One of the things I love about the week after Easter is that the Church relates to each day of the octave as though it is Easter Day. In the Preface of Easter I, the priest is directed to pray during the octave: “We praise you with greater joy than ever on this Easter day when Christ became our paschal sacrifice.” (Unfortunately most of the priests where I attend daily Mass pray “in this Easter season.”) In the Liturgy of the Hours, we pray Morning, Evening, and Night Prayer of Easter Day all week. To me this is a foretaste of heaven when each day will be as the first. “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us be glad and rejoice in it!”
I always find this kind of reflection on the Easter appearances full of great hope for folks like me: “Jesus moves among men and women–even if it means passing through doors locked from within” (Jn 20.19-23). (Fr. William M. Joensen) Many of us frequently–or continually–bolt the doors of our hearts from within, yet we long for Christ to come to us. We can have great hope . . . for He is the One who can enter “through doors locked from within.”
Some of us can wake up on Easter morning or Easter Monday or any other morning, for that matter, and wonder where the risen Christ is. For one reason or another, we may feel like Mary Magdalene weeping outside the tomb wondering where they have taken Him. I wrote this a few years back on Easter morning and thought I might share it with you:
While it was still dark she came. She did not wait at home. She did not wait for Him or for others to come to her. And she expected to find what? Surely the stone still blocking her from Him. And yet she came. In the darkness. In her grief. She sought Him out even if only to lean her head and heart upon that stone that separated Him from her. In the darkness, in her grief she came.
And what did she find? The stone rolled away—but He was not there. He was not there. “I sought him, but found him not. I called him, but he gave no answer” (Song of Songs 5:6b). “Where have they laid him? They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him” (Jn 20:13b).
Her sorrow is now greater, yet she does not return home. She stands there weeping. And seeking. While it was still dark.
And no one else can solace her. Not angels. Not gardeners . . . She still seeks Him. While it is still dark. And that seeking, that longing of her soul, that anguish at His absence is the latch Christ uses to open her heart when He says her name: “Mary.” While it was still dark.
So go to Him. While it is still dark. While you are still weeping. Even when you cannot find Him. Stand there weeping and seeking Him. And listen for your name. Even now He is saying it.
While it is still dark.
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
This is the day when everything is silent. We can go about the day not giving much of a thought to it–just seeing it as the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Yet monumental things were happening in the spiritual realm. Christ descended to hell to set captives free.
This still has meaning for us. So often we think nothing is happening in our own spiritual lives, yet God is about monumental things. Have hope in the Unseen.
Christ descended into “Hell” and is therefore close to those cast into it, transforming their darkness into light. Suffering and torment is still terrible and well-nigh unbearable. Yet the star of hope has risen–the anchor of the heart reaches the very throne of God. Instead of evil becoming unleashed within man, the light shines victorious: suffering–without ceasing to be suffering–becomes, despite everything, a hymn of praise. (Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi)
And for those of you who feel that you are living “in darkness and in the shadow of death”, take heart, for you are exactly who he desires to visit. From an ancient homily on Holy Saturday:
Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives . . .
The Night of Nights
by Catherine Doherty.
This is the night of nights. This is the apex of the love story. The first part came to us as the cry of a Child. The second, as the hammering and planning of wood by a Carpenter.
The third, as a Voice—picked up by the megaphone of centuries and brought to us: Christ the preacher, in his public life. Next, the sound of whips upon human flesh and of nails entering that flesh. Then in the quiet of that night, flame, fire, and song got together, and suddenly God arose.
Christ is risen! In him is my faith, my love; in him I live.
He sang us a love song from the moment of his birth to the moment of his Ascension—which comes soon—he will leave us tokens of his love: first, himself in the celebration of the Eucharist and in the Blessed Sacrament, and in his priests. For he is so in love with us that, though he went to the Father, he remained with us. Only God can do that.
Night of nights! It must be a night of such a profound love for one another that we know, through the tremendous mystery of faith, that each one I love is the Lord. Christ meets Christ. This tremendous surge of love should so fill us that, at least one night in all the year, we might try to love him and one another as he loves us.
— From Season of Mercy, pp. 117-118, available from MH Publications.
And what is our role in spreading the Good News and how are we to do it, we “sinners, wranglers, weaklings”? Caryll Houselander, in her down-to-earth way, gives us hope.
The ultimate miracle of Divine Love is this, that the life of the Risen Lord is given to us to give to one another. It is given to us through our human loves. It is no violation of our simple human nature. It is not something which must be cultivated through a lofty spirituality that only few could attain; it does not demand a way of life that is abnormal, or even unusual; it is not a specialized vocation. It is to be lived at home, at work, in any place, any circumstances. It is to be lived through our natural human relationships, through the people we know, the neighbors we see. It is given to us, if we will take it, literally into our own hands to give. It is the love of human lovers, of man and wife, of parent and child, of friend and friend.
It is through his Risen Life in us that Christ sends his love to the ends of the earth. That is why instead of startling the world into trembling adoration by manifesting his glory, he sent the woman who had been a sinner to carry the ineffable secret, and sent the two disciples who had been bewildered by their blind inability to reconcile the Scripture and Calvary, and sent the friend who denied him, to give his love to the world, and to give it as simply as a whispered secret or a loaf of bread. So is it that we, sinners, wranglers, weaklings, provided only that we love God, are sent to give the life of the Risen Christ to the whole world, through the daily bread of our human love. “It is not for you to know the times and the seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. Enough for you, that the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and you will receive strength from him; you are to be my witnesses in Jerusalem and throughout Judea, in Samaria, yes, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:7-8).
“Christ descended into ‘Hell’ and is therefore close to those cast into it, transforming their darkness into light. Suffering and torment is still terrible and well-nigh unbearable. Yet the star of hope has risen–the anchor of the heart reaches the very throne of God. Instead of evil becoming unleashed within man, the light shines victorious: suffering–without ceasing to be suffering–becomes, despite everything, a hymn of praise.” (Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi)
“Christ descended into ‘Hell’ and is therefore close to those cast into it, transforming their darkness into light. Suffering and torment is still terrible and well-nigh unbearable. Yet the star of hope has risen–the anchor of the heart reaches the very throne of God. Instead of evil becoming unleashed within man, the light shines victorious: suffering–without ceasing to be suffering–becomes, despite everything, a hymn of praise.” (Benedict XI, Spes Salvi)