And after these things, Joseph of Arimathea (because he was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews) besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus. And Pilate gave leave. He came, therefore, and took away the Body of Jesus.
And Nicodemus also came, (he who at the first came to Jesus by night,) bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pound weight.
They took therefore the Body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths, with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.
Now there was in the place where he was crucified, a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein no man had been laid. There, therefore, because of the parasceve of the Jews, they laid Jesus, because the sepulchre was night at hand. (Jn. 19:38-42)
Joseph of Arimathea besought Pilate secretly for the Body of Our Lord after It has been taken down from the wood of the Holy Cross. It was placed in a new tomb that he had hewn out of stone. Our Lady prepared the Body of her Divine Son for burial in Joseph’s tomb. The One known as the Son of Joseph of Nazareth, the carpenter, was buried in a tomb given to him by Joseph of Arimathea, who watched as Our Lady, who had wrapped her newborn Babe in swaddling clothes, wrapped the same Son’s lifeless, dead body in the burial shroud that covered Him for forty hours. Born in a cave, buried in a cave. Born in poverty, died in ignominy. Born amidst the stench of barn animals in Bethlehem to die amidst the stench of the blood and excrement of Golgotha. And now, buried in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb, the world believed, mistakenly of course, that they were done with Him forever.
Father Frederick Faber’s reflection on the Seventh Dolor of Our Lady, the Burial of her Divine Son, Our Blessed Lord and Jesus Christ, contained in The The Foot of the Cross (published originally in England in 1857 under the title of The Dolors of Mary) is quite appropriate for this day of anticipating after a night of keeping watch at the sealed tomb:
Since there are so many resemblances between the seventh dolor and the third, it is not surprising that they should in some respect teach the same lessons. We learn form this last sorrow that there is no darkness like the darkness of a world without Jesus, such as Mary’s world was on that fearful night. It is darker than the darkness of Calvary; for that is a darkness which cheers, refreshes, and inspires. Jesus is there. He is the very heart of that darkness. He is felt more plainly than if He were seen. He is heard more distinctly because all is so dark about Him, and other sounds are hushed by the gloom. It is like being in the cloud with God, as tried souls often are. It is truly a darkness, and brings with it the pain of darkness; yet there is hardly a loving soul on earth to whom such darkness would not be more welcome far than light. But the darkness of the absence of Jesus is, at it were, a participation in the most grievous pain of hell. If it is by our own fault, then it is the greatest of sorrows. If it is a trial from God, then it is the greatest of sufferings. In either case we must not let the light of the world tempt us out of the darkness. In such a gloom it is indeed dreadful to abide; but the consequences of leaving it by our self-will are more dreadful still. It is not safe there to think of creatures. We must think of God only. It is the sanctuary of “God Alone,” the motto of saints and of the saintly. We must deal only with the supernatural and leave Him who brought us there, whether for chastisement or fervor, to take us out when it shall be His will. Meanwhile we should unite ourselves to the dispositions in which Mary endured her seventh dolor, and this will bring us into closer union with God.
One more lesson still she teaches. She did her work in the world, as it were, with all her heart; and yet her heart was not there, but in the tomb with Jesus. This is the grand work which sorrow does for all of us. It entombs us in the will of God. It buries our love, together with our sorrow, in the Blessed Sacrament. Sorrow is, as it were, the missionary of the Divine will. It is the prince of the apostles. The Church is built upon it. The gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Our Lord is with it always to the end. It is sorrow that digs the grave of self, and blesses it, and burns incense in it, and buries self therein, and fills it up, and makes the flowers grow upon the tomb. The great secret of holiness is never to have our hearts in our own breasts, but living and beating in the Heart of Jesus; and this can rarely be accomplished except through the operation of sanctified sorrow. Happy, therefore, is he who has a sorrow at all hours to sanctify!
