We have scaled the mountain, and victory is ours! The goal toward which we strove during forty anxious days, the goal already outlined for us at the beginning of Advent, has finally been achieved. Light now triumphs over darkness, and a divine Sun beams Its warm, clear light into the kingdom of God’s elect.
Throughout Advent as in a night we yearned for the Light. At Christmas the Light came suddenly into the world, pierced the darkness with Its rays and illumined God’s holy City (the Church) by Its glory. This was the glad message of the Christmas season. But even in the midst of Christmas joy a discordant strain was heard, one that grew continually louder and louder, “The Light shines in the darkness; and the darkness grasped it not.” Already during the octave of Christmas we heard the cry of suffering, a cry that has never since been absent.
On Septuagesima Sunday the passion theme became dominant, displacing all other approaches to the mystery. With the first Sunday of Lent the divine David entered the arena to do battle with the giant Goliath. The whole Lenten season may well be regarded as a battle–the battle of Light against darkness. Historically it was the battle of Christ with the Jews; at present it is His battle in the souls of those destined for grace and glory (baptism and penance motif). True, the Light was crushed out temporarily as Jesus died on Calvary; but just as Its beams unexpectedly pierced the gloom on Christmas night, so now after the tribulations of Holy Week, the Easter. Sun rises to shine forever.
Today is Easter, the Feast of feasts, the climax to the Church’s year of grace. It is a solemnity which the faithful formerly extended over a period of three days, while the neophytes (newly baptized), robes their white baptismal garments, celebrated it for entire week. Hence, a proper Mass for each d Never is Mother Church’s joy more unrestrain more jubilant and loud.
The liturgy of Easter-day, which colors the entire octave, stresses a) the resurrection of Christ, b) baptism. Actually, the second complements the first while the first is symbol and cause of the second. Through baptism Christ’s resurrection is repeated the members of His mystical Body. Define baptism as the resurrection of Jesus in a human soul.
As one deepens his appreciation of the liturgy, realizes more and more that the Masses of Easter week are among the finest, the most stirring a dramatic in the entire Missal. Two themes are basic–first, the events connected with the resurrection; and secondly, the stational churches would be helpful to regard these Masses as a grand Easter drama in which we were the players; the more actively we entered into our roles the better we would understand the mystery. The liturgy follows the historical sequence in part; in part, its own genius and inspiration. There are always good reasons for the setting and the score.
The drama begins at an early hour on Easter morn (the vigil service). Like Mary Magdalen and the holy women we come to the sepulchre at daybreak (quae lucescit). We feel the earthquake, we see the angel removing the stone, we observe the guards fleeing. To us the angel announces the Easter tidings and bids us bring the glad message to Christ’s disciples (the rest of the faithful). The divine drama continues Easter morning “when the sun has risen, orta jam sole. ” Again we play the part of the women and hear the angel’s consoling words, “You shall see Him, as He told you.” With this assurance we return to our homes.
During the following days we are privileged to witness six apparitions of our Risen Saviour. On Monday we play the part of the disciples from Emmaus who recognised Him in the breaking of bread; on Tuesday we are the apostles and the disciples who “touched” the Lord and ate with Him on the first Easter evening (so far the apparitions are arranged chronologically).
Jesus appears to us on Wednesday as we re-enact the scene on the shores of Genesareth when He invited the seven apostles to a meal (fish and bread). The Gospel says expressly of this event, “This is now the third time that Jesus manifested Himself to His disciples.” It should be noted that these three apparitions (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday) are immediately associated with a meal (think of the Eucharist).
Thursday finds us in the role of Mary Magdalen who with love and longing sought and found her Saviour. Because of holy Mass we too can say, “I have seen the Lord.” On Friday, with the multitude of disciples, we see the Lord on the mountain (i.e., the altar) in His farewell appearance. His last words to the white-robed neophytes are most consoling, “I am with you all days ….”
On Saturday the Easter drama comes to a close for the newly baptised Instead of another apparition account; the Gospel contains an allusion to the robes of baptism. Before our eyes Peter and John race to the sepulchre; historically this incident occurred at the beginning of the week, but it finds a place here because of the symbolism of the station church (St. John Lateran) and the linens in the tomb (baptismal robes). On the octave day a sixth apparition is described: “After eight days, His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them.” Following the apostle’s example each of us should stretch forth his hand to touch the Lord. With this the Easter Massdrama ends.
Not only do the various apparitions of the risen Christ influence the textual composition of the Masses, but the patron saints of the stational churches likewise enter deeply into their message. For in these saints Christ’s resurrection re-occurred in persons like ourselves. On Easter eve we assemble in the basilica of the Most Holy Redeemer in order to “rise with Christ”; for a patron and sponsor the newly baptised have St. John the Baptist.
In the morning the station church is St. Mary Major. This fact seems to have no relation to the text apart from the similarity of names in the Gospel—Magdalen’s first name was Mary. The liturgy, however, want us to celebrate Easter as did the Mother of Jesus, with a joyful heart. The composition of the Regina Caeli has been associated with today’s stational church (according to legend angels first sang the anthem at the consecration of St. Mary Major).
Monday we celebrate Easter at the basilica of St. Peter. In the Mass formulary there are several different references and allusions to the prince of the apostles. During the Epistle “Peter stands in the midst of the people” and addresses them. The Gospel tells us that Jesus “appeared to Simon,” a passage that is repeated in the Communion verse (do not overlook the personal application during the sacrificial banquet).
For Tuesday’s liturgy we gather around St. Paul. What tremendous significance the Easter mystery had for him! Since there is no mention of Christ appearing to Paul in the Gospels, a passage was chosen that describes an apparition to the Eleven—Paul was associated in spirit with the apostolic college. The first sentence of-the Epistle places him in our midst, “Paul stood up and spoke.” Consequently we hear the Lesson from his own lips. Of him in a special manner our Lord’s word hold true, “Among all the nations remission of sins should be preached in His name.”
On Wednesday the newly baptised assemble with them sponsor, St. Lawrence. For him Easter was the day when he died on the gridiron; hence the Gospel of the fish broiled on the live coals. On Thursday we gather in the Church of the Twelve Apostles. From them we have received the faith. On Friday our thoughts spontaneously revert to the events on Golgotha eight days ago; the station is, therefore, at St. Mary’s of the Martyrs. On Saturday we return to the church of baptism to put aside our white baptismal robes.
The stational observance of Easter week must be classed as one of the most venerable monuments of Roman Christianity. How inspiring and edifying it is to watch the white-robed newly baptised march from one station to another in triumphal procession. I would not hesitate to say that at no time in the entire liturgical year does the Mass liturgy exemplify a greater unity of theme, a greater profundity of thought, or more-immediate spiritual usefulness than during Easter week.