April 12, 2020: EASTER SUNDAY
April 12, 2020: EASTER SUNDAY, THE RESURRECTION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
(with an Octave)
“The stone which the builders rejected; the same is become the head of the corner. This is the Lord’s doing: and it is wonderful
in our eyes.”
(Ps, cxvii. 22-23)
“Hail, thou festive, ever venerable Day! whereon hell is conquered and heaven is
won by Christ.”
(St. Venantius Fortunatus, Bishop of Poitiers)
Paschal Anthem to the Blessed Virgin - Regina Cæli.
(To be prayed from Easter Sunday to Trinity Sunday instead of the Angelus. Click here, for the Latin version)
Triumph, O Queen of Heaven, to see, Alleluia,
The sacred Infant born to thee, Alleluia:
Spring up in glory from the tomb, Alleluia:
O by thy prayers prevent our doom, Alleluia.
V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary! Alleluia
R. Because our Lord is truly risen, Alleluia.
Let us pray.
O God, who, by the resurrection of thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ, has vouchsafed to gladden the world, grant, we beseech thee, that, by the intercession of the Virgin Mary, his Mother, we may receive the joys of eternal life. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
“This is the day which the Lord hath made: let us be glad and rejoice therein.”
(Ps, cxvii. 24)
THE HYMN FOR EASTER.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
Praise by mortals now be given,
On this day from death hath risen
The King of Glory, King of Heaven, Alleluia.
The morn of Sabbath scarce did beam,
When to his monument there came
Disciples who adored his name, Alleluia.
There Mary Magdalen anxious stood,
And James, and Salome the good;
His body fain embalm they would, Alleluia.
The angel sat in white all robed,
And to the women he foretold:
In Galilee you’ll see the Lord, Alleluia.
The message scarce did greet his ear,
Swiftly than Peter, John drew near
To the Lord’s tomb, with hope, with fear, Alleluia.
The disciples all assembled were;
Among them Jesus did appear;
His peace he gave, removed their fear, Alleluia.
Thomas believed not, when ‘twas said
That Christ had risen from the dead,
Until he saw the wounds that bled, Alleluia.
My hands, my side, my feet, O see!
Thomas, wounds that bled for thee:
Renounce thine incredulity, Alleluia.
When Thomas Jesus had survey’d,
And on his wounds his fingers laid,
Thou art my Lord and God, he said. Alleluia.
are they who have not seen,
And yet, whose faith entire hath been,
Them endless joy from pain shall screen, Alleluia.
On this most solemn feast let’s raise
Our hearts to God in hymns of praise,
And bless the Lord in all his ways, Alleluia.
Our grateful thanks
to God let’s give,
In humblest manner whilst we live,
For all the favours we receive, Alleluia.
The Resurrection of Our Lord and His Six Apparitions today.
The Night between Saturday and Sunday has well nigh run its course, and the day- dawn is appearing. The Mother of Sorrows is waiting, in courageous hope and patience, for the blissful moment of her Jesus' return. Magdalene and the other holy Women have spent the Night in watching, and are preparing to start for the Sepulchre.
In Limbo, the Soul of our Crucified Lord is about to give the glad word of departure to the myriads of the long-imprisoned holy Souls, who cluster round him in adoring love. Death is still holding his silent sway over the Sepulchre, where rests the Body of Jesus. Since that day when he gained his first victim, Abel, he has swept off countless generations; but never had he held in his grasp a Prey so noble as this that now lies in the Tomb near Calvary. Never had the terrible sentence of God, pronounced against our First Parents, received such a fulfilment as this; but, never had Death received such a defeat as the one that is now preparing. It is true, the power of God has, at times, brought back the dead to life;—the son of the Widow of Naim, and Lazarus, were reclaimed from the bondage of this tyrant Death: but he regained his sway over them all. But his Victim of Calvary is to conquer him for ever, for this is He of whom it is written in the Prophecy: I, O Death! will be thy death! (Osee, xiii. 14). Yet a few brief moments, and the battle will be begun, and Life shall vanquish Death.
As Divine Justice could not allow the Body that was united to the Word to see corruption, and there wait, like ours must, for the Archangel's word to rise and come to Judgment,—so, neither, could it permit the dominion of Death to be long over such a Victim. This Jesus had said to the Jews: A wicked generation seeketh a sign; and a sign shall not be given it, but that of Jonas the Prophet. (St. Matth, xii. 39) Three days in the Tomb,—the afternoon and night of Friday, the whole of Saturday, and a few hours of the Sunday,—oh! yes, these are enough: enough to satisfy Divine Justice; enough to certify the Death of the Crucified, and make his triumph glorious; enough to complete the Martyrdom of that most loving of Mothers, the Queen of Sorrows.
No man taketh away my life from me: I lay it down of myself: I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. (St. John, x. 18) Thus spoke our Redeemer to the Jews before his Passion: now is the hour for the fulfilment of his words, and Death shall feel their whole force. The Day of Light, Sunday, has begun, and its early dawn is struggling with the gloom. The soul of Jesus immediately darts from the prison of Limbo, followed by the whole multitude of the holy souls that are around him. In the twinkling of an eye, it reaches and enters the Sepulchre, and re-unites itself with that Body, which, three days before, it had quitted amidst an agony of suffering. The sacred Body returns to life, raises itself up, and throws aside the winding-sheet, the spices, and the bands. The bruises have disappeared, the Blood has been brought back to the veins; and from these Limbs that had been torn by the scourging, from this Head that had been mangled by the thorns, from these Hands and Feet that had been pierced with nails, there darts forth a dazzling light that fills the cave. The holy Angels had clustered round the Stable and adored the Babe of Bethlehem; they are now around the Sepulchre, adoring the Conqueror of Death. They take the shrouds, and, reverently folding them up, place them on the slab, whereon the Body had been laid by Joseph and Nicodemus.
But Jesus was not to tarry in the gloomy Sepulchre. Quicker than a ray of light through a crystal, he passes through the stone that closes the entrance of the cave. Pilate had ordered his seal to be put upon this stone, and a guard of soldiers is there to see that no one touches it. Untouched it is, and unmoved; and yet Jesus is free! Thus, as the Holy Fathers unanimously teach us, was it at his Birth;—he appeared to the gaze of Mary, without having offered the slightest violence to her maternal womb. The Birth and the Resurrection, the commencement and the end of Jesus' mission, are two Mysteries which bear on them the unity of resemblance: in the first, it is a Virgin Mother; in the last, it is a sealed Tomb giving forth its Captive God.
And whilst this Jesus, this Man-God, thus breaks the sceptre of Death, the stillness of the night is undisturbed. His and our Victory has cost him no effort. O Death! where is now thy kingdom? Sin had made us thy slaves; thy victory was complete: and now, lo! thou thyself art defeated! Jesus, whom thou didst exultingly hold under thy law, has set himself free; and we, after thou hast domineered over us for a time, we too shall be free from thy grasp. The Tomb thou makest for us, will become to us the source of a new life, for He that now conquers thee is the First-born among the dead; (Apoc, i. 5) and to-day is the Pasch, the Passover, the deliverance, for Jesus and for us his Brethren. He has led the way; we shall follow; and the day will come, when thou, the enemy, that destroyest all things, shalt thyself be destroyed by Immortality. (I Cor, xv. 26) Thy defeat dates from this moment of Jesus' Resurrection, and, with the great Apostle, we say to thee: Death! where is thy victory? Death! where is thy sting? (I Cor, xv. 55)
But the Sepulchre is not to remain shut: it must be thrown open, and testify to men, that He, whose lifeless Body lay there, is indeed Risen from the dead. As when our Jesus expired on the Cross, so now, immediately after his Resurrection, an earthquake shook the foundations of the world; but, this time, it was for joy. The Angel of the Lord descended from heaven, rolled back the Stone, and sat upon it. And his countenance was as lightning, and his raiment as snow. And for fear of him, the Guards are struck with terror, and fall on the ground as dead men. God has mercy on them; they return to themselves, and quitting the dread Sepulchre, they hasten to the City, and relate what they have seen.
Meanwhile, our Risen Jesus has been seen by no mortal eye; he has sped to his most Holy Mother. He is the Son of God; he is the vanquisher of Death; but he is, likewise, the Son of Mary. She stood near him to the last, uniting the sacrifice of her mother's heart with that he made upon the Cross: it is just, therefore, that she should be the first to partake of the joy of his Resurrection. The Gospel does not relate the apparition thus made by Jesus to his Mother, whereas all the others are fully described. It is not difficult to assign the reason. The other apparitions were intended as proofs of the Resurrection; this to Mary was dictated by the tender love borne to her by her Son. Both nature and grace required that his first visit should be to such a Mother, and Christian hearts dwell with delight on the meditation of the mystery. There was no need of its being mentioned in the Gospel; the Tradition of the Holy Fathers, beginning with St. Ambrose, bears sufficient testimony to it; and even had they been silent, our hearts would have told it us. And why was it that our Saviour rose from the Tomb so early on the Day he had fixed for his Resurrection? It was, because his filial love was impatient to satisfy the vehement longings of his dearest and most afflicted Mother. Such is the teaching of many pious and learned Writers; and who that knows aught of Jesus and Mary could refuse to accept it?
But who is there would attempt to describe the joy of such a meeting? Those eyes, that had grown dim from wakefulness and tears, now flash with delight at beholding the brightness which tells her Jesus is come. He calls her by her name, not with the tone of voice which pierced her soul when he addressed her from the Cross, but with an accent of joy and love, such as a Son would take when telling a Mother that he had triumphed. The Body, which, three days ago, she had seen covered with Blood and dead, is now radiant with life, beaming with the reflections of Divinity. He speaks to her words of tenderest affection, he embraces her, he kisses her. Who, we ask, would dare to describe this scene, which the devout Abbot Rupert says so inundated the soul of Mary with joy, that it made her forget all the sorrows she had endured.
Nor must we suppose that the Visit was a short one. In one of the revelations granted to the seraphic St. Teresa, our Lord told her, that when he appeared to his Blessed Mother immediately after his Resurrection, he found her so overwhelmed with grief that she would soon have died; that it was not until several moments had passed, that she was able to realise the immense joy of his presence; and that he remained a long time with her, in order to console her.
Let us who love this Blessed Mother, and have seen her offer up her Son on Calvary for our sakes,—let us affectionately rejoice in the happiness wherewith Jesus now repays her, and let us learn to compassionate her in her Dolours. This is the first manifestation of our Risen Jesus: it is a just reward for the unwavering Faith which has dwelt in Mary's soul during these three days, when all but she had lost it. But it is time for him to show himself to others, that so the glory of his Resurrection may be made known to the world. His first visit was to her that is the dearest to him of all creatures, and well deserves the favour; now, in his goodness, he is about to console those devoted Women, whose grief is, perhaps, too human,—but their love is firm, and neither death nor the tomb have shaken it.
Yesterday, when sun-set proclaimed to the Jews the end of the great Sabbath and the commencement of the Sunday, Magdalene and her companions went into the City and bought perfumes, wherewith, this morning, at break of day, they purpose embalming the Body of their dear Master. They have spent a sleepless night. Before the dawn of day, Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James), and Salome, are on the road that leads to Calvary, for the Sepulchre is there. So intent are they on the one object, that it never occurs to them, until it is too late, to provide for the removing of the heavy stone, which closes the Sepulchre. There is the seal, too, of the Governor, which must be broken before they can enter: there are the soldiers who are keeping guard:—these difficulties are quite overlooked. It is early daybreak when they reach the Tomb. The first thing that attracts their attention is, that the Stone has been removed, so that one can see into the Sepulchre. The Angel of the Lord, who had received the mission to roll back the Stone, is seated on it, as upon a throne; he thus addresses the three holy women, who are speechless from astonishment and fear: Be not affrighted! Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified: he is risen, he is not here. Then encouraging them to enter the Sepulchre, he adds: Behold the place where they laid him! (St. Mark, xvi. 6)
These words should fill them with joy: but, no,—their faith is weak, and, as the Evangelist says, a trembling and fear seize them. (St. Mark, xvi. 8) The dear Remains they are in search of are gone: the Angel tells them so: his saying that Jesus is Risen fails to awaken their faith in the Resurrection: they had hoped to find the Body! Whilst in the Sepulchre, two other Angels appear to them, and the place is filled with light. St. Luke tells us that Magdalene and her companions bowed down their heads, for they were overpowered with fear and disappointment. Then the Angels said to them: Why seek ye the Living with the dead? Remember how he spake unto you, when he was yet in Galilee, saying: “The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again!” (St. Luke, xxiv. 5, 6, 7) These words make some impression upon the holy women, and they begin to remember something of what our Lord had said of his Resurrection. Go! said one of the Angels, tell his Disciples and Peter, that he is going before you into Galilee. (St. Mark, xvi. 7)
The three women leave the Sepulchre and return with haste to the City: they are full of fear, and yet there is an irresistible feeling of joy mingled with their fear. They relate what they have seen,—they have seen Angels, and the Sepulchre open, and Jesus' Body was not there. All three agree in their account; but the Apostles, as the Evangelist tells us, set it down to womanish excitement: their words seem idle tales, and they believe them not. (St. Luke, xxiv. 11) The Resurrection, of which their Divine Master had so clearly and so often spoken, never once crosses their mind. It is particularly to Peter and John that Magdalene relates the wonderful things she has seen and heard: but her own faith is still so weak! She went with the intention of embalming the Body of Jesus, and she found it not! She can speak of nothing but of her disappointment: They have taken away the Lord out of the Sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him! (St. John, xx. 2)
Peter and John determine to go themselves to the Sepulchre. They enter. They see the linen cloths lying (St. John, xx. 6) upon the slab whereon the Body of Jesus had been placed; but the Angels who are now keeping guard in the holy Cave, appear not to them. St. John tells us, that this was the moment of his receiving the Faith in the Resurrection:—he believes. (St. John, xx. 8).
So far, Jesus has appeared to no one save to his Blessed Mother; the holy Women have only seen the Angels, who spoke to them. These heavenly Spirits bade them go and announce the Resurrection of their Master to the Disciples and Peter. They are not told to bear the message to Mary: the reason is obvious: Jesus has already appeared to his Mother, and is with her whilst all these events are happening. The Sun is now shedding his beams upon the earth, and the hours of the grand Morning are speeding onwards: the Man-God is about to proclaim the triumph he has won for us over Death. Let us reverently follow him in each of these manifestations, and attentively study the lessons they teach us.
As soon as Peter and John returned, Magdalene hastens once more to the Tomb of her dear Master. A soul like hers, ever earnest, and now tormented with anxiety, cannot endure to rest:—where is the Body of Jesus? perhaps being insulted by his enemies? Having reached the door of the Sepulchre, she bursts into tears. Looking in, she sees two Angels, seated at either end of the slab on which her Jesus had been laid. They speak to her, for she knows not what to say: Woman! why weepest thou?—Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. Without waiting for the Angels to reply, she turns as though she would leave the Sepulchre; when lo! she sees a man standing before her, and this Man is Jesus. (St. John, xx.) She does not recognize him;—she is in search of the dead Body of her Lord; she is absorbed in the resolution of giving it a second Burial! Her love distracts her, for it is a love that is not guided by faith: her desire to find him, as she thinks him to be, blinds her from seeing him as he really is,— living, and near her.
Jesus, with his wonted condescension, speaks to her: Woman! why weepest thou?—Whom sleekest thou? Magdalene recognises not this voice: her heart is dulled by an excessive and blind sentiment of grief: her spirit does not as yet know Jesus. Her eyes are fixed upon him; but her imagination persuades her that this Man is the Gardener, who has care of the ground about the Sepulchre. She thinks within herself,—this, perhaps, is he that has taken my Jesus!—and thereupon, she thus speaks to him: Sir, if thou hast taken him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. (St. John, xx. 15) How is our loving Redeemer to withstand this? If he praised her for the love she showed him in the Pharisee's house,—we may be sure he will now reward this affectionate simplicity. A single word, spoken to her with the tone of voice she so well understood, is enough:—Mary!—Master! exclaims the delighted and humble Magdalene. (St. John, xx. 16) All is now clear: she believes.
She rushes forward: she would kiss those sacred Feet, as on the happy day when she received her pardon:—but Jesus stays her: this is not the time for such a demonstration of her affection. Magdalene, the first witness of the Resurrection, is to be raised, in reward for her love, to the high honour of publishing the great mystery. It is not fitting that the Blessed Mother should reveal the secret favour she has received from her Son: Magdalene is to proclaim what she has seen and heard at the Sepulchre, and become, as the Holy Fathers express it, the Apostle of the very Apostles. Jesus says to her: Go to my Brethren, and say to them: I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God. (St. John, xx. 17)
The second apparition of Jesus, then, is to Mary Magdalene: it is the first in testimony of his Resurrection, for the one to his Blessed Mother was for another object… [Let] us adore the infinite goodness of our Redeemer, who, before seeking to fix the faith of his Resurrection in them that are to preach it to all nations, deigns to recompense the love of this Woman, who followed him even to the Cross, was faithful to him after his Death, and loved him most, because most forgiven. By thus showing himself to Magdalene, Jesus teaches us, that he is more anxious to satisfy the love he bears his faithful creature, than to provide for his own glory.
Magdalene loses no time in doing her Master's bidding. She hastens back to the City, and having come to the Disciples, says to them: I have seen the Lord, and these things he said to me.(St. John, xx. 18) But as yet, they have not Faith; John alone has received that gift, although he has seen nothing more than the empty Sepulchre. Let us remember, that, after having fled like the rest of the Disciples, he followed Jesus to Calvary, was present at his Death, and was made the adopted Son of Mary.
Meanwhile, Magdalene's two companions,—Salome, and Mary the mother of James,—are following her, though slowly and at some distance, to Jerusalem. Jesus meets them, and greets them, saying: All hail. (St. Matth, xxviii. 9) Overcome with joy, they fall down and adore him, and kiss his sacred feet. It is the third Apparition: and they that are favoured with it, are permitted to do what was denied to the more favoured and fervent Magdalene. Before the day is over, Jesus will show himself to them whom he has chosen as the heralds of his glory; but he first wishes to honour those generous Women, who, braving every danger, and triumphing over the weakness of their sex, were more faithful to him, in his Passion, than the men he had so highly honoured as to make them his Apostles. When he was born in the stable at Bethlehem, the first he called to worship him in his Crib, were some poor Shepherds; he sent his Angels to invite them to go to him, before he sent the star to call the Magi. So now,—when he has reached the summit of his glory, put the finish to all his works by his Resurrection, and confirmed our faith in his divinity by the most indisputable miracle,—he does not begin by instructing and enlightening his Apostles, but by instructing, consoling, and most affectionately honouring, these humble but courageous Women. How admirable are the dispensations of our God! How sweet, and yet, how strong! (Wisd, viii. 1) Well does he say to us by his Prophet: My thoughts are not your thoughts! (Isaias, lv. 8)
Let us suppose, for a moment, that we had been permitted to arrange the order of these two Mysteries. We should have summoned the whole world, kings and people, to go and pay homage at the Crib. We should have trumpeted to all nations the miracle of miracles, the Resurrection of the Crucified, the Victory over Death, the restoration of mankind to Immortality! But He who is “the power and wisdom of God,” (I Cor, i. 24)—Christ Jesus our Lord,—has followed a very different plan. When born in Bethlehem, he would have for his first worshippers a few simpleminded shepherds, whose power to herald the great event was confined to their own village: and yet, the Birth-Day of this Little Child is now the era of every civilised nation. For the first witnesses of his Resurrection, he chose three weak Women; and yet, the whole earth is now, at this very moment, celebrating the anniversary of this Resurrection. There is in it a mysterious feeling of joy unlike that of any other day throughout the year: no one can resist it, not even the coldest heart. The infidel who scoffs at the believer, knows at least that this is Easter Sunday. Yea, in the very countries where paganism and idolatry are still rife, there are Christians whose voices unite with ours in singing the glorious Alleluia to our Risen Jesus. Let us, then, cry out as Moses did, when the Israelites had crossed the Red Sea, and were keeping their first Pasch: Who, Lord, is like unto thee, among the strong? (Exodus, xv. 11)
The day is fast advancing, and Jesus has not yet shown himself to his Disciples. The holy women are overpowered with joy and gratitude at the favour they have received. They have told it to the Apostles, assuring them that not only have they seen Angels, but Jesus himself; that he has spoken to them; that they have kissed his sacred feet. But all their assurances fail to convince these men, who are oppressed with what they have seen of their Master's Passion. They are cruelly disappointed, and their disappointment makes them deaf to every thing, that speaks of consolation. And yet, we shall soon find them laying down their very lives in testimony of the Resurrection of that Master, whose name and remembrance is now a humiliation to them.