We have now brought our Blessed Mother to the threshold of those mysterious fifteen years which followed her dolors and the Ascension of our Lord. She began with fifteen years without Him, and so in like manner she ended without Him. Only as in the first fifteen years the image of the Messias was engraven upon her heart, and the shadow of His coming lay over all her growths in holiness, so in the last fifteen years he dwelt bodily within her in the unconsumed Blessed Sacrament, from Communion to Communion, and was the living fountain of all those nameless and unimaginable growths in holiness which, during that time, went on within her soul. The destiny of the Mother of God was a destiny of unutterable sorrow, exhausting at once the possibilities of woe and the capabilities of the creature. This might be expected, since it was by sorrow, shame and the Passion that the Incarnate God came to save the world. The dolors of our Blessed Lady, therefore, are inseparable from her divine Maternity. They ate not accidents of her life, one way out of many ways in which God might have chosen to sanctify her. They were inevitable to her as Mother of God, of God who took flesh and to die. Thus, rightly considered, Mary’s dolor are Mary’s self. Her first fifteen years, commencing with the Immaculate Conception, were a preparation for her dolors. Her last fifteen years, commencing with the descent of the Holy Ghost, were the maturity of her dolors. During them her sea of sorrow settled till it became a clear, profound, translucent depth of unmingled love, whose last act of taking the tranquil plenitude of possession of its glorious victim was the dislodging of her soul from her body, by the most marvellous and beautiful death which creature could ever die. Such an edifice of sorrow as the Divine Motherhood was to bring along with it could not rest on foundations less broad and deep than the immeasurable graces of her last fifteen years. What, then, must have been the grandeur of the graces which came upon that edifice when it was completed, and were its domes and towers, and pinnacles? We have often wondered what could be done to Mary, in the way of sanctification, at the descent of the Holy Ghost? What was left to do? In what direction was she to grow? The mere fact of the delaying of the Assumption meant something; and what could it have meant but increase of holiness and multiplication of grace? It she was kept on earth to nurse the Infant Church, as she had nursed the Infant Saviour, to be herself a living Bethlehem, with the Blessed Sacrament forever in her, and her queenship of the apostles and external ministry of Bethlehem to the childhood of the Church, still, untold and incalculable augmentations of grace and merit are implied in the very office, as well as in the fact that it was God’s Mother who fulfilled the office. It was her dolors which opened out in her soul fresh abysses for eager grace to fill. It was the dolors which rendered her capable of that other new creation of grace in the descent of the Holy Ghost. His graces are absolutely inexhaustible: her capacities of grace are practically inexhaustible, to our limited comprehension. Her martyrdom prepared her for those ineffable augmentations of grace and merit which were compressed into her last fifteen years. Thus her dolors are, at it were, the centre of her holiness. They reveal Mary to us as she was in herself more than any other of her mysteries. Indeed, they are hardly to be called mysteries; they are more than that: they are her life, her self, her maternity. They enable us to understand her holiness. They help us to see that what theologians say of the momentary accumulation of her merits is not to incredible as it often seems to those who have not loved and meditated their way into Mary’s greatness. There is nothing about Mary which units in itself so Mary of Mary’s part in the Incarnation, of her own peculiar personal holiness, and of her similitude to God, as the system of her dolors. They are at once the plainest and the completest as well as the most tender an pathetic revelation of the Mother of God.As her first fifteen years were secret, so were her last fifteen; but over the marvellous processes of grace, which fill them both lies the shadow of her dolors, the shadow of a coming time in the one case, the shadow of of a lofty mountainous past in the other. He who would learn Mary must enter into her broken heart to do so. It is the “dolorous Mother” who illuminates the Immaculate Conception on the one side and the fair pomp of the Assumption on the other.
Look once more at the great Mother, as she leaves the garden of the sepulchre. Eve going forth from Eden was not more sorrow-laden, and bore with her into the unpeopled earth a heart less broken and less desolate. That woe-worn woman is the strength of the Church, the queen of the apostles, the true mother of all that outspread the world, over which the blue mantle of darkness is falling fast and silently. Sleep on, tired world! sleep on, beneath the paschal moon and the stars that are brightening as it sets; they mother’s heart watches and waits for thee! (Father Frederick Faber, The Foot of the Cross, published originally in England in 1857 under the title of The Dolors of Mary, republished by TAN Books and Publishers, pp. 363-367.)
