Meditation for Easter time
The Resurrection of Our Lord
By Fr Charles-Hyacinth McKenna O.P.
He is risen; He is not here! (Mark 16, 6)
What transports of unalloyed joy arise within the devout Christian soul when contemplating the glorious mystery of Our Lord’s Resurrection! How intense the spiritual delight of the faithful members of the Rosary Confraternity in meditating on the beauty, power and majesty of their risen Redeemer:
— They have followed Him in spirit from the moment of His descent from Heaven into the Virgin’s womb, on the morning of the Incarnation. They have gazed in admiring rapture on the beauty of the human soul of Our Lord, the most perfect work of the Adorable Trinity. They beheld that peerless soul united with the most pure and perfect body formed by the Holy Ghost, not of the slime of the earth, not of the sin-corrupted flesh of Adam, but of the most pure blood of the immaculate heart of Mary. They saw how in that instant the heavens bowed down to the earth, the Word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us; the Son of God became the true Son of a Virgin Mother.
— Our dear Rosarians have prayerfully followed Our Lord through each mystery of His sacred life, from the poverty and sufferings of the manger of Bethlehem to the agony and ignominy of His death on Calvary. They have gazed in bitter sorrow of spirit upon the livid face of the Divine Victim, when His beautiful soul separated itself from His mangled body; and they have wept with Mary and the disciples when that adorable body was laid in the silent tomb. But they well know that His mighty soul yet lives; they firmly believe that both body and soul are still united with the Divinity, and that the seed of immortal life is there, soon to burst forth from the sepulchre in the glory of the Resurrection.
Before proceeding further to meditate upon the details of this marvelous miracle, let us pause to consider for a few moments the joy of our Mother, the Church, on this glorious festival.
How supreme the change that has taken place since the dolor and darkness of Good Friday! Then, the agonized Spouse of Christ was submerged in an ocean of bitter sorrow. Her altars were denuded; her ministers were clothed in the sable garments of mourning; a wail of grief went forth from her bosom, piercing the highest heaven.
Behold the glorious transformation of Easter Sunday! Our weeping Mother has dried her tears and hushed her sighs of grief. Her priests appear in vestments of white and gold; her altars are decked with lovely flowers and flaming lights; her organs peal forth exultant paeans, and, in a very rapture of gladness, she calls upon heaven and earth to join in her song of triumph, repeating again and again her thrilling “Alleluias.”
Nor is the Mater Dolorosa forgotten in those joyful canticles of Easter. Tenderly mindful of the sorrows of Mary, the Church cries to her to rejoice in the golden dawn of the Resurrection: “Regina cœli, lætare,” (she chants), “O Queen of Heaven! rejoice, because He whom thou didst merit to bear, hath risen, as He said. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary! because He is truly risen from the dead!” Yes, Blessed Mother, rejoice and be glad! No longer have hell and Satan power over your adorable Son. He lives and reigns forever, the immortal Conquerer of sin and death, and one day, when your grand work for God and His Church is completed, you shall share everlastingly in the joys of His kingdom!
O sweet and gentle Mother! recalling your profound emotions immediately after the death of your Divine Son, assist us to dwell awhile with you on the action of His adorable soul after its separation from the flesh upon Calvary’s cross. You remember the promise the dying Redeemer made to the poor penitent thief that he would be with Him that day in Paradise (Luke 23. 43). That pledge was faithfully fulfilled.
For lo! the moment the soul of Our Lord passed from its blessed body, it descended into hell, as the Apostles’ Creed puts it; that is, it descended not into the hell of the damned, but into Limbo, the prison of the patriarchs, where all the just were confined who had died during 4000 years. What a vast multitude of elect souls was there, waiting, watching, praying for the long-desired moment that had at last arrived! O what joy to those poor captives to behold the glory and beauty of the soul of their Redeemer, which transformed their prison into a paradise of delights ! How fervently they praised and thanked Him for all He had done and suffered in order to give them release from their place of probation!
But the hour draws near when that glorified soul of Our Lord must return to the sepulchre in the Garden, and awaking His adorable body, give it to share in the glory of the Resurrection. What tongue or pen of men or angels can describe the rapturous reunion of the body and soul of Our Lord on that blissful Easter morn! Lord Jesus, may our bodies and souls experience a measure of that unutterable joy when they meet again on the last day, the day of our resurrection! Grant, dear Lord, that then there may be no terrible recrimination between flesh and spirit, each accusing the other of its eternal ruin; but rather a mutual joyous congratulation that soul and body united during life in accomplishing the glorious work of their salvation.
