*** Meditation Mondays *** Meditation Mondays ***
Today the Astonishing Community remembers Mary Salome, the Myrrh Bearer.
Salome was one of the women disciples of Jesus. According to Orthodox tradition, she was the daughter of St. Joseph the Betrothed and his first wife (who was also named Salome), making the Mary, mother of Jesus her step-mother. She married Zebedee and became the mother of the Apostles James and John. As one of the myrrh-bearing women who brought spices to Christ’s tomb and found it empty, she is celebrated as one who first brought tidings of the Resurrection to the world.
As I was looking at her bottle of Myrrh, I began to ponder what it means to be a Myrrh-bearer. I know that this is the title given to the three women who faithfully returned to Jesus’ tomb at first light following the Sabbath to embalm his body. But they were not the only bearers of Myrrh to Jesus. Within the Canonical Gospels, Jesus is first brought Myrrh by a king or wise man, we have come to know as Melchior. He brought Myrrh, which we are told from such a young age was to signify his death, to the infant Jesus. I wonder whether the gift was really that stark for Mary and Joseph to receive… So I looked into Myrrh.
Myrrh, like frankincense, was traditionally used as an ingredient in incense as it instills a deep sense of calm and tranquility. It was used as a perfume ingredient in Egypt and to prevent wrinkles, as well as for embalming. The most varied and numerous uses of myrrh, however, are by healers:
- When inhaled Myrrh makes a good expectorant and gargled as a tincture was believed to cure pharyngitis, even returning a lost voice.
- In women, Myrrh was used to treat uterine disorders and to bring on labour.
- In minute doses, Myrrh was used as an antispasmodic and to cure stomach problems.
- Most popularly Myrrh was applied to wounds and ulcers in order to prevent Gangrene.
- It also has anti-inflammatory pain-killing properties.
Myrrh might just as easily be a symbol of the healer that Jesus would become as the death he must die. This symbolism is even richer when we understand how Myrrh is produced in the first place.
Myrrh exudes as a resinous gum from the Myrrh Tree whenever the bush is wounded or naturally fissures. It is the way the tree is able to protect itself from infection and to prevent the loss of precious water travelling through its system. As humans found this gum to be so useful and so precious, we began to increase production by deliberately making incisions into the bark of the tree in order to increase production.
In my role as a priest, I wonder whether I am a myrrh-bearer? Is it my job to hold the myrrh that might be needed for healing, for the dying or in worship? And where does this myrrh come from?
Perhaps the church is like a Myrrh tree and each member one of its fissures. We emerge wounded, desperately trying to heal ourselves. Our excess overflows, is collected and offered where most needed at present. It’s a way of being we learnt from God, who made a great fissure in God-self to allow Jesus to walk amongst us; who allowed us to pierce him that the greatest healing might take place.