Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Meditation: The Women At Christ's Sepulchre

Easter is such a joyous Feast, celebrating Christ's victory over sin and death and the opening of heaven to mankind, that it cannot be celebrated in just one day.  Easter is celebrated the entire week, so each day is Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, Easter Tuesday, etc. 

Below is the meditation from yesterday's traditional Breviary on the women who came to Christ's tomb early in the morning and were greeted by an angel who told them to fear not, that Christ was not there but had risen as he said he would.  St. Gregory the Great tells us that the story of these women symbolizes our walk with Christ, in that just as the women brought spices to Christ's grave, our good works are a sweet fragrance to our Lord.  The Roman guards were very frightened by the angel when he came and rolled back the stone, and they, who were supposedly afraid of nothing, even ran away.  This represented the fear of those who are opposed to our Lord compared with the love and acceptance shown to those who follow our Lord. 

The women going early in the morning to the grave are an inspiration to me because even though Jesus was dead, and as far as they knew, he was no longer there for them, their love for him was so great that they still served him.  After three days, a dead body would have a very bad smell, plus Jesus had been beaten so badly that it would have been worse than a normal dead body.  But that did not deter them at all.  Also, while Peter and the other apostles were hiding away from the Roman soldiers in fear of their lives, the women boldly went out without thought for their own safety to minister to Christ in the only way they could.  For this they were rewarded with a greeting from an angel of God, and were the first to receive the message that our Lord had risen.  They did not understand this message and Mary Magdalene was not convinced it was true until Christ Himself appeared to her and told her so.  But her lack of understanding was not counted against her or the other women.  And so our lack of understanding is not an impediment to us.  Intellectual understanding by itself will not save anyone.  It is only faith that counts, and that is what these women illustrated in their actions. 

A Homily by St. Gregory the Pope

Dearly beloved brethren, ye have heard the deed of the holy women which had followed the Lord ; how that they brought sweet spices to his sepulchre, and, now that he was dead, having loved him while he was yet alive, they followed him with careful tenderness still. But the deed of these holy women doth point to somewhat which must needs be done in the holy Church. And it behoveth us well to give ear to what they did, that we may afterward consider with ourselves what we must do likewise after their ensample. We also, who believe in him that was dead, do come to his sepulchre, bearing sweet spices, when we seek the Lord with the savour of good living, and the fragrant report of good works. Those women, when they brought their spices, saw a vision of Angels, and, in sooth, those souls whose godly desires do move them to seek the Lord with the savour of good lives, do see the countrymen of our Fatherland which is above.  [Like the women who came to the sepulchre on that first Easter, even though we may not totally understand all that we do for our Lord, he will reward us in far greater measure than we can ever imagine as long as we proceed in faith.]
The Demons Cast Out Of Heaven
It behoveth us to mark what this meaneth, that they saw the angel sitting on the right side. For what signifieth the left, but this life which now is? or the right, but life everlasting? Whence also it is written in the Song of Songs : His left hand is under my head and his right hand doth embrace me. Since, therefore, our Redeemer had passed from the corruption of this life which now is, the Angel which told that his undying life was come, sat, as became him, on the right side. They saw him clothed in a white garment, for he was herald of the joy of this our great solemnity, and the glistering whiteness of his raiment told of the brightness of this holy Festival of ours. Of ours, said I? or of his? But if we will speak the truth, we must acknowledge that it is both his and ours. The Again-rising of our Redeemer is a Festival of gladness for us, for us it biddeth know that we shall not die for ever ; and for Angels also it is a festival of gladness, for it biddeth them know that we are called to fulfil their number in heaven.  [St. Augustine taught that one of the purposes of creating man was to replace the fallen angels who had rebelled against God and been cast out of heaven.  Therefore, the angels in heaven rejoice greatly that man has been saved to join them in heaven.]
On this glad Festival Day then, which is both his and ours, the Angel appeared in white raiment. For as the Lord, rising again from the dead, leadeth us unto the mansions above, he repaireth the breaches of the heavenly Fatherland. But what meaneth this, that the Angel said unto the women which came to the sepulchre : Fear not? Is it not as though he had said openly : Let them fear which love not the coming of the heavenly countrymen ; let them be afraid who are so laden by fleshly lusts, that they have lost all hope ever to be joined to their company. But as for you, why fear ye, who, when ye see us, see but your fellow-countrymen? Hence also Matthew, writing of the guise of the Angel, saith : His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow. The lightning speaketh of fear and great dread, the snow of the soft brilliancy of rejoicing.

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