Easter Tuesday

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Easter Tuesday

Dom Prosper Guéranger
Liturgical Year 1908

This is the day which the Lord hath made: let us be glad and rejoice therein.

Our Pasch is the Lamb, and we meditated upon the mystery yesterday: now let us attentively consider those words of sacred Scripture, where, speaking of the Pasch, it says: ‘It is the Phase, that is, the passage of the Lord.’ God Himself adds these words: ‘I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and will kill every first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments (Exod. xii. 11).’ So that the Pasch is a day of judgment, a day of terrible justice upon the enemies of God; but, for that very reason, it is a day of deliverance for Israel. The lamb is slain; but his immolation is the signal of redemption to the holy people of the Lord.

The people of Israel are slaves to the cruel Pharaoh. Their bondage is the heaviest that can be. Their male children are to be put to death. The race of Abraham, on which repose the promises of the world’s salvation, is doomed. It is time for God to interpose: the Lion of the tribe of Juda, He whom none can resist, must show Himself.

But in this, the Israelites are a type of another and a far more numerous people,–the whole human race; and it is the slave of satan, a tyrant worse than Pharaoh. Its bondage is at its height. It is debased by the vilest idolatry. It has made every base thing its god; and the God that made all things is ignored or blasphemed. With a few rare exceptions out of each generation, men are the victims of hell. Has God’s creation of man, then, been a failure? Not so. The time is come for Him to show the might of His arm: He will pass over the earth, and save mankind.

Jesus, the true Israelite, the true Man come down from heaven, He too is made a captive. His enemies have prevailed against Him, and His bleeding, lifeless Body has been laid in the tomb. The murderers of the just One have even fixed a seal upon the sepulchre, and set a guard to watch it. Here again, the Lord must pass, and confound His enemies by His triumphant passage.

In that Egypt of old, each Israelite family was commanded to slay and eat the Paschal Lamb. Then, at midnight, the Lord passed, as He had promised, over this land of bondage and crime. The destroying Angel followed, slaying with his sword the first-born of the Egyptians, ‘from the first-born of Pharaoh, who sat on his throne, unto the first-born of the captive woman that was in prison, and all the firstborn of the cattle (Exod. xii. 29).’ A cry of mourning resounded through Mesraim: but God is just, and His people was made free!

The same victory was gained in the Resurrection which now gladdens us. The midnight was over, and the last shades of darkness were fleeing from before the rising light: it was then that our Lord passed through the sealed stone of His tomb, unperceived by His guards. His Resurrection was a stroke of death to His first-born people, who had refused to receive Him as their Messias, or to ‘know the time of their visitation (St. Luke, xix. 44).’ The Synagogue was hard of heart, like Pharaoh; it would fain have held captive Him of whom the prophet had said, that He would be ‘free among the dead (Ps. lxxxvii. 6).’ Hereupon, a cry of impotent rage was heard in Jerusalem: but God is just, and Jesus made Himself free!

And oh! what a happiness was this passage of our Lord for the human race! He had adopted us as His brethren, and loved us too tenderly to leave us slaves of satan: therefore, He would have His own Resurrection be ours too, and give us light and liberty. The first-born of satan were routed by such a victory; the power of hell was broken. Yet a little while, and the altars of the false gods shall everywhere be destroyed; yet a little while, and man, regenerated by the preaching of the Apostles, shall acknowledge his Creator and abjure his idols: for this is the day which the Lord hath made: ‘it is the Phase, that is, the passage of the Lord’!

But observe how the two mysteries,–the Lamb and the Passover,–are united in our Pasch. The Lord passes, and bids the destroying Angel slay the first-born in every house, the entrance of which is not marked with the blood of the lamb. This is the shield of protection; where it is, there divine justice passes by and spares. Pharaoh and his people are not signed with the blood of the lamb: yet have they witnessed the most extraordinary miracles, and suffered unheard-of chastisements. All this should have taught them that the God of Israel is not like their own gods, which have no power; but their heart is hard as stone, and neither the works nor the words of Moses have been able to soften it. Therefore does God strike them and deliver His people.

But this very people, this Israel, ungratefully turns against his deliverer; he is content with the types of the good things promised; he will have no other lamb but the material one. In vain do the prophets tell him, that ‘a Lamb is to be sent forth, who shall be King of the earth; that he shall come from the desert to the mount of the daughter of Sion (Is. xvi. 1).’ Israel refuses to acknowledge this Lamb as his Messias; he persecutes Him and puts Him to death; and persists in putting all his confidence in the blood of victims, that have no longer the power to propitiate the anger of God. How terrible will be the Passage of the Lord over Jerusalem, when the sword of the Roman legions shall destroy a whole people!

