The Resurrection of our Lord – Day of Illumination
“The winter is now past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers have appeared, the time of pruning is come, the voice of the turtle is heard in our land” [Cant. 2:11-12].
They who sow in tears shall reap in joy. After a time of sorrow patiently endured for God, there comes a time of consolation and reward. The dolors of the Blessed Virgin were only her steps to endless glory when, after having suffered with Christ, she received power to arise and reign with Him. Following, therefore, the course of her holy life, we are to consider some of her glories, by which, before the whole universe, she obtained a reward for her virtues. The days of our Lord’s Passion were over. His sacred body rested in the sepulcher, guarded by Roman soldiers. His holy soul was in the chamber of the fathers, preaching to the spirits in prison, and preparing the saints of the old law for their triumphant entry into Heaven. A night, and a day, and a night intervened, and Mary kept watch for the accomplishment of His promise. Sleep never visited her eyes. She was waiting in anxious suspense for the third day. The great feast of the Passover had lost its significance for her, for now the true paschal lamb had been sacrificed, and His flesh had been given for the life of the world. Figures and shadows had given place to the reality. The first morning watch of the third day found her on her way to the sepulcher. The whole city was buried in sleep, and even the holy women had not arisen, as they were waiting for the beginning of the dawn. She went alone in the darkness to anticipate the hour and to welcome her Son at His first rising. Her way led her over Mount Calvary. The crosses were still standing, and before them she knelt to adore the saving word, still red with the blood of her Son. Then she goes towards the sepulcher, and patiently waits for the appointed hour. The guards are walking before the tomb, and Pilate’s seal is still unbroken. All around her are the open graves which the earthquake at the death of Jesus had unclosed. These were the graves of many of the elder saints, for tradition tells us that our first father, Adam, and many of the patriarchs, were buried on this holy mountain. Here therefore, watched the Virgin Mother, recalling the past, meditating upon the plan of redemption, and tracing its course from man’s fall through the promises made to the fathers, and the revelations given to the prophets. She was the queen of all those just souls who were now to find their perfection. While she is thus contemplating the adorable ways of God, suddenly the faintest tinge of light touches the eastern horizon, and instantly there is heard the rumbling of an earthquake. The whole city is shaken, and the rock is rolled away from the door of the sepulcher. The guards are alarmed, and look on with anxious fear, when suddenly through the open door our Lord appears surrounded with hosts of adoring angels. The soldiers fall upon their faces and become like dead men, and the heavenly army takes their place as keepers of the sepulcher. Jesus has put off the garments of corruption, and is clothed with incorruption. He has put off the ignominy of death, and has put on the vesture of eternal glory. His face is more dazzling than the sun, and His form more glistening than the brightest gems of earth. Mary looks up for her share in this glory, and behold He runs to meet her, and once more folds her in His embrace. She looks once more upon His face, and never did His infant beauty seem so ravishing. She seeks for the glow of health, and behold the precious Blood flows again in its wonted channels, and the vigor of undying youth gleams in all His features. She looks at His wounds, and they are open still, but celestial light is beaming from them. A blissful ecstasy comes over her, and she seems to be in Heaven listening to the song of cherubim and seraphim, and hearing from her Son’s lips the triumph of the resurrection. While thus she rejoices in the glory of Jesus, behold from the open graves ascend the bodies of them that slept in faith. They draw near the second Adam, and kneel at His feet. Prophets and kings now see Him Whom they so long desired, and bear witness to the power of His victory over death. The soul of Mary is overwhelmed with light, and all the ways of redemption are now unveiled before her. Soon the bright vision vanishes, and Jesus guides His Mother to her home at the house of St. John. He has yet to appear to Magdalen and the holy women, to Peter and the Apostles, who were to be witnesses of His resurrection. Yet who could tell the Virgin’s part in the glory of that day! She was buried with her Son, and now she shares in His great victory. She rejoices to see the sacred Humanity clothed with its own proper glory, and to see the reward for all its ignominy. He Who was so marred by the Passion as to lose all form and comeliness, has now recovered His likeness to her, and shines with all the beauty of Heaven. This is her consolation, but this is not the beginning of her joy. She looks upon death and the grave, and sees that their terrors are gone. Beside the sepulcher lies the broken iron scepter, and the crown of the enemy is shivered to pieces. She sees the resurrection of the just, in the likeness and in the glory of her Son. She looks upon the spiritual resurrection of souls, and sees how the dead in sin are to be quickened to new life by the power of this day. That open sepulcher is to her the entrance of Heaven, and the light which beams from it shines up to the gates of the celestial city. There is no more night for her. Her whole soul is illumined, and even she, in her perfection, makes a grand ascension towards God, and with her rising Son, draws nearer to the center of all light and grace and bliss. The wounded heart is made whole, and the broken spirit is healed.
If we would participate in Mary’s joy, we must, like her, wait upon the Lord, and like her be faithful in the day of trial. God waits to pour upon us His grace, and to fill us with His Spirit. If we would be illumined in every part, so that from us all darkness should flee away, then must we yield a ready obedience to that Spirit while He seeks to cast out of our souls all the dross of the old Adam, and to animate us with the power of the Resurrection and the Life. And if we would rise with Christ, then the attachments of earth must lose their power, and the spirit must be free to mount upward in the way which He has spread for us. Let us pray to the glorious Mother to give us a part in the light of the Resurrection.