We have now to speak of our compassion with Mary as an imitation of her Compassion with Jesus, or, in other words, of our compassion with her as itself a worship of Jesus and a true compassion with Him. First of all, devotion to our Blessed Lady is most acceptable to our Lord Himself. We quoted in the first chapter His revelation to the Blessed Veronica of Binasaco, in which He told her that tears shed over His Mother’s sorrows were more precious in His sight than tears shed in memory of His own. We may perhaps venture to explain this as teaching us, what appears to be certainly true in itself, that devotion to the seven dolors brings with it by a kind of necessity devotion to the Passion, whereas devotion to the Passion does not seem so necessarily to include devotion to the dolors. Devotion to the Passion, in which the right place and participation are not assigned to Mary, is not a scriptural devotion; and in many ways, it would be out of place to enter upon here, it betokens an imperfect and unworthy view of the Passion itself. Yet it is not uncommon to meet with this partial devotion, and it rather tends to keep devotion to the Dolors at arms’-length than to lead to it. It is based upon that untheological mistake, which some deceive themselves into thinking a theological nicety and a controversial felicity, namely, a sort of jealous, ignorant accuracy in keeping Jesus and Mary apart, and not letting one intrude on the sphere of the other, as if to speak as slightingly as they dare of the Mother of God would make truth more attractive in the eyes of a misbelieving world, to which the incredible abasement of Jesus in His Sacrament is already a far greater stumbling-block than the incredible exaltation of His Mother. On the other hand, we see that devotion to the dolors brings with it as its invariable practical result a deep, tender, accurate, minute and reverential devotion to the Passion. Again, we may venture to read in our Lord’s words a loving intent ot have reparation made to Mary for her Compassion, just a her Compassion was the grand reparation of His Passion. By inspiring saints and religious orders with this devotion, and sending forth His mighty grace and efficacious blessing to accompany it, He repays her for the beautiful reparation of her Compassion. But whatever other meanings there may be in this revelation to the Blessed Veronica, and although its force as a revelation was, as in all private revelations, intended for herself, it proves at least as much as this, that the devotion to our Lady’s dolors is one of peculiar acceptableness in the eyes of our Blessed Saviour.
This devotion has also a remarkable connection with great interior holiness. This is proved by experience. Neither is it to be wondered at. For it is a devotion which naturally makes us unworldly, because we live and breathe in an atmosphere of sorrow. It brings out the unreality of worldly joys. It sobers our thoughts. It keeps them close to Jesus Christ, and to Him crucified. It communicates to our souls the spirit of the Cross, and the enviable gift of love of suffering full often begins in a prayerful familiarity with the sorrows of our Blessed Mother. More than most devotions it tends to supernaturalize the mind, because it keeps us in a sphere of heavenly beauty, whose look and odor gradually pass upon ourselves. It is a sphere in which the most wonderful divine operations mingle with the common woes and sorrows of a suffering world, and so it expresses that union of self-abasement and self-oblivion in which all the greater graces of the spiritual life take root. Moreover, the prevailing ideas to which it weds our minds are just those which are the most solid and essential in any preserving endeavors after holiness. For it unites us to an abiding sorrow for sin, sin over which Mary sorrowed, sin of our own which was actually present and influential in both those sorrows, wronging at once the Mother and the Son. It equally unites us to the perpetual sense of needing grace, of absolute dependence upon grace, and of that ready abundance of grace on which our filial confidence reposes. It is all stained with the Precious Blood; and thus it puts us into the very depths of our Saviour’s Sacred Heart. There is no soul which worldliness finds it harder to attack than one which is entrenched within the dolors of our Blessed Lady. There is nothing which the world can graft itself upon in that devotion. There is nothing congenial to the spirit and way of the world in it, nothing even which the world can falsify for its own ends or fraudulently divert for its own purposes. Moreover, it was in the dolors that the grandeurs of Mary’s sanctity were fabricated, and fabricated out of materials which in their degree are common to every one of us her sons and daughters. It is hard to live in the bosom of great examples and be uninfluenced by them. The lessons which the dolors teach us are wanted at almost every turn of life, and are most appropriate to be the very seasons when grace is wont to be most active in us; and they are imparted with such loving tenderness, with such pathetic simplicity, and in the midst of such countless similitudes between our sinless Mother and our sinful selves, that it is difficult to conceive of a school in which so much heavenly wisdom is taught so winningly as in the Compassion of Mary.
Furthermore, this devotion to the dolors of Mary is reckoned by theologians among the signs of predestination. Certainly a special attraction of grace is a sweet prophecy of our final perseverance; and it is by a special attention of grace that we addict ourselves to this devotion. Perhaps our Lord’s revelation to St. John the Evangelist, cited in the first chapter, of the four graces which it was His blessed will to attach to this devotion, one of which concerned the gift of perfect contrition before death, may have led to its being included in the catalogue of signs of predestination. For sorrow for sin is well-nigh the queen of graces, enclosing as it does within itself the grace and more than the grace of sacraments. Contrition is nearest of kin to perseverance, and the promise of our Lady’s assistance at the hour of death is not far removed from an assurance of our salvation. Cartagena says, “A man may put before himself, as the most assured sign of predestination, the fact that he has had compassion for this most afflicted Mother; for the ancients tell us that it was conceded to the Blessed Virgin by Christ the Lord, that whoever should revolve in his mind her maternal dolors might be sure of impetrating any favor which concerned the salvation of his soul, and especially the grace of true penance for his sins before death.”
Thus also devotion to the dolors is one of the best preparations for death, not only because of the precise graces promised to it in the hour of death, but also because it concerns our Lady’s ministry to our Lord at the hour of His blessed death. Hence there is a congruity between this devotion and death. And, after all, what should life be but a preparation for death? And what graces should more attract our humility than those which promise us their succor in that tremendous hour? Alas! it is not for such as we are to look forward to death with triumph, or even with impatience. We are not saints. Triumph therefore would be unseemly in us, and impatience is surely premature. It is enough for us, in our low attainments, to be content to die, and to fear bravely that which are are contented to endure. Fine words are easy, and love is very profuse of them, when we are not tempted, and when God is flooding us with that inward sweetness which gives us such a facility in prayer. But when we are tempted, we grow silent; and when to our temptation is added spiritual dryness, querulousness and peevishness are added to our silence. We are soon prostrated; and we learn thereby the good lesson of our own real inward misery and helplessness. But if dryness and temptation brings such changes, what will death bring? It will bring such an unutterable, speechless, terrified, agonizing necessity of grace as it is appalling to think of when we bend our thoughts seriously to it. What will a devotion be worth to us, then, which has two special deathbed promises attached to it! Gold and pearls could not reckon its price. But the devotion must have been a lifetime devotion in order legally to inherit the deathbed promises. (Father Frederick Faber, The Foot of the Cross, published originally in England in 1857 under the title of The Dolors of Mary, republished by TAN Books and Publishers, pp, 394-398.)
Our Lady had to walk away from the tomb where the Sacred Body of her Divine Son had been laid to rest. She was without her Son for the first time since the Incarnation. She kept a vigilant watch in prayer. So must we. At all times! We must beseech her to never imitate the fear of the Jews that Joseph of Arimathea and the Eleven Apostles had during the forty hours of her Divine Son’s burial. We must proclaim our Faith in Christ the King openly and unabashedly as we make no concessions at all to the ethos of conciliarism or to the nonexistent legitimacy of its false shepherds.
Indeed, Joseph of Arimathea, who assisted Our Lady at the burial of her Divine Son in the new tomb that he had hewn out of stone, was very much afraid of the Jews who had served as the human instruments of how our own sins put the God-Man to death. So were the Apostles themselves, who hid in fright during the forty hours between the death of Our Lord and His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. We must be patient this day, maintaining a vigilance in prayer, as we recall the fact that all of the souls of the just who had died before Our Lord re-opened the Gates of Heaven by His Redemptive Act on Calvary had waited many, many years for Him to bring them out of their limbo following His Passion and Death. We must be patient as we await the glories of the Easter Season, and as we await Our Lord coming for us when we breathe our last here in this vale of tears.
An ancient Holy Saturday sermon describes Our Lord’s descent into the place where all of the souls of the just awaited His rescue following His Redemptive Act on the wood of the Holy Cross:
Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.
He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all”. Christ answered him: “And with your spirit”. He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light”.
I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.
See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.
I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.
Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.
The Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich explained much the same thing in her The Dolorous Passion of the Christ:
When Jesus, after uttering a loud cry, expired, I saw his heavenly soul under the form of a bright meteor pierce the earth at the foot of the Cross, accompanied by the angel Gabriel and many other angels. His Divine nature continued untied to his soul as well as to his body, which still remained hanging upon the Cross, but I cannot explain how this way, although I saw it plainly in my own mind. The place into which the soul of Jesus entered was divided into three parts, which appeared to me like three worlds; and I felt that they were round, and that each division was separated from the other by a hemisphere.
I beheld a bright and beautiful space opposite to Limbo; it was enamelled with flowers, delicious breezes wafted through it; and many souls were placed there before being admitted into Heaven after their deliverance from Purgatory. Limbo, the place where the souls were waiting for the Redemption, was divided into different compartments, and encompassed by a thick foggy atmosphere. Our Lord appeared radiant with light and surrounded by angels, who conducted him triumphantly between two of these compartments; the one on the left containing the patriarchs who lived before the time of Abraham, and that on the right those who lived between the days of Abraham and St. John Baptist. These soul did not at first recognise Jesus but were filled nevertheless with sensations of joy and hope. There was not a spot in those narrow confines which did not, as it were, dilate with feelings of happiness. The passage of Jesus might be compared to the wafting of a breath of air, to a sudden flash of light, or to a shower of vivifying dew, but it was swift as a whirlwind. After passing through the two compartments, he reached a dark spot in which Adam and Eve were standing; he spoke to them, they prostrated and adore him in a perfect ecstasy of joy, and they immediately joined the band of angels, and accompanied our Lord to the compartment on the left, which contained the patriarchs who lived before Abraham. This compartment was a species of Purgatory, and a few evil spirits were wandering about among the souls and endeavouring to fill them with anxiety and alarm. The entrance through the species of door was closed, but the angels rapped, and I thought I heard them say, ‘Open these doors.’ When Jesus entered in triumph the demons dispersed, crying out at the same time, ‘What is there between thee and us? What art thou come to do here? Wilt thou crucify us likewise?’ The angels hunted them away, having first chained them. The poor souls confined in the place had only a slight presentiment and vague idea of the presence of Jesus; but the moment he told them that it was he himself, they burst out in acclamations of joy, and welcomed him with hymns of rapture and delight. The soul of our Lord then wended its way to the right, towards that part which really constituted Limbo; and there he met the soul of the good thief which angels were carrying to Abraham’s bosom, as also that of the bad thief being dragged by the demons into Hell. Our Lord addressed a few words to both, and then entered Abraham’s bosom, accompanied by numerous angels and holy souls, and also by those demons who had been chained and expelled from the compartment.
This locality appeared to me more elevated than the surrounding parts; and I can only describe my sensations on entering it, by comparing them to those of a person coming suddenly into the interior of a church, after having been for some time in the burial vaults. The demons, who were strongly chained, were extremely loath to enter, and resisted to the utmost of their power but the angels compelled them to go forward. All the just who had lived before the time of Christ were assembled there; the patriarchs, Moses, the judges, and the kings on the left-hand side; and on the right side, the prophets, and the ancestors of our Lord, as also his near relations, such as Joachim, Anna, Joseph, Zacaharias, Elizabeth, and John. There were no demons in this place, and the only discomfort that had been felt by those placed there was a longing desire for the accomplishment of the promise; and when our Lord entered they saluted him with joyful hymns of gratitude and thanksgiving for its fulfillment, they prostrated and adored him, and the evil spirits who had been dragged into Abraham’s bosom when our Lord entered were compelled to confess with shame that they were vanquished. Many of these holy souls were ordered by our Lord to return to earth, re-enter their own bodies, and thus render a solemn and impressive testimony to the truth. It was at this moment that so many dead persons left their tombs in Jerusalem; I regard ed them less in the light of dead persons risen again than as corpses put in motion by a divine power, and which, after having fulfilled the mission entrusted to them, were laid aside in the same manner as the insignia of office are taken off by a clerk when he has executed the orders of his superiors.
The Apostles were hiding in fright as Our Lord descended to rescue the souls of the just. Like Apostles before us, we are to hide ourselves from the world, so to speak, as we, who have been blessed with the gift of the true Faith, anticipate the Holy Saturday Mass, whether it is offered in the morning (as it was traditionally from the Eleventh Century until 1951–and is still offered thusly in some traditional Catholic venues–or in the evening with a Mass that ends early on Easter Sunday morning in most cases. For Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the new Moses, has led us through the night of slavery to sin to the beginning of an eternal day, the day of the Resurrection, Easter. He is the Light of the world. That is why a fire is lit in the traditional rite outside of Catholic churches this day, Holy Saturday. That is why an Easter Vigil candle will be lit in every sanctuary in every Catholic church this day–and will remain lit for the next fifty days. The Light Who is Jesus Christ wants us to understand that the Easter Vigil is held to commemorate the fact that the powers of sin and death were destroyed forever. This is the night that is to give us hope in the midst of our darkest trial.
The spirit exhibited by Our Lady as she awaited the Resurrection of her Divine Son ought to characterize each of our spirits as we await the changing of the vestments from purple to the white or gold marking the beginning of the Easter season in the Easter Vigil.