We may form some idea of their feelings, from the conversation of two who have been spending a part of the day with them, and who themselves were Disciples of Jesus. This very evening, whilst returning to Emmaus, they thus express their disappointment: We hoped that Jesus would have redeemed Israel: and now besides all this, to-day is the third day since these things were done. Yea, and certain Women also of our company affrighted us; who, before it was light, were at the Sepulchre; and not finding his body, came, saying that they had also seen a vision of Angels, who say that he is alive. And some of our people went to the Sepulchre, and found it so as the Women had said; but him they found not. (St. Luke, xxiv. 21-24) How strange, that the Resurrection of which Jesus had so often spoken to them, even in the presence of the Jews, does not recur to their minds! They were still carnal-minded men, and the awful fact of his Death stifles within them every idea of that new birth, which our Bodies are to receive in the tomb.
But our Risen Jesus must now show himself to these men, who are to preach his Divinity to the furthest ends of the world. So far, his manifestations have been made to satisfy his affection for his Blessed Mother, and his infinite love for those souls, that had done all in their power to testify their gratitude towards him. It is now time for him to provide for his own glory: at least, so it would seem to us. But no; having rewarded those that love him, he would now show the generosity of his Heart; and then, after this, proclaim his triumph. The Apostolic College, of which every member fled at the hour of danger, has seen its very head so forgetful of his duty as to deny his Divine Master. But, from the moment when Jesus cast upon his Disciples a look of reproach and pardon, Peter has done nothing but shed bitter tears over his fall. Jesus would now console the humble penitent; tell him, with his own lips, that he has pardoned him; and confirm, by this mark of his divine predilection, the sublime prerogatives that he so recently conferred upon him, in the presence of all the other Apostles. As yet, Peter doubts of the Resurrection; Magdalene's testimony has not convinced him: but now, that his offended Master is about to appear to him, his Faith will acknowledge the grand mystery.
We have already heard the Angel sending Jesus' message by the three Women: Go, said he, tell his Disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee. (St. Mark, xvi. 7) Why this express mention of Peter, but that he may know, that although he has denied Jesus, Jesus has not denied him? Why is he not, on this occasion, mentioned before the others, except to spare him the humiliation of the contrast between his high position and the unworthy conduct he has shown? But this special mention of his name tells him that he is still dear to Jesus, and that he will soon have an opportunity of expiating his sin, by expressing his regret and repentance at the very feet of his ever-loving, and now glorified, Master. Yes, Peter is tardy in believing; but his conversion is sincere, and Jesus would reward it.
Suddenly, then, in the course of this afternoon, the Apostle sees standing before him that Divine Master, whom, three days previously, he had beheld bound and led away by the servants of Caiphas. This Jesus is now resplendent with light; he is the Conqueror, the glorious Messias: and yet, what most affects the Apostle, is the ineffable goodness of this his Lord, who comes to console him, rather than to show him the splendours of his Resurrection. Who could describe the interview between the Penitent and his offended Master; the sorrow of Peter, now that he finds himself treated with such generosity; the loving pardon which comes from Jesus' lips, and fills the Apostle's heart with paschal joy? Blessed be thy name, O Jesus! who thus raisest up, from his fall, him whom thou art to leave us for our Chief Pastor and Father, when thou ascendest into heaven!