On that first Easter Day, the moment the soul of Our Lord returned to the body, it awakened it from the sleep of death and at once filled it with the infinite happiness of the Beatific Vision, giving it all the properties of glorified bodies in the most exalted and perfect degree. Resplendent to behold in its clarity and incorruptibility, invested with subtility and agility, the glorified body of Our Lord passed swiftly through the granite of the sealed tomb. He did not need to await the rolling back of the stone from the mouth of the sepulchre, which occurred later, to convince the guards of the divinity of the crucified Lord, and to acquaint the devout women and His disciples with the fact that He was no longer there, inasmuch as they could behold the place where they had laid Him.
Our Lord appeared to His Blessed Mother just after His Resurrection, changing her sorrow into intense joy, and giving her in anticipation a share of the glory and happiness that awaited her in Heaven. How sweet and consoling must have been the converse of Our Lord with His Blessed Mother! How she must have thanked and congratulated Him for choosing her to be His companion in the sublime work of the world’s redemption — and for having vouchsafed her a share in His manifold sufferings and sorrows! And how Jesus, in turn, must have thanked His Blessed Mother, and praised and blessed her for all she did and suffered for Him from the moment of His Incarnation to His expiration on the cross! Let us try to picture to ourselves the overflowing rapture of Mary’s immaculate Heart when she beheld the glorified body of her divine Son. She did not go with the devout women when (as the Evangelist tells us) they went very early in the morning to anoint the body of Christ. She well knew that it had no need of the embalming spices or unguents, since it was not destined to molder in the grave. She did not go to visit the tomb on Easter morn with the weeping Magdalen, for she was well aware that the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea was vacant of its divine Tenant. Already her adorable Son had visited and consoled her. And with what ecstatic joy must she have gazed on those hands and feet, lately so livid and lacerated, now shining as if adorned with dazzling jewels; on that glorified body, so horribly torn by the scourges, now resplendently arrayed with heavenly vesture; on that sacred face, once clouded by blood and bruises, now more brilliant than ten thousand suns, thence diffusing the light of the Lamb, which shall fill the New Jerusalem with ineffable delight, from everlasting to everlasting!
Later on, in that first most wonderful Paschal time, when Our Lord appeared to Magdalen, to the other devout women, to Peter, and to the rest of the disciples, and when He saw that they feared and wavered, He said to them: “Why are you troubled, and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? See My hands and feet — realize that it is I, Myself. Handle and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as you see Me to have.” He permitted that Thomas should doubt, in order that a more convincing proof of His resurrection might be given, by permitting the incredulous disciple to put his hand in the marks of the wounds still existing in His glorified body. When the disciples saw that it was indeed the Lord, their sorrow was changed into unspeakable joy. They hailed with delight their well-beloved Master, who, having triumphed over death and hell, appears once more among them to console and comfort them, and lovingly to pardon their past defections.
After conversing with them for forty days, He ascended gloriously into Heaven, taking with Him the trophies of His victory — the vast multitude of ransomed souls who were to share through Him and with Him in the glory of His eternal kingdom.
We have spoken to you, dear Rosarians, of the body and soul of our risen Redeemer. But shall we venture to dwell upon the awful subject of His divinity? We know that the adorable Son of God was with the Father from all eternity; and we firmly believe that He did not leave the Father when He descended upon the earth, but that clothing Himself with our humanity, He rendered all its actions of infinite value. He concealed Himself from the eyes of the world in the lowliness and poverty of the manger; but, occasionally, during His mortal career He permitted His divinity to shine forth in His stupendous works. He gave a glimpse of it, though still partially veiled, to His chosen disciples on Mount Thabor. He concealed it during the tragedy of Calvary, for there, for our instruction and example, His poor suffering humanity was forced to cry out in bitter anguish: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” But now, at last, all is consummated. The work He came to do is accomplished. He has completed the work His Father gave Him to do. Man has been redeemed; death and hell are conquered, and Jesus seems to say to us to-day, as He said to the disciples in Emmaus: “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and so enter into His glory?”
