“He took courage and asked for the Body of Jesus”
(Mark 15:43)

    Plutarch, in his Moralia, recounts a famous story about the legendary battle of the 300 Spartans against the Persians at Thermopylae.

As the reports started to come in about how many Persians there were (up to 300,000), it was said that they would hurl so many arrows at the Spartans that the light of the sun itself would be blotted out. The great general, Leonidas, without hesitation fearlessly responded, “Good! Then we will fight in the shade!”

The four cardinal virtues of the ancients are: wisdom, justice, self-control, and courage. These virtues are even mentioned in our holy scripture:

“And if any one loves justice, wisdom gives birth to virtues; for Wisdom teaches self-control and prudence, justice and courage; nothing in life is more profitable for men than these” (Wisdom of Solomon 8:7).

Before focusing in on courage, let us also consider its opposite – cowardice. We read in the Apocalypse:

“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

St. John Climacus’ 21st Step in his book The Ladder also teaches about cowardice:

“Cowardice is childish behavior within a soul advanced in years and advanced in pride. It is a lapse from faith. A proud soul is the slave of cowardice. Trusting only in itself, it is frightened by a sound or a shadow.”

However, we see not cowardice but courage in the main figures commemorated today: Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, and the Myrrh-bearing women.

It took courage for Joseph to go to the Governor Pontius Pilate and ask to receive the Body of Christ.
It took courage for Nicodemus to risk his position in the High Council of the Sanhedrin by revealing that he was a follower of Jesus.
It took courage for the Myrrh-bearing women not to desert Jesus but stand by Him crucified.
It took courage for the women to go early, while it was still dark, to Jesus’ tomb with Roman soldiers keeping guard.
It took courage for the Myrrh-bearers to take the angelic message, “He is risen! He is not here!” to Jesus’ Disciples.

Let us, too, brethren, always remember the courage of these faithful followers of the Lord when fear is being spread around the globe, for Jesus Christ has spoken: “Take courage, it is I; have no fear” (Mark 6:50).