In the three days during which Our Lord lay dead, all seemed irremediably lost in the eyes of those who had known Him, with the exception of Mary Most Holy. “He died!” they thought. “They have rolled a stone over the entrance to the sepulchre, and darkness envelopes His Body. All is over; nothing more remains!”
In reality, everything remained. The story of man’s salvation had just begun.
Unspeakable joy of the souls of the just
As soon as the Most Holy Soul of Our Lord separated from His Sacred Body, He appeared to the souls of the just who had been awaiting, some for millennia, the Redemption and the opening of the gates of Heaven.
Let us imagine, if we may, the unspeakable happiness of the souls of Adam and Eve, upon realizing that the sin they had committed, the sin that had caused the decadence of the human race, was at last forgiven and their guilt redeemed! And we can likewise imagine the incomparable joy of so many other righteous souls, patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament gathered there, as they acclaimed the appearance of the One who was freeing them from that long wait.
This encounter must have been an extraordinary spectacle.
“Christ in Limbo,” by Fra Angelico – San Marco Museum, Florence (Italy)
At the worst moments, refuge at the feet of Mary Most Holy
Nevertheless, this spiritual and glorious reality was completely unknown to the Apostles and disciples who had fled during the Passion. On the contrary, they were disheartened, crushed, horror-struck and failed to glimpse any way out of their tragic situation. Each one hid as best he could, hoping that the commotion of the recent events would die down and the normality of everyday life would help him to forget them.
But the designs of Providence were different. We may conjecture that a mysterious work of grace inspired within each of their souls the desire to seek Our Lady and to take shelter under her maternal mantle. At her side – we are always free to surmise – they remained weeping and contrite, still uncertain about the future. Only the Mother of God trusted and prayed, sure of her Divine Son’s triumph over death.
In a manner proper to supernatural things, the fidelity of Mary Most Holy began to affect the tepidity of the Apostles and to awaken, in each of their hearts, sensations, hopes and perceptions of the marvellous grace that lay in store for them. In the midst of the storms of trial, foundations of a new conviction and a new courage were laid in these men’s souls.
That is to say, at the worst moments, they received invaluable graces that prepared them for all that was about to happen, because they took refuge at Our Lady’s feet. United around the Virgin most Faithful, they were made ready to believe in the Resurrection and to open themselves to the great mission to which they had been called.
The most audacious hopes are confirmed
On the morning of the third day, the Divine Redeemer arises in glory and – as the belief of pious authors suggests, although the Gospels do not recount it – He appears first to Our Lady, inundating Her with consolation and happiness. He is entirely radiant, shedding heavenly light about Him like the brilliance of a thousand suns!
He next appears to Mary Magdalene and the other disciples. The Resurrection is already an incontestable fact. The Apostles believe and exult. All of the impasses in their paths were opened and all hopes, even the most daring, were confirmed in the triumph of the Risen Christ. It was a victory that represented at once the affirmation of His entire life and an immense pardon for His disciples.
This was the starting point of an authentic conversion. After several days, they would receive the infusion of the Holy Spirit, each one becoming a pillar of love and fidelity upon which the edifice of the Holy Roman Catholic Church would arise.
A faithful man does not let himself be cast down by setbacks
From the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ and from the aspects associated with it – those that preceded it and those that followed – we can draw certain lessons.
The man moulded according to the spirit of the Divine Master, the man who responds to the graces obtained by Mary’s entreaties, the faithful man who entirely obeys the will of God and whose soul is hewn by the doctrine of the Church, this man enjoys such an inner strength that no disaster, ruin or sadness, no persecution or misery can cast him down and deter him from his apostolic course.
On the contrary, the greater the setbacks, the greater his courage; the more unexpected and untimely the defeats, the greater his will to react; the more terrible the blows he receives, the greater his determination to keep on fighting.
And if he happens to fall prostrate in battle, God, who watches over him and his spiritual descendants, will see to it that disciples be born, from his example and his teaching, who continue his work. And so, from glory to glory, step by step, but from sorrow to sorrow, from suffering to suffering, it is possible to erect works of unimaginable magnitude and beauty.
But these works, born of suffering, fidelity, constancy and the complete gift of self so that God can carry out His will for humanity, are also born of devotion to Our Lady and union with Her, which brings us graces that are unspeakably powerful, profound and invigorating.
Joy that prepares us for new trials
Another lesson given us by Our Lord’s triumph over death comes from the joyful celebrations that commemorate it.
The pomp of the splendid and brilliant Liturgy of the Easter Vigil and Resurrection Sunday tell us of all the legitimate and even glorious joys that a member of the faithful can enjoy in his life.