Satan too, and his wicked angels, had scoffed at this Lamb, they had despised Him, as being too meek and humble to be dreaded; and when they saw Him shedding His Blood on the cross, a shout of exultation rang through the regions of hell. But what was their dismay, when they saw this Lamb descending like a lion into limbo, and setting free from their bondage the countless prisoners of the four thousand previous years? and after this returning to our earth, and inviting all mankind to receive ‘the liberty of the glory of the children of God (Rom. viii. 21)?’

O Jesus! how terrible is Thy Passover to Thine enemies! but how glorious for them that serve Thee! The people of Israel feared it not, because their houses were marked with the blood of the figurative lamb. We are more favoured than they: our Lamb is the Lamb of God, and Thy Blood is signed, not upon our dwellings, but upon our souls. Thy prophet foretold the great mystery, when he said, that on the day of Thy vengeance upon Jerusalem, they would be spared whose foreheads should be marked with the Tau (Ezechiel, ix. 6). Israel despised the prophecy, which is our joy. The Tau is the sign of Thy cross, dear Jesus! It is Thy cross that shields, and protects, and gladdens us in this Pasch of Thy Passover, wherein Thy anger is all for Thine enemies, and Thy blessings all for us!

Jesus shows Himself to all His Apostles, on the evening of the day on which He rose from the grave; and He greets them with the wish of peace. He wishes the same to us, during this Feast of the Pasch. He desires to establish peace among us:–peace between man and God, peace in the conscience of the repentant sinner, peace between man and man by the forgiveness of injuries. Let us welcome this wish of our risen Lord, and jealously preserve the peace He thus deigns to bring us. At His birth in Bethlehem, the Angels announced this peace to men of good will; but now, it is Jesus Himself who brings it to us, for He has accomplished His work of pacification, by dying for us on the cross. The first word He addresses to His Apostles, and through them to us, is Peace! Let us lovingly accept the blessing, and show ourselves to be, in all things, children of peace.

The conduct of the Apostles, on this occasion, deserves our attention. They believe in their Lord’s Resurrection; they eagerly announced the great event to the two disciples of Emmaus: but how weak is their faith! They are troubled and frighted at Jesus’ sudden apparition; and when He graciously permits them to handle Him, they are overpowered with joy, and yet there is a certain inexplicable doubt still lingering in their minds. Our Lord has to condescend even to eat in their presence, in order fully to convince them that it is really Himself, and not a phantom. What a strange inconsistency there is in all this! Had they not already believed and confessed the Resurrection of their Master, before receiving this visit? We have a lesson to learn here: it is, that there are some people who believe, but their faith is so weak, that the slightest shook would endanger it; they say they have faith, but it is of the most superficial kind. And yet, without a lively and vigorous faith, what can we do in the battle we have to be incessantly waging against the devil, the world, and our own selves? He who wrestles with an enemy is desirous to have a sure footing; if he stand on slippery ground, he is sure to be thrown. Nothing is so common now-a-days as unstable faith, which believes as long as there is nothing to try it: but let it be put to the test, and it gives way.

One principal cause of this weakness of faith is that subtle naturalism, which now fills the atmosphere in which we live, and which it is so difficult not to imbibe. Let us earnestly pray for an invincible and supernatural faith, which may be the ruling principle of our conduct, which may never flinch, and may triumph over both our internal and external enemies. Thus shall we be able to apply to ourselves those words of the Apostle St. John: ‘This is the victory which overcometh the world, our faith (I. St. John, v. 4).’

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Spare us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Graciously hear us, O Lord.

Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us.

Feast of Easter Monday

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Feast of Easter Monday

Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876

“To him that shall overcome, I will give to sit with Me in My throne, as I also have overcome.”–Apoc. iii, 21.

On every feast of the Church is stamped the impress and character of the mystery of faith it is intended to commemorate, and of which we are vividly reminded by its annual occurrence. Therefore the festival of Easter–“the feast of feasts “–is a day of triumph, and the exultant strain of the “Alleluia” resounds throughout the Church. On Holy Saturday, the Preface salutes Christ as the glorified Redeemer, Who, by His resurrection, triumphed over death and hell.

All Christendom entones a gladsome Easter hymn in honor of the Conqueror Who vanquished death, and burst the trammels of the grave. The Saviour struggled against the enemies of our salvation and conquered; and so will you vanquish them, if you call upon Him. “Death, I will be thy death; hell, I will be thy bite.” So Christ assures us through the mouth of the prophet. This was fulfilled by the painful death on the cross, from which He arose, the Victor. The joyful Alleluia reminds us of this. It is the cry of jubilee of the Church triumphant in heaven; and tells us also that, if we wish to celebrate Easter with Christ and all the blessed in heaven, we must, while members of the militant Church, combat and conquer with her. What will particularly encourage us to combat as children of God is the thought of Christ, the Conqueror; and, my dearest brethren, all that intensifies the joy of victory beams forth in an infinitely more perfect manner in this brilliant triumph which Jesus gained over death and hell.

The joy of the triumph re-echoes in the Alleluia which He entoned when He arose glorious and immortal from the tomb. O Mary, who, by crushing the serpent’s head, didst vanquish hell, assist us, that we may do so too; and thus rejoice with thee in the triumph of the Church for all eternity! I speak in the name of the Risen Jesus, for the greater honor and glory of God!

When the children of Israel, protected and led by the hand of the Almighty God, crossed the Red Sea, a few days subsequent to the celebration of Easter, according to the command of God, and witnessed the terrible destruction of Pharaoh and his whole army, they lifted up their voices and sang the hymn of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord which Moses, His faithful servant, had taught them:

“Sing praise to the Lord, Who giveth glory unto Himself. Horses and riders He cast into the sea. His name is Almighty. The justice of the Lord has exalted itself; His enemy is destroyed. His kingdom endures from eternity to eternity.” This hymn of joy and praise was sung by Mary, the sister of Moses and Aaron, and all the women of Israel; and then the strain was taken up by six hundred thousand men, and never before, nor since, has the world heard such a glorious song of praise.

But in heaven, ah, yes! in heaven will be sung a hymn of praise which will never end–a joyful chant more glorious far than this, to celebrate the triumph of Christ over Lucifer and his infernal hosts. Ah, yes! the Alleluia which the risen Lord, in the majesty of His power and glory, entones with the whole celestial choir and the valiant army of sanctified souls, in commemoration of His victory, surpasses by far the song of praise which the Israelites, rescued from Egyptian power, poured forth unto the Lord.

What increased the joy of this grateful people, as they stood upon the shores of Egypt’s dark sea, was, above all, the imminence of the danger from which they had been delivered. For we all know full well that the more numerous and powerful the enemy who suffers defeat, the more enthusiastic are the demonstrations of the conquerors. Now Pharaoh, with his powerful troops arrayed in armor, pursued the Israelites with the utmost haste, exulting in the fact that the chosen people of God were not prepared for war; moreover, they were surrounded by their terrified wives and wailing children, whom they expected to see slaughtered before their eyes, or led once more into a captivity worse than death.

When, therefore, they beheld their relentless foe stricken down by the arm of the Lord,–buried in the waters of the Red Sea,–when they knew that the tyrant and his minions lay lifeless in its turbid depths, their overwhelming delight at this unlooked for delivery can not be described.

What exalts the feelings of triumph of a victorious army is the fact that they have conquered in spite of the many exterior circumstances and dangers which utterly took away the hope of being so fortunate as to defeat the foe. It was thus with the children of Israel. The dark shadows of night were beginning to close around, enshrouding the weary wanderers in a sable pall. Before them, darkness and gloom; behind, the terrible foe. The mighty throng, they felt, was drawing nearer and nearer, to crush them with the weight of their strength. And yet, upon what a different scene did the sun of the morrow look down! The Lord, in His power, had called on the waves to divide, while the Israelites passed to the opposite shore; and, when the pursuer and his satellites rushed madly across, they united once more, and the Egyptians were buried in the depths of the sea. What jubilant gratitude was felt by the Israelites at this unexpected deliverance! The more, because God had freed them from a miserable state of bondage, and led them to the possession of a land in which they could live in comfort, and amply provide for their children and their children’s children. Yes, they beheld themselves rescued from that slavery in which the long, long weary days dragged so slowly on in marching to Canaan, the dear land of their fathers– the land flowing with milk and honey–where they need fear neither oppression nor want.

Their rejoicing was the more perfect because they felt assured that, after having wrought so wonderful a miracle in their favor, the Lord would go on and protect them, and victoriously conduct them to the promised land.