It is, indeed, just that we adore the infinite mercy which dwells in the Heart of our Risen Jesus, and which he shows with the same profusion and power, as during his mortal life: but let us, also, admire how, by this visit, he continues, in St. Peter, the mystery of the Unity of the Church,—a mystery which is to be perpetuated in this Apostle and his successors. At the Last Supper, Jesus spoke these words to him, in the presence of the other Apostles: I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren. (St. Luke, xxii. 32) The time is now come for establishing Peter in this Faith, which is never to fail:—Jesus gives it to him. He himself instructs Peter; he makes him the foundation of his Church. In a few hours hence, he will manifest himself to the other Apostles; but Peter will be present with his Brethren. Thus, if Peter receive favours not granted to the rest, they never receive any but he has a share in them. It is their duty to believe on Peter's word; they do so. On Peter's testimony, they believe in the Resurrection, and proclaim it to others, as we shall soon see. Jesus is to appear likewise to them,—for he loves them; he calls them his Brethren; he has chosen them to be the preachers of his name throughout the world:—but he will find them already instructed in the faith of his Resurrection, because they have believed Peter's testimony; and Peter's testimony has effected in them the mystery of that Unity, which he will effect in the Church to the end of time.
Jesus' apparition to the Prince of the Apostles rests on the authority of St. Luke's Gospel (St. Luke, xxiv. 34) and St. Paul's first Epistle to the Corinthians (I Cor, xv. 5). It is the fourth of those that took place on the day of the Resurrection.
The Day of Jesus' Resurrection is fast drawing to its close. It is the Day honoured by God with the greatest of all miracles: it is the most important Day that has ever dawned upon the world since Light was first created: but the Night will soon be upon us, shadowing the brightness of the great Day. Four times has our Redeemer appeared. He would now manifest himself to the whole of his Apostles, and thus enable them to know by their own experience what they have, a few hours since, learned from Peter's testimony. But, leaving, for a few moments longer, these men, whom he honours with the name of Brethren, and who now believe in his Resurrection,—he would first console two hearts that are grieving on his account, though their grief comes from their want of faith.
Two men are traversing the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus, slowly and sadly. They are evidently suffering from some cruel disappointment; nay, they give one the idea that a motive of fear impels them to leave the City. They had been Disciples of Jesus; but the ignominious and violent death of this Master, in whom they had had such confidence, has filled their hearts with bitter despondency. They were ashamed of having joined themselves with one who is not what they took him to be. They had hid themselves after his execution; but the report having been spread of his Sepulchre having been broken into, and the Body taken away, they resolve to seek a safer refuge. Jesus' enemies have great power, and are doubtless busy taking proceedings against those who have dared to break the seal of the Sepulchre. Perhaps all that have had any connection with this Jesus will be arraigned before the public tribunal.
Whilst thus conferring with each other on the sad events of the last few days, a stranger overtakes them and walks with them:—it is Jesus. So absorbed are they in their own sorrow, that they do not recognize him. The same happens to us, when we give way to feelings of human grief:—we lose sight of that God who comes to cheer us by his presence along the path of our exile. Jesus asks these two men the cause of their sadness. They tell him with all simplicity, and this King of glory, who has, this very day, triumphed over Death, deigns to enter into a long conversation with them, and explain to them, as they walk along, the scriptural prophecies concerning the humiliations, the death, and the glory of the Messias. The two wayfarers are delighted with his words. As they afterwards said to each other, their hearts burned within them as this stranger went on telling them the grand truths he did. Jesus feigns to bid them farewell, but they will not hear of it: Stay with us, they say to him, for the evening cometh on, and the day is far spent! (St. Luke, xxiv. 29) They take him into their house at Emmaus, constrain him to sit down to table with them, and yet, strange to say, they have not an idea who this heavenly instructor is, who has solved all their doubts with such persuasive wisdom and eloquence!—Do not we resemble these two Disciples, when we allow ourselves to be influenced by human thoughts and feelings? Jesus is near us, he speaks to us, he instructs us, he consoles us; and yet, oftentimes, we are long before we recognize him!
At length, Jesus makes himself known to our two incredulous Disciples. They have placed him at the head of the table; it is for him to break the bread. He takes it into his divine hands, as he did at the Last Supper; and no sooner has he divided the bread, and given them their portion, than their eyes are opened, and they recognise their guest as Jesus, the Risen Jesus. They would throw themselves at his feet,—but he has disappeared, leaving them mute with surprise, and yet transported with exceeding joy. It is the fifth Apparition. It is described by St. Luke.