Moreover, the mission and the labours of the converted Apostles teach us that there is no joy that leads the faithful man astray from the path of suffering; there is no happiness that makes him soft, that diverts him from the austerity with which he treads the path of Heaven. On the contrary, since this joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, man comes out of this day of celebration and glory better disposed to endure all the humiliations, all the sorrows and all the sacrifices necessary for the great salvation battle that lies before him.
For this reason, as we celebrate Easter, we must ask the risen Jesus, through Our Lady’s mediation, for the strength of spirit needed so that no trial will lead us to despair, nor any glory to laxity.
Thus, following this path of sufferings that do not lead to discouragement and of triumphs that do not diminish our vigilance, we shall at last reach the imperishable glory of Heaven, by the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ our Redeemer, and by the entreaties of Mary Most Holy, our Mother, to whose prayers we owe so much. ◊
Taken, with slight adaptations,
from: Dr. Plinio. São Paulo. Year XI.
No.120 (March, 2008); p.18-21
The Victory of the Immortal Church
The regularity with which the cycles of the liturgical year follow one another in the Church’s calendar, unperturbed in their succession by the changing events of human history, as the ebb and flow of politics and finance continues its disorderly course, is an apt affirmation of the Church’s heavenly majesty, far above the capricious fluctuations of human passions.
The resurrected Christ – Cathedral of Santa Maria la Real, Pamplona (Spain)
Far above, but not indifferent. When the sorrowful days of Holy Week unfold during peaceful and happy times in history, the Church, like a solicitous Mother, makes use of them to revive self-denial in her children, along with the sense of heroic suffering, the spirit of renunciation of daily trivialities and entire commitment to worthy ideals that lend a higher meaning to human life. More than “a higher meaning,” it is the only meaning that life has: the Christian meaning.
But the Church is not only a Mother when she teaches us the great austere mission of suffering. She is also Mother when, in the extremes of sorrow and annihilation, she makes the light of Christian hope shine in our sight, opening to us the serene horizons that the virtue of confidence places before the eyes of all true children of God.
Thus, even amid the infelicities of the contemporary context, Holy Church makes use of the vibrant and chaste joys of Easter to give us the triumphal certainty that God is the supreme Lord of all things, that His Christ is the King of Glory, who has conquered death and crushed the devil, that His Church is a Queen of immense majesty, capable of arising from any ruins, of dispelling every darkness and shining with the most brilliant triumph at the very moment when the most terrible, the most irremediable defeat seemed to await her.
The joy and sorrow of the soul inevitably stem from love. Man rejoices when he has what he loves, and grieves when what he loves is lacking.
Our Lady of the Resurrection – Tabor Formation House, Caieiras (Brazil)
Contemporary man pours out all his love into superficial things, and so he is only moved by events that play out on the surface – on that surface closest to his little person. Thus, he is primarily engrossed with his own personal and superficial misfortunes: his declining health, failing finances, ungrateful friends, overdue promotions, etc. But in fact, all of this is secondary for the true Catholic who is concerned before all else with the greater glory of God, and thus for the salvation of his own soul and the exaltation of the Church.
Therefore, the greatest suffering of the Catholic must be the present state of Holy Church.
Without a doubt, this situation offers many consolations. Nevertheless, it would be erroneous to deny that the general apostasy of nations continues in a frightening crescendo; that the trend towards paganism is advancing vertiginously in those heretical or schismatic nations which still retain some remnants of Christian substance. In the Catholic ranks themselves, alongside a promising rebirth, one can observe the progressive march of neo-paganism: customs become depraved, families are limited, Protestant and spiritist sects abound.
Despite so many motives for sadness, motives which perhaps presage a catastrophe not far off for the whole world, Christian hope lives on. And the reason for this is taught to us by the very feast of Easter.
When Our Lord Jesus Christ died, the Jews sealed His tomb, stationed solders to guard it, and thought that everything was finished.
In their impiety, they denied that Our Lord was the Son of God, that He was able to destroy the sepulchral prison in which He lay, that He was, above all, able to pass from death to life. And yet all of this happened. Our Lord resurrected without any human aid, and the heavy stone of the tomb was removed at His command, as lightly and swiftly as a cloud. And He arose.
Likewise, the immortal Church may appear to be abandoned, besmirched, persecuted. She may lie, seemingly defeated under the sepulchral weight of the most grievous trials. But within herself she has an interior and supernatural strength that comes from God, and that assures her of a victory whose splendour is commensurate with its unexpectedness and totality.
This is the great lesson of today, the great consolation for upright men who love God’s Church above all else:
Christ died and rose again.
The immortal Church rises again from her trials, glorious like Christ, in the radiant dawn of His Resurrection. ◊
Taken from: Easter.
In: Legionário. São Paulo. Year XVIII.
No.660 (April 1, 1945); p.2