Easter Sunday: EVENING

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Easter Sunday

by Dom Prosper Gueranger 1870

EVENING

The Day of Jesus’ Resurrection is fast drawing to its close. It is the Day honoured by God with the greatest of all miracles: it is the most important Day that has ever dawned upon the world since Light was first created: but the Night will soon be upon us, shadowing the brightness of the great Day. Four times has our Redeemer appeared. He would now manifest Himself to the whole of His Apostles, and thus enable them to know by their own experience what they have, a few hours since, learned from Peter’s testimony. But, leaving, for a few moments longer, these men, whom He honours with the name of Brethren, and who now believe in His Resurrection, He would first console two hearts that are grieving on His account, though their grief comes from their want of faith.

Two men are traversing the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus, slowly and sadly. They are evidently suffering from some cruel disappointment; nay, they give one the idea that a motive of fear impels them to leave the City. They had been Disciples of Jesus; but the ignominious and violent death of this Master, in Whom they had had such confidence, has filled their hearts with bitter despondency. They were ashamed of having joined themselves with one Who is not what they took Him to be. They had hid themselves after His execution; but the report having been spread of His Sepulchre having been broken into, and the Body taken away, they resolve to seek a safer refuge. Jesus’ enemies have great power, and are doubtless busy taking proceedings against those who have dared to break the seal of the Sepulchre. Perhaps all that have had any connection with this Jesus will be arraigned before the public tribunal.

Whilst thus conferring with each other on the sad events of the last few days, a stranger overtakes them and walks with them: it is Jesus. So absorbed are they in their own sorrow, that they do not recognise Him. The same happens to us, when we give way to feelings of human grief: we lose sight of that God Who comes to cheer us by His presence along the path of our exile. Jesus asks these two men the cause of their sadness. They tell Him with all simplicity, and this King of glory, Who has, this very day, triumphed over Death, deigns to enter into a long conversation with them, and explain to them, as they walk along, the scriptural prophecies concerning the humiliations, the death, and the glory of the Messias. The two wayfarers are delighted with His words. As they afterwards said to each other, their hearts burned within them as this stranger went on telling them the grand truths He did. Jesus feigns to bid them farewell, but they will not hear of it: Stay with us they say to Him, for the evening cometh on, and the day is far spent (St. Luke, xxiv. 29)! They take Him into their house at Emmaus, constrain him to sit down to table with them, and yet, strange to say, they have not an idea Who this heavenly instructor is, Who has solved all their doubts with such persuasive wisdom and eloquence! Do not we resemble these two Disciples, when we allow ourselves to be influenced by human thoughts and feelings? Jesus is near us, He speaks to us, He instructs us, He consoles us; and yet, oftentimes, we are long before we recognise Him!

At length, Jesus makes Himself known to our two incredulous Disciples. They have placed him at the head of the table; it is for Him to break the bread. He takes it into His divine hands, as he did at the Last Supper; and no sooner has He divided the bread, and given them their portion, than their eyes are opened, and they recognise their guest as Jesus, the Risen Jesus. They would throw themselves at His feet, but He has disappeared, leaving them mute with surprise, and yet transported with exceeding joy. It is the fifth Apparition. It is described by St. Luke, and forms the Gospel of tomorrow’s Mass.

The two Disciples cannot wait: though so late in the evening, they must hurry back to Jerusalem, and tell the Apostles that their Master is living, that they have seen Him, and talked with Him. They, therefore, leave Emmaus, where they thought to pass the night, and are soon back in the City they had tremblingly fled from. They are soon with the Apostles, but they find them already aware of the glad tidings, and fervent in their faith of the Resurrection. Before they had time to open their lips, the Apostles exclaim: The Lord hath truly risen, and hath appeared to Simon (St. Luke, xxiv. 34)! The two Disciples then relate what has just happened to themselves.