The two Disciples cannot wait: though so late in the evening, they must hurry back to Jerusalem, and tell the Apostles that their Master is living, that they have seen him, and talked with him. They, therefore, leave Emmaus, where they thought to pass the night, and are soon back in the City they had tremblingly fled from. They are soon with the Apostles,—but they find them already aware of the glad tidings, and fervent in their faith of the Resurrection. Before they had time to open their lips, the Apostles exclaim: The Lord hath truly risen, and hath appeared to Simon! (St. Luke, xxiv. 34) The two Disciples then relate what has just happened to themselves.
Such was the conversation of the Apostles,—men now unknown, but whose names are, in a short time hence, to be published and loved throughout the whole universe. The doors of the house, where the little flock is assembled, are kept carefully closed, for they are afraid of being discovered. The soldiers, who had kept watch at the Sepulchre, went early this morning to the Chief Priests, and told them what had happened. They were, hereupon, bribed to perjure themselves, and say that, whilst they were asleep, the Disciples of Jesus came and took away the Body. The Jewish authorities hereby hoped to screen themselves from confusion; but such a plot was likely to excite the people's indignation against the Apostles, and these thought it necessary to take precautions. Ten of them are now together in the house; for Thomas, who was present when the two Disciples came in from Emmaus, had taken the opportunity, afforded by the darkness of the hour, to go forth into the City.
The Apostles, then, were speaking to one another of the great events of this Day, when lo! Jesus stands before them, and yet the door has not been opened. That well-known voice and figure and face!—oh yes, it is Jesus! He speaks to them with an accent of tenderest love, and says: Peace be to you! (St. John, xx. 19) What could they say? This sudden and mysterious visit robs them of self-possession. They have no ideas yet of the qualities of a glorified body; and, though firmly believing in the mystery of their Lord's Resurrection, they are not quite sure but that what they now behold is a phantom. Jesus knows this. During the whole day, he seems to have been more anxious to show his love than proclaim his glory; and therefore, he permits them to touch him; yea, in order to convince them of the reality of his divine Body, he asks them to give him to eat, and he eats in their presence. This loving familiarity of their Master makes them weep with joy, and when Thomas returns to them, they express their delight in these simple words: We have seen the Lord! (St. John, xx. 25) It was the sixth Apparition of Jesus on the day of his Resurrection. It is related in the Gospel of St. John.
Be thou blessed and glorified, O Conqueror of Death! for that, on this day, thou didst six times appear to thy creatures, so to content thy love, and confirm our faith in thy Resurrection!
Be thou blessed and glorified for having consoled thy afflicted Mother by thy clear presence and caresses!
Be thou blessed and glorified for having, with a single word of thine, brought joy to Magdalene's heart!
Be thou blessed and glorified for having gladdened the holy Women, and permitted them to kiss thy sacred feet!
Be thou blessed and glorified for having, with thine own lips, given Peter the assurance of his pardon, and for having confirmed in him the gifts of Primacy, by revealing to him, before all others, the fundamental dogma of faith!
Be thou blessed and glorified for having encouraged the drooping confidence of the two Disciples of Emmaus, and for thy revealing thyself to them!
Be thou blessed and glorified for having visited thine Apostles, and removed all their doubts by thy loving condescension!
And, lastly, O Jesus! be thou blessed and glorified for that, on this day, thou hast so mercifully given us, by thy holy Church, to share in the joy of thy holy Mother, of Magdalene and her companions, of Peter, of the Disciples of Emmaus, and of thine Apostles!
This year's Easter is as full of reality and life and joy, yea, and of thyself, as was that whereon thou didst rise from the grave. All times and seasons belong to thee: and as the material world has ever been supported by thy power, so the spiritual lives by thy Mysteries.
Praise, then, and honour, and benediction, be to thee, O Jesus! for thy Resurrection, which makes this day the grandest and gladdest of the year!
Taken from: The Liturgical Year
– Paschal Time, Vol. I, Edition 1871; and
The Ursuline Manual, Dublin, Edition 1855.
Praise the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever.