The Myrrh-Bearers (or Ointment Bearers) were among the women disciples of Jesus, who were with him in Galilee and followed him to Jerusalem. They, unnamed, were present at his passion. With Joseph of Arimathea, they had the courage to bury the body of Christ. They prepared the balm and spices for the traditional anointing of the body. They rested on the Sabbath following the crucifixion and rose early the next day to tend to his body in death as they had ministered to him in life. Faithful, but not yet wholly believing, they approached the tomb. Mary Magdalene heard the joyful news. St. Mark says that the women were afraid and told no one what they had experienced. Saints Matthew and Luke, however, relate that the women went immediately to the eleven to share the wonder and the love.
Little is known about the women who attended Jesus. The life of Mary Magdalene, the best-known of the myrrhbears, is a collection of legends. [See related story in this issue.] Among the others is Mary, the mother of James and John, who is sometimes identified as Salome, or Mary Salome, since Salome is mentioned in only one account of the resurrection. According to the gospel, Mary was the wife of Zebedee, and according to the Prologue from Ochrid, she was also the daughter of St. Joseph the Betrothed, a stepdaughter of the Theotokos. Those who name Mary and Salome separately say that Salome was the sister of the Theotokos.
St. Joanna, another of the women disciples, was the wife of Chuza, who was Herod's steward. She witnessed not only the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus but also the beheading of St. John, St. Forerunner. Legend says that she saw where Herod's men had thrown the head of John the Baptist. Since the place being unclean, she later removed the head and reburied it on the Mount of Olives, where it was discovered during the reign of Constantine the Great. Joanna, for all her daring, was not a martyr but died peacefully.
The myrrh-bearers, whoever they were and whatever their number, actively followed Jesus and ministered to him during his sojourn in the world; they saw his death on the cross and continued their attendance on him as they prepared the ointment for his body and prepared to do all that tradition commanded for the dead. They heard the glad news of His resurrection, as the shepherds heard the glad news of His nativity. Through the women disciples, the good news of that time and that place became the good news of all time and all places.
The church commemorates the myrrh-bearers (often called the "women disciples" [mathetriai]) on the second Sunday after Easter, as well as in numerous hymns sung during Sunday Matins throughout the year, such as the Resurrection evlogitaria, several of the Resurrection exaposteilaria and stichera, and the Resurrection apolytikion in the Fourth Tone.