Such was the conversation of the Apostles, men now unknown, but whose names are, in a short time hence, to be published and loved throughout the whole universe. The doors of the house, where the little flock is assembled, are kept carefully closed, for they are afraid of being discovered. The soldiers, who had kept watch at the Sepulchre, went early this morning to the Chief Priests, and told them what had happened. They were, hereupon, bribed to perjure themselves, and say that, whilst they were asleep, the Disciples of Jesus came and took away the Body. The Jewish authorities hereby hoped to screen themselves from confusion; but such a plot was likely to excite the people’s indignation against the Apostles, and these thought it necessary to take precautions. Ten of them are now together in the house; for Thomas, who was present when the two Disciples came in from Emmaus, had taken the opportunity, afforded by the darkness of the hour, to go forth into the City.

The Apostles, then, were speaking to one another of the great events of this Day, when lo! Jesus stands before them, and yet the door has not been opened. That well-known voice and figure and face! oh yes, it is Jesus! He speaks to them with an accent of tenderest love, and says: Peace be to you (St John, xx. 19)! What could they say? This sudden and mysterious visit robs them of self-possession. They have no ideas yet of the qualities of a glorified body; and, though firmly believing in the mystery of their Lord’s Resurrection, they are not quite sure but that what they now behold is a phantom. Jesus knows this. During the whole day, He seems to have been more anxious to show his love than proclaim his glory; and therefore, He permits them to touch him; yea, in order to convince them of the reality of His divine Body, he asks them to give him to eat, and he eats in their presence. This loving familiarity of their Master makes them weep with joy, and when Thomas returns to them, they express their delight in these simple words: We have seen the Lord (Ibid. xx. 25.)! It was the sixth Apparition of Jesus on the day of His Resurrection. It is related in the Gospel of St. John, and is read in the Mass of Low Sunday.

Be Thou blessed and glorified, O Conqueror of Death! for that, on this day, Thou didst six times appear to Thy creatures, so to content Thy love, and confirm our faith in Thy Resurrection! Be Thou blessed and glorified for having consoled Thy afflicted Mother by Thy dear presence and caresses! Be Thou blessed and glorified for having, with a single word of Thine, brought joy to Magdalene’s heart! Be Thou blessed and glorified for having gladdened the holy Women, and permitted them to kiss Thy sacred feet! Be Thou blessed and glorified for having, with Thine own lips, given Peter the assurance of his pardon, and for having confirmed in him the gifts of Primacy, by revealing to him, before all others, the fundamental dogma of faith! Be Thou blessed and glorified for having encouraged the drooping confidence of the two Disciples of Emmaus and for Thy revealing Thyself to them! Be Thou blessed and glorified for having visited Thine Apostles, and removed all their doubts by Thy loving condescension! And, lastly, O Jesus! be Thou blessed and glorified for that, on this day, thou hast so mercifully given us, by Thy holy Church, to share in the joy of Thy holy Mother, of Magdalene and her companions, of Peter, of the Disciples of Emmaus, and of Thine Apostles! This year’s Easter is as full of reality and life and joy, yea, and of Thyself, as was that whereon Thou didst rise from the grave. All times and seasons belong to Thee: and as the material world has ever been supported by Thy power, so the spiritual lives by Thy Mysteries. Praise, then, and honour, and benediction, be to Thee, O Jesus! for Thy Resurrection, which makes this day the grandest and gladdest of the year!

Let us today celebrate the first of the six days of the Creation, namely, the Sunday when Light was made, made at the sovereign bidding of the Word of God. This Word is the uncreated Light of the Father, and Te began Tis work of Creation by calling into existence this material image of His own brightness. He Himself calls the just, Children of Light; and sinners, Children of Darkness. When He took Flesh and showed Himself to men, He said to them: I am. the Light of the world: He that followeth Me, walketh not in darkness, but shall have the Light of life (St. John, viii. 12)! And lastly, to show us that there exists a sacred harmony between the two orders of Nature and Grace, He rose from the gloomy Sepulchre on that same day whereon He had created that visible Light which is to us the most precious of material blessings. The Gothic Church of Spain thus expresses, in the following beautiful Prayer of her Breviary, the gratitude felt by man for the twofold favour granted to us, by the Creator, on this ever blessed day.

 

 

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