But apart from the joy given to Christians in the mystery of the Resurrection, there are other solid causes of rejoicing which we will now briefly consider:
— The Resurrection was the test miracle of the divinity of our Lord. He frequently adduced it in His public life as the strongest proof that He was God. When He drove the money-changers out of His Father’s house, the Jews wanted to know by what authority He did it. He answered: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I shall raise it up again. Put Me to death, and in three days I shall rise again.” Repeatedly He said to His disciples: “Behold! we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man shall be delivered into the hands of His enemies. They will scourge Him and put Him to death, and the third day He shall rise again.” When that obdurate people asked of Him a sign, a proof that He was the Son of God, He said, ” An evil and adulterous generation seeketh a sign, and no sign shall be given it, except the sign of Jonas the prophet; for as Jonas was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so shall it be with the Son of Man. He shall be in the bowels of the earth three days and three nights.”
The Jews well knew of His repeated prophecy, and therefore they did all in their power to defeat its accomplishment. Hence, the Resurrection of the crucified Saviour is the strongest proof of the divinity of our Faith, as well as the divinity of Jesus Christ. “If Christ be not risen, our Faith is in vain,” says St. Paul. And even as from the sleeping Adam his virgin spouse was formed, and given to him for a companion, so, say the Fathers, from the sleeping Christ and from the empty tomb the Church came forth in all her virginal beauty, to be forevermore the Spouse of Jesus-Christ. It was in this faith of the Resurrection that St. Peter performed his first miracle. “Know this,” he said, “that it is in the name of Jesus Christ whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, in His name this man stands before you whole!” It was in the name of the crucified and risen Saviour that all the miracles wrought by the Apostles were performed. In the faith of the Resurrection they went forth joyously to labor, to suffer and to die. Seventeen millions of martyrs attested by their blood their faith in the Resurrection. And all that has been done by Christianity for the civilization of the world, for the conversion of nations, for the liberation of slaves, for the elevation of woman, has been accomplished through the faith in the Resurrection.
— Besides these general motives for rejoicing in the Resurrection, dear Rosarians, we have each a special one to gladden us. Christ’s Resurrection is the model and the pledge of your resurrection and mine, provided we be found at the last day faithful to our Master. Among all the nations of the earth there has ever existed some sort of belief in a future state. Hence their care for the dead. Hence the Indians’ devotion to the remains of their departed, and their belief in the happy hunting-ground. Hence the funeral pyre, the cremating of the dead, and the gathering of their ashes into urns by the Greeks and Romans. Hence the embalming of bodies among the Egyptians, and the erection of the Pyramids, as the enduring monuments of their kings. In the Old Law, we read of the care of Abraham for the grave of Sarah, the desires of Jacob and Joseph to be interred with their Fathers — all in the hope of a glorious resurrection. Holy Job said: “For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and in the last day I shall rise out of the earth, and I shall be clothed again with my skin, and in my flesh I shall see my God, Whom I shall myself see, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. This, my hope, is laid up in my bosom.” 4 ” Behold, you who moulder in the dust,” said Isaiah, addressing the dead, “you shall be born again, for the dew which falls on you is vivifying dew.” In a sublime allegory, Ezechiel contemplates a vast plain filled with the dried bones of the dead, which at the preaching of the prophet gradually reentered their mortal bodies, and, beginning to move, being covered with flesh and skin, at last arose, a mighty army of the Lord. Then cried the Almighty through the prophet: ” When ye shall see these things come to pass, know that I am the Lord! ” (Ezechiel 30, 1).
Daniel speaks of the vast multitude who sleep in the earth. All will arise, he says, “some unto life everlasting, and others unto reproach, to see it always. But they that are learned shall shine as the brightness of the firmament” (Daniel 12, 2-3). “Behold,” says St. Paul, “I tell you a great mystery; we shall all rise again, but we shall not all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall rise again incorruptible, and this mortal shall put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15, 51).
