Jesus Christ is Risen! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
In just a few days much has transpired. Last week the hosannas were sung and then faded out. Silence fell in a blanket of sorrow which drifted over us and drowned out all but the sound of our hearts breaking when we were at the foot of the cross and then at the tomb. But now the Alleluias resound because of a glorious Easter morning. On the morning of the first day of the week, Jesus burst forth from the tomb. The tomb is now empty: the Lord has risen! He has conquered sin and death and is risen from the dead! The One who was dead now lives! Jesus is alive! Alleluia!
Prior to this glorious event we had asked Mary, the mother of Jesus, to accompany us through the journey of the Via Dolorosa. We sat together at the tomb and we held vigil when she and the other women returned to wherever they were staying; perhaps this is in the upper room where the Last Supper took place and in which the apostles were hiding. We have observed that Mary was not concerned with hiding, but rather she was comforting her friends who had become as family, and they were comforting her. Thus, we were still together when the event of the resurrection took place. With this in mind, we are also invited to be a witness when Jesus reveals Himself to her.
The event of Jesus appearing to his mother is very intimate, but we are invited to be witnesses because we have been on the journey with her and have been present to one another through the darkest times. And so, on the first day of the week, as the sun is beginning to come up over the horizon, there is a palpable energy in the air and somehow there seems to be a glimmer of hope arising with the new dawn. As Mary goes outside to get some air and to view this sunrise her heart begins to beat in tune with her Son once again. While her heart had beaten in emptiness and aloneness for the past three days, she now feels a difference: she feels Him near again. Then as if He never left, Jesus is simply there. He is right behind her, but she is not startled in the least. When she turns to face Him, she already knows that He is there. Jesus, her Risen Lord and also her Son, stands before her, marked with the signs of His suffering, but radiant with resurrection glory.
Unlike Mary Magdalene who will mistake Jesus for a gardener, or the two disciples on the road to Emmaus who will be with Him all day before knowing His identity, Mary has no trouble recognizing her risen Son. Yes, He does look different because His body had been glorified in resurrection, but as His mother she knows Him more intimately than anyone else. Mary does not ask us to step back or to leave the area where Jesus has come to reveal to her that He is alive. Since we are also her children, she shares this incredible moment with us. She knows the reality of the resurrection and that none of us can ever be the same again. However, if seeing Jesus along with Mary seems so intimate that we feel we must avert our eyes, or that the moment is simply too mysterious for us to envision, then we should have no fear because we do see Him on Easter morning. We see Him at the table when He comes to us in the form of bread and wine transubstantiated into His Body and Blood. Every time we witness this, we are witnessing the resurrection and every time we receive Communion we are entering into the resurrection. The Eucharist is an invitation into new life and it transforms us. It is Easter every time we receive and every time we adore His sacred Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. It was offered for Mary, the apostles, and for every one of us who believes and cries out with St. Paul: “…at the name of Jesus every knee should bend… and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:10-11)
With the dying of Jesus all pain was joined to the suffering He went through so that in our suffering He is present. In His rising everything is imbued with hope which can only find its source and its culmination in Jesus Christ. Everything is bathed in new light and new life; all that is beautiful becomes infused with greater beauty. Everything has more depth, more breadth, and more luminescence: everything is infused with His grace. Every sound becomes music to our ears singing ‘alleluia’ and every sight brings new awareness of the Divine. No relationship is the same. No person is the same when one has had an encounter with the risen Christ in worship and in the sacraments.
This new life and new awareness heighten our longing for the day when we will join Jesus in resurrection, the day when He returns for us. Just as we walked the journey with Jesus and Mary through Lent and Holy Week, we must continue to walk it in the light of the resurrection. To say it in another way, we need to walk in the light of eternity. The reality of the resurrection and the hope in Christ’s return ought to help us to see that everything we say and do, all of our prayers and choices need to be said and done in the light of eternity. The reality of the resurrection should change everything for us. If we are Easter people (and we are) we are to behave as such. Our efforts at prayer and everything we sacrificed in Lent should have opened our hearts to receive the resurrection as well as the specific graces we asked for during the journey. If we forget our resolutions, sacrifices, and works of penance because we are so excited that we persevered, that we ‘made it,’ then we will have missed the point of all of it. Lent is not a 40 day marathon which ends with a sigh of relief at the sound of the first alleluia. Rather, it is a time in which we allow our hearts to be broken so that we may appreciate the mercy of God all the more in the rising of Jesus. Lent is meant to open our eyes and our ears so that when the resurrection occurs we can experience it all the more vividly. The graces we have prayed for were the seeds of holiness planted during the 40 days, watered with the rain of our tears and supplications, which we do not want to be uprooted after the new burst of sunshine on resurrection morn. The journey continues, only now we have better eyes and ears with which to see and hear, and renewed hearts with which to love.
Even if we do not feel different and the outward situation of our lives has not changed in the slightest, and even with the apparent spread of evil in the world, we do have something which is priceless to which we cling: we have renewed faith, hope, and love. We do know with renewed certainty that healing does overcome suffering and pain, light does overcome darkness, truth does overcome lies, and life does over death. No matter how long we have to wait for our own resurrection, we know that it will come one day. Our world certainly needs resurrected life and light and our mission now is to be agents of that grace through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This is why we need Mary and her resurrected son, Jesus, to walk with us daily. Even in the face of grave atrocities and dangers, we know that life does prevail over death and God does prevail over evil, sin, and death. The power of God’s mercy and love do prevail in the end and He is ever faithful to us. Therefore let us live our lives in the light of eternity, where nothing can harm us and where we will live in everlasting life with the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is Risen today! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
May we live in Easter joy! May our hearts be filled with renewed light, hope, and life! May the fruits of our Lenten journey be evident to us and to those whom we bring the light of our faith! May all we do be done in the light of eternity, whereby our choices speak of mercy, peace, and especially hope! May we continue to walk with Mary and the Risen Lord Jesus as we travel the journey of the Easter season! And may the alleluia on our lips be the alleluia in our actions! Let us continue to meet in the Heart of the Risen Jesus! Peace! And Happy Easter to all!
©Michele L. Catanese
The first painting is The Resurrection by Matthias Grunewald. It is part of the Isenheim Altarpiece. It is one of my favorite resurrection paintings. What I love about it is how the light seems to emanate from Jesus. The features of His face almost blend in with the light and vice versa. It is an artistic masterpiece, capturing the mystery of what the glorified Jesus must look like.
Next is the icon The Risen Christ Appears to His Mother by Fr. William Hart McNichols. I chose this because of the tenderness of the moment. He is showing her His wounded yet glorified hands, as any Son would want to explain to His mother what has happened to Him. She raises her hands as in wonder and awe and yet in readiness to embrace Him. The look of tenderness in the eyes of each one is remarkable.
This icon can be found at http://www.standreirublevicons.com/gallery-views/jesus-gallery/product/56-the-risen-christ-appears-to-his-mother
Next is another seemingly unusual choice for me, a painting called Saffron, by Mark Rothko. