The first of all Sundays
The first day of the week is Sunday, the day in which we celebrate Christ’s resurrection. He resurrects in the night, long before the sunshine illuminates this day of celebration.
The first of all Sundays is a day born from two special nights: the one of the Incarnation when the Word became flesh and that one of the Resurrection when the flesh wore eternity, when the tomb, void of the Body of Christ who has emptied the power of death, was open.
The risen Christ invites us to put our breath in tune with His, the immense breath of life that always unites the visible and the invisible, earth and sky, the Word and the flesh, the now and the Everlasting.
At Easter, the first of all of the Lord’s days, God renews the world and says once more “Let there be light!” Beforehand we had the night of the Mount of Olives, the solar eclipses of Christ’s passion and death, the night of the tomb. Now it is once more the first day. Creation renews itself “Let there be light” says God, “and there was light”.
Jesus resurrects from the tomb: life is stronger than death, good is stronger than evil, love is stronger than hate and truth is stronger than lie.
The darkness of the previous days is eliminated at the instant when Jesus resurrects from the tomb and becomes God’s pure light. This however doesn’t refer only to Him and to the darkness of those days. With Christ’s resurrection, light is created anew. He attracts us inside Him in the new life of resurrection and wins over every shape of darkness. He is the new day of the Lord, which matters for all of us. (Benedict XVI, April 7, 2012)
Let’s pray to the Lord, Creator and Love, so that He lets his Son’s light rise from the darkness of the world. On Christmas night, in the night of the Resurrection and in the night of our humanity, may He let arise what we hope, the encounter with Christ, the vicinity with Christ, the understanding of Christ and the love that unites us to Him.
Let’s pray in contemplating first of all the glorious sores of Christ and the Cross on which Christ “spilled the blood of his Heart to gain your heart” (Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross- Edith Stein). Let’s pray with Saint Augustine who, like the Magdalene, had lived an experience of sin: “But what is it that I love in loving Thee? Not corporeal beauty, nor the splendor of time, nor the radiance of the light, so pleasant to our eyes, nor the sweet melodies of songs of all kinds, nor the fragrant smell of flowers, and ointments, and spices, not manna and honey, not limbs pleasant to the embracement of flesh. I love not these things when I love my God; and yet I love a certain kind of light, and sound, and fragrance, and food, and embracement in loving my God, who is the light, sound, fragrance, food, and embracement of my inner man — where that light shines unto my soul which no place can contain, where that sounds which time snatches not away, where there is a fragrance which no breeze disperses, where there is a food which no eating can diminish, and where that clings which no satiety can sunder. This is what I love, when I love my God.” (Saint Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, X, 6, 8)
The first encounters with Christ-Light
Mary Magdalene doesn’t know yet that the day of everlasting joy has started. Full of sorrow she goes to the Christ’s tomb because she misses Him (may we miss the Sky like she does!) and wants to finish anointing the body. She had started this anointment when she had washed Jesus feet with her tears and had anointed them with the perfume that was worth 100 dinars (ten times the price paid to Judas for his betrayal. With the 30 dinars that Judas had given back, the chiefs had bought a burial site for the pilgrim who had died in Jerusalem).
On the dawn of this festive day, which for Mary Magdalene was a still day of sorrow because she didn’t know that her Jesus had risen, this woman is consoled by the thought that this “fraternal friend” had died because he loved her and all his disciples, Judas included.
Mary goes to the tomb, worried about being able to remove the stone that was closing it. She wants to finish the anointment of the dead according to Moses’ law and with the love of a woman saved by the Redeemer. She cries (see the gospel of today’s Ambrosian liturgy) because the tomb is empty. She doesn’t know yet that the tomb has become like a tabernacle from which the Body of the risen Christ has come out and can be eaten.
She cannot imagine that Christ the Lord, Light of eternity, had removed not one, but two stones, the one of the tomb and the one, even more heavy and solid, of death from his body of Redeemer and from the heart of the Magdalene.
This woman was the first to know that death had let go of its grip on the prey.
She was the first in faith because she was the first in love and she got the prize of love.
After having received the wonderful news carried to the disciples by the one that the Oriental Churches Liturgy call the Isoapostle (=same as the apostles) of the Resurrection, Peter and John ran to the tomb because it is the ones who have the greatest love who run faster than the others. When they arrived they saw that Christ had fulfilled the promise that the prophets had many times announced: “Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights” (Mt 12:40) “and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”(Mt 20:19) “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” (Jn 2: 19,20) “But after I have been raised up, I shall go before you to Galilee.” (Mk 14:28) “As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had resurrected from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.” (Mk 9: 9-10).
They were bewildered. After days passed in desolation because it seemed that all was lost, here happens the event of light that shows that violence, injustice, infamy and death have not had the last word. It is an event that allows seeing clearly. They are illuminated by the light of Christ, saintly light, full of God’s Love.
Evangelizers of the Light that saves
Without God’s life no one can be saved. It guides us on our first insecure steps, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear?” (Ps 27), it guides us along the pilgrimage of faith toward the high: “Send your light and your fidelity, that they may be my guide; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place of your dwelling” (Ps 43:3) If we want to continue to have this light, let’s pray.
Christ is resurrected not to go away but to let us resurrect with Him in his Kingdom whose limits are light and love.
The more we look at the risen Christ the more our eyes will mirror the light of his eyes. The most important thing is that our gaze becomes prayer (= contemplation), gratitude (= Eucharistic) and gift of love that forgives offenses.
This will happen if we like Mary Magdalene go to Christ sad for his loss. Then our tears will purify our eyes that, once cleansed, will be able to mirror the Light of Christ. It is Light that makes free, Love that redeems and Gift that fills our hearts. Christ the Light makes us, who often and meanly are satisfied with promises of happiness, words of love and lines of light, men and women of light, witness of the Light that gives full life. To us, who not only are captivated by light, Light is our vocation.
This vocation is lived in a particular way by the consecrated Virgins who receive the candle or the lamp to preserve the light of the salvific Gospel and to be always ready for the encounter with the coming Groom. (Rite of the consecration of the Virgins #28) These women are called to evangelize through holiness and prayer. The way of Evangelization to which the consecrated Virgins are called to live is the one of communicating His light. They become the lamp that carries the light of the Presence of the eternal love with their human concern of women totally dedicated to God.
Acts 10:3 4A,37-43; Ps 118; Col 3:1-4; Jn 20:1-9
Acts 1:1-8A; Ps 117: 1Cor 15:3-10A; Jn 20:11-18
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Monsignor Francesco Follo is permanent observer of the Holy See to UNESCO, Paris.