It is a dogma of our Faith that all shall arise again. Our Apostles’ Creed declares: “I believe in the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.” But, alas, Faith does not promise to all a glorious resurrection. Those who persevere in a life of sin, who persistently despise here below the Church and her teachings, can never hope for a blessed immortality. “Be not deceived,” says St. Paul to the Galatians, “God is not mocked; for what things a man sow, the same shall he reap; for he that soweth in the flesh, of the flesh shall reap corruption; but he that soweth in the spirit, of the spirit shall reap life everlasting” (Gal. 6, 7). Again, he says: “They that are Christ’s have crucified their flesh, with Its vices and concupiscences.” In another place he declares: “Brethren, we are debtors, not to live according to the flesh, for if we live according to the flesh we shall die; but if, by the spirit, we mortify the deeds of the flesh we shall live” (Rom. 8, 13). Divine Faith, therefore, teaches us that they who continue obstinate enemies of God until the end, will remain His enemies for all eternity. To them we can promise no Easter joy, no glorious resurrection of the body.
You are aware that it is the ardent desire of the Church that all her children who have come to the use of reason should approach the Sacraments during this holy season. For this, her Lenten service, for this, her sermons and instructions. She not only desires this, but with all her divine authority she commands it, threatening with awful punishment those who will not comply with her precept. She declares that they are cut off from the body of the Faithful even as the branch is cut off from the vine. And Jesus tells us Himself that the fruitless branch cut from the vine is dead, and only fit to be cast into the fire. Have you all proved your obedience to Jesus Christ by obeying His Church, and approaching the Sacraments with proper dispositions during the Paschal time which she appoints? We know the words of Jesus Christ: “He who will not hear the Church, let him be considered as the heathen and the publican.” And, again, he declares: “Except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you shall not have life in you“ (John 6, 54).
That Is to say, you may have mere animal life, the life of the beast, the life of the infidel, the life of the lost soul (for the soul must live forever), but you will not have that spiritual, that divine life, which alone comes from our union with God. In the same chapter, Jesus says: “I am the living Bread that comes down from heaven, that if any man eat of this Bread he may not die, but live forever, and the Bread that I will give you is my flesh for the life of the world. Except you eat of this Bread, you shall not have life in you.”
How sad it is to realize that, notwithstanding all that Jesus has done and suffered to unite Himself to us in Holy Communion, there are Catholics who, refusing the life-giving Sacraments, continue to the end His mortal enemies! Let us beg our risen Lord to pity these ungrateful souls and draw them to His Sacred Heart. And, still more, let me implore all the members of the Rosary to be faithful in their compliance with the important precept of the Easter duty.
And, now, a word in conclusion to those who have truly arisen with Our Lord and Saviour by having made a good confession and Communion.
Father Chevassu tells us that there are three typical resurrections mentioned in Holy Writ: The resurrection of Samuel, of Lazarus, and of Our Lord.
* Samuel rose but for a moment, and sank down again, questioning Saul and the witch of Endor why they had disturbed him. His was not the real resurrection. It was a phantom resurrection.
* Lazarus truly rose from the dead, but he came out of the sepulchre in the same sluggish flesh that had already generated the seeds of corruption: and hence death claimed him a second time.
* Jesus Christ died but once, and “death,” says St. Paul, “had no longer dominion over Him“ (Rom 6, 9). He rose to live the divine life of immortality. Behold, here, the model of our spiritual resurrection! Some Catholics rise out of their sins for a moment only, and this generally at Easter, but, like Samuel, they soon sink back again into their deadly slumber. O thers remain firm for a time, but gradually yield. Let us, at least, beloved Rosarians, strive to imitate our Blessed Master. He rose from the dead never to die again. He was never seen in the company of His enemies after His Resurrection. As He shunned them in those blessed days, and appeared only to His disciples, so we, having arisen from the grave of sin, should avoid all evil associations and consort only with the friends of God.
This is the sublime lesson which we should learn from this glorious festival . Like our risen Lord, let us, as St. Paul tells us, walk in the newness of life, that when Christ appears we may also appear with Him in glory. Fleeing resolutely from the occasions of sin as from the face of the serpent, fortified by fervent prayer and the holy Sacraments, let us also gain a glorious victory for God over His enemies and ours. Let us persevere to the end in divine grace; and, following, like true disciples, in the footprints of Our Lord, we may confidently hope to rise with Him to a new life and rejoice with Him and His Blessed Mother in the abode of the saints for a happy eternity.
(From the book of Fr Charles-Hyacinth McKenna, The Treasures of the Rosary, written 1835 ; edited by New-York, P.J. Kenedy and sons, 1917).