But what was this victory, and the triumphant hymn by which it was proclaimed, in comparison with that which the Lord Jesus obtained for us, and the Alleluia which resounded through the lofty dome of heaven when Christ arose from death? It was not one army alone which He defeated, for His combat was waged with the devil and numberless hosts of fallen spirits. He wrestled against these united powers–the world, the flesh; against those irregular desires which, as St. Paul teaches, have dwelt in our members since the fall of Adam, and whose attacks we must constantly suffer. What a splendid victory we have gained through Christ!

The children of Israel did not fight. God delivered them miraculously. Christ, on the contrary, fought and was victorious. Therefore the merits and the joy were the greater on account of His dearly-bought triumph. The peril of the Israelites was great, but the Lord delivered them. Alas! the dangers of salvation which have encompassed the soul since the fall of Adam, and through which we are exposed to innumerable temptations and individual sins, are immeasurably greater. But Christ has come to the rescue, and through Him, the Conqueror Who combats with and in us, we are enabled to trample under foot those dangers and burst the bonds of sin,–even as our Redeemer burst open the bonds of the grave and called upon us to trust in Him Who had vanquished the world. The triumph of God’s chosen people delivered them from Egyptian bondage and the miseries of an enslaved race: but the victory of Christ rescued us from the pains of hell and the thralldom of Satan.

The hymn entoned by them as they stood on the shores of the Red Sea was a hymn of joy and exultation, because they knew that victory would lead them to a fertile and lovely country;–but the soft verdure of Canaan was also dotted with graves. The curse of original sin rested also on Canaan: “In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat thy bread;” whereas the country which Christ obtained for us is heaven–an eternity of delight, God Himself our future possession.

The triumph of the children of Israel was for one nation only; the victory of Christ was for every nation on the face of the earth–for the eternal salvation of all who are of good-will, and who will walk in this world following Christ by the practise of those virtues which are symbolized by the manner in which the children of Israel left Egypt and pursued their journey to Canaan.

First, they must kill the Paschal lamb and sprinkle their doors with its blood, that the destroying angel might pass them by.–What are we to learn from this? Christian souls, if you seek for salvation, you must destroy sin in your hearts–blot it out by contrition and confession. Reconcile yourselves with your Creator in the sacrament of Penance, and be purified in the blood of the Lamb.

The children of Israel were commanded to leave Egypt; and you, O Christians, if you would celebrate Easter in heaven, your watch-word must be, too, “Away from Egypt!” That is, you must avoid sin and its occasions, remembering the admonition of Christ: “If your eye scandalize you, pluck it out; if your hand or foot scandalize you, cut it off.” In other words, if not your eye, your hand or foot, but any thing as dear and precious, would be to you an occasion of sin, you must most certainly give it up.

The Israelites partook of the Paschal lamb standing and in haste, as if to set out on a long journey. If you would celebrate Easter with Christ in heaven, learn from this to free your hearts from all desire of possessing the goods and plunging into the pleasures of this world. Learn to stand, and not to sit; that is, to fix your thoughts on heavenly things, and to keep ever before you that eternity to which you are hastening. Learn also to participate even in the innocent enjoyments of life, as if expecting to be summoned away. Be not troubled about many things, nor live as if there were no other world than this one in which Providence now permits us to live.

The shoes indicate a life of determined resolution and unfaltering piety, while the staff which the Israelites held in their hands signifies the consciousness which supports us, and refers our every action to God. One thing alone is necessary–to serve our Creator and work out our salvation.

Over the Israelites hung a cloud to guide them on their perilous journey, which at night assumed the form of a pillar of fire to cast light on their way. Over the camp of the Egyptians it threw such a shadow that it was completely enveloped in darkness. This cloud signifies the word of divine revelation, the word of holy faith as it is announced to us by the Church; and it matters not if Lucifer, with all the powers of hell, the temptations of the flesh and the seductions of the world pursue us, the hand of the Lord is with us.

Christ has said that ” No one can snatch those from “Me whom the Father hath intrusted to Me.” That is, beloved in Christ, those who avail themselves of the spiritual weapons which God gives through the Church to all her members, in order to vanquish. Children of the Church! if we in spirit listen to the joyous strains of the “Alleluia” which, on the occasion of the victory of the Risen Jesus, the Church entones, we will feel encouraged to fight the battle of salvation as did millions of souls who have already gone before us with the sign of faith, and who rest in Christ.

Oh, what bliss to celebrate with Jesus, His blessed Mother, and the whole celestial choir, the “Feast of glorious Victory” forever in Heaven!–Amen!