced by these cell phone pics.   And since this is standard fare, I will just have to adjust my schedule slightly to get some more time at these keys.  That’s the goal, anyway.   See you very soon.