The fullness of wisdom in the soul of our great Queen and Lady amid all her sorrows permitted no defect or remissness in noticing and attending to all the duties of each occasion and at all times. By this heavenly foresight She met her obligations and practiced the highest and most eminent of all the virtues. As I have said, the Queen retired, after the burial of Christ, to the house of the Cenacle. Remaining in the hall of the last Supper in the company of saint John, the Marys, and the other women who had followed Christ from Galilee, She spoke to them and the Apostle, thanking them in profound humility and abundant tears for persevering with Her up to this time throughout the Passion of her beloved Son and promising them in his name the reward of having followed Him with so much constancy and devotion. At the same time She offered Herself as a servant and as a friend to those holy women. All of them with Saint John acknowledged this great favor, kissed her hands and asked for her blessing. They also begged her to take some rest and some bodily refreshment. But the Queen answered: “My rest and my consolation shall be to see my Son and Lord arisen your wants according to your necessities, while I retire alone with my Son.”
744. Thereupon She retired with saint John and being with him alone, She fell upon her knees and said: “Do thou not forget the words which my Son spoke to us on the Cross. He condescended to call thee my son, and me thy mother. Thou art my master, art priest of the Most High; and on account of this dignity, it is meet that I obey thee in all that I am to do; and from this hour I wish that thou order and command me in all things, remembering that I shall always be thy servant and that all my joy shall be to serve thee as such until my death.” This the Lady said with many tears. And among many other things, the Apostle said : “My Mistress and Mother of the Redeemer and Lord, I am the one who should be subject to thy authority, for the name of a son implies devotion and subjection to his mother. He that has made me priest, has made Thee his Mother and was subject to thy authority, though He was the Creator of the universe (Luke 2, 51). It is reasonable that I should likewise be so, and that I labor with all my powers to make myself worthy of the office He has conferred upon me, to serve Thee as thy son, for which I would desire to be rather an angel than a creature of earth” This answer of the Apostle was most appropriate; but it did not avail to overcome the humility of the Mother of virtues, who answered: “My son John, my consolation shall be to obey thee as my superior, since such thou art. In this life I must always have a superior, to whom I can render my will in obedience: for this purpose thou art the minister of the Most High, and as my son thou owest me this as a consolation in my solitude.” “Let then thy will be done, my Mother,” said saint John, “for m this lies my own security.” Without further answer the heavenly Mother then asked permission to remain alone in meditating on the mysteries of her divine Son; and She asked him also to provide some refreshment for the holy women, who had accompanied Her, and that he assist them and console them. She reserved only the Marys, because they wished to persevere in their fast until they should see the Lord arisen; and She asked saint John to allow them to fulfill their pious desire. (The Venerable Mary of Agreda, The Mystical City of God, Volume III: The Transfixion, pp. 714-716.)
Our Lady prayed through the dark forty hours of her Divine Son’s burial following His death on the wood of the Holy Cross to redeem us. We must do the same as we see the lighted Easter Candle for the year 2010 held high as the priest chants Lumen Christi, the Light of Christ. We must follow this Light always, never extinguishing it by means of a deliberate Mortal Sin.
As Dom Prosper Gueranger noted in The Liturgical Year:
It is fitting, therefore, that this fire which is to provide light for the Paschal candle, as well as for those that are upon the altar, should receive a special blessing, and be triumphantly shown to the faithful. All the lamps in the church have been extinguished. Formerly, the faithful used to put out the fires in their houses, before going to the church; they lighted them on their return, with light taken from the blessed fire, which they received as a symbol of our Lord’s Resurrection. Let us not here omit to notice, that the putting out of all the lights in the church is a symbol of the abrogation of the old Law, which ended with the rending of the veil of the temple; and that the new fire represents the preaching of the new Law, whereby our Lord Jesus Christ, the light of the world, fulfilled all the figures of the ancient Covenant.
Each day is a re-creation of salvation history. We arise in the morning, symbolic of God’s creation of the world at the beginning of time. We go about our business during the course of the day, symbolic of the “hidden years” Our Lord spent in Nazareth before He assumed His Public Ministry. We eat and drink to feed our bodies, symbolic of the nourishment we receive from the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. And we go to bed at night, symbolic of the fact that our bodies will one day be put to rest in the dust of the earth. We go through this routine day in and day out. In fact, the routine can dull our senses, leaving those who lack an interior life of prayer and total consecration to Our Blessed Mother’s Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart positively hopeless about the meaning of human existence.
Even faithful Catholics can let the difficulties, both ecclesiastical and civil, that exist in our times discourage them. We can thus lose sight of the fact that God has not abandoned His Church collectively or us individually, that we are being led by a column of fire to our true home, Heaven, through the midst of our desert journey here on the face of this earth. Just as our spiritual ancestors, the Hebrews, were guided in their desert journey by a column of fire to light their way to the Promised Land of Canaan, so are we being led by the fire, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Whose burning love desires to illumine and warm our path on the rocky road that leads to the narrow gate of eternal life. This day, Holy Saturday, reminds us quite particularly to be patient in the midst of our sufferings and difficulties, understanding that Our Lady uses absolutely everything we give as her consecrated slaves in ways that may only become manifest to us in eternity. Holy Saturday is really a simile for the “forty hours” of life, if you will, in which we are called to have complete and total childlike trust in Our Lord and His Blessed Mother, realizing that the graces won for us on Calvary are more than sufficient to handle whatever crosses we are asked to bear in our own lives and in the larger life of the Church and the world.
Yes, we wake, work, eat and drink, sleep. But, please God it is His holy will for us to rise the next morning after going to sleep the previous evening, we shall repeat the pattern all over again, giving all to Our Lady from the moment we arise until the moment we go to sleep. The ancient liturgy of the Easter Vigil reminds us that each morning is not only symbolic of the creation of the world; it is symbolic of mankind’s re-creation on the Holy Cross. It is symbolic of the fact that our bodies will rise up incorrupt and glorious on the Last Day to be reunited with our souls if we cooperate with Our Lord’s Easter victory over sin and death that we anticipate this evening with rightful jubilation. Our Lord wants to take each one of us through the Gates of Heaven that He had reopened on Good Friday.
The price of admission through those Gates has been paid by the shedding of Our Lord’s Most Precious Blood. The price of admission through those Gates has been paid as well by the piercing of Our Lady’s Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart. She, who was given to us to be our Mother by her Divine Son as he hung on the Cross, wants each one of us to rise from our tombs as her Son did. But we can only avail ourselves of admission if, signed by the Blood of the Passover Lamb Who is Our Lord, we follow the column of the cloud of fire which He wants to ignite anew each day in the life of each person through the Church born of the Blood and Water which poured forth from His Wounded Side. It is by following the One Whose five wounds are configured on the new Easter Candle that we will be prepared to celebrate Easter Sunday at dawn with gratitude and a renewed determination to cooperate with the graces won for us on Calvary to scale the heights of sanctity and to plant seeds for the restoration of His Social Kingship in the world and of authentic Tradition within the Church.
We have had a day of waiting. We now have a day of anticipation. We are within a few hours of a period of fifty glorious days of jubilant celebration, proclaiming with renewed Faith, Hope, and Charity the word that signifies Our Lord is Risen! Let us hold high the Light of Christ–Lumen Christi–in every aspect of our daily lives.
We must keep this day one of reflective watching at Our Lord’s tomb as we anticipate the joy that is proclaimed in the Easter Exsultet today, parts of which proclaim:
Let now the heavenly troops of angels rejoice: let the divine mysteries by joyfully celebrated: and let a sacred trumpet proclaim the victory of so great a King. Let the earth also be filled with joy, being illumined with such resplendent rays: and let it be sensible that the darkness, which overspread the whole world, is chased away by the splendour of our eternal King. Let our mother, the Church, be also glad, finding herself adorned with the rays of so great a light: and let this temple resound with the joyful acclamations of the people. Wherefore, beloved brethren, you who are now present at the admirable brightness of this holy light, I beseech you to invoke with me the mercy of almighty God. That He who has been pleased, above my desert, to admit me into the number of His levites, will, by an infusion of His light upon me, enable me to celebrate the praises of this candle. . . .
It is truly right and just that with all of the ardor of our hearts and minds, and through the agency of our voices, we should proclaim the invisible almighty Father, and His only-begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who paid the debt of Adam for us to His eternal Father, and with His Precious Blood washed away the penalty of Original Sin. This is the paschal feast in which the true lamb is slain, whose blood hallowed the doorposts of the the faithful. This is the night on which your brought our forefathers, the children of Israel, in the flight from Egypt, dry-shod through the Red Sea. This is the night in which the light of the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin. This is the night which at this hour restores to grace and unites in holiness throughout the world those who believe in Christ, separating them from worldly vice and the darkness of sin. This is the night in which Christ burst the bonds of death and arose victorious from the grave. For life itself, without redemption, would be of no avail to us.
O how admirable is Thy goodness towards us! O how inestimable is Thy love! Thou hast delivered up Thy Son to redeem a slave. O truly necessary sin of Adam, which the death of Christ has blotted out! O happy fault, that merited such and so great a Redeemer! It is of this night that Scripture says: “And the night shall be as bright as day. And the night shall light up my joy.” The holiness of this night banishes wickedness and washes away sin., and restores innocence to the fallen. It puts to flight hatred, brings peace and humbles pride.
The Easter Exsultet is followed by the reading of the Twelve Prophecies. This summary of the history of salvation provides us with much food for meditation as we reflect on how God prepared to enter the world personally in the flesh in Our Lady’s Virginal and Immaculate Womb by the power of the Holy Ghost so as to redeem us on the wood of the Holy Cross on Good Friday.
The Prophecies in the Easter Vigil Mass are followed by the blessing of the Holy Water in the baptismal font and, if there are candidates, the administration of baptism and confirmation.
New children are added to the Church today. Just as Our Lady give birth to us in great pain as the adopted sons and daughters of the living God as she suffered in perfect communion with her Divine Son as he hung on the gibbet of the Holy Cross, so is it the case today that countless numbers of people are regenerated in the bath of baptism offered by Holy Mother Church in the Mass that is offered this morning or tonight. Those baptized will be confirmed immediately thereafter. Others will be confirmed as soldiers in the Army of Christ that is the Catholic Church.
Dom Prosper Gueranger noted the following in The Liturgical Year about this aspect of today’s Mass:
We have the explanation of this given us by the great apostle: the water of Baptism is the tomb, in which we are buried together with Christ; and, together with Him, we rise again to life: the death we had suffered, was the death of sin; the life we are henceforth to live, is the life of grace. Thus is the mystery of Jesus’ Resurrection repeated, with all its fulness, in them that are baptized. But before the baptized comes from the font, a sacred rite is performed over him, which completes his resemblance with Christ. While Jesus was yet standing in the waters of the Jordan, the Holy Ghost descended upon Him in the form of a Dove: and before the neophyte comes forth from the font, a priest anoints his head with the chrism, which is a gift received from the holy Spirit. This anointing expresses the kingly and priestly character that resides in the Christian, for by his union with Jesus Christ, his Head, he partakes, in some degree, of the royalty and the priesthood of this divine Mediator. Thus loaded with honours by the divine Word and the Holy Ghost, and adopted by the eternal Father, who sees him a member of His own Son, the neophyte comes up from the font by the steps of the side opposite to that by which he descended, beautiful in grace and spotless as the flocks of which the Canticle speaks such praises. The sponsor is ready to receive him from the font: he stretches out his hand to help him to mount the steps, and covers his shoulders with a cloth.
However, those of us who assist at Mass today must continue to wait–until after the Easter Vigil Mass in the morning or in the evening–for the glories of the Easter season to begin. We continue to grieve, therefore, until the conclusion of the Easter Vigil Mass today for what our sins did to Our Lord on the wood of the Holy Cross–and for what they caused Our Lady to suffer in her Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart.
May we also, though, look forward to Easter Sunday tomorrow by ceaselessly giving thanks to Our Lord and Our Lady for the unmerited gift of our Redemption, being ever ready to cooperate with the graces won for us on the wood of the Holy Cross so that we will know an unending Easter Sunday of glory in Paradise.
Keep watch this day. A tomb is about to open in Jerusalem. The One Who was put to death by evil men acting as our agents is about to rise from the dead on His own power and to pass through the rock that sealed His tomb as miraculously as He passed through His Blessed Mother’s Virginal and Immaculate Womb at His Nativity in Bethlehem.
Keep watch. We do not know the day or the hour when He is going to ask us to make a rendering of our own lives at the moment of our Particular Judgments.
Keep watch. The time of salvation is at hand:
And that knowing the season; that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep. For now our salvation is nearer than when we believed. The night is passed, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day: not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in contention and envy: But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh in its concupiscences. (Romans 13: 11-14.)
Ave Maria, gratiae plena, benedicta tu in mulieribus et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.
Saint John the Evangelist, pray for us.
Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Gabriel the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Raphael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saints Joachim and Anne, pray for us.
Saints Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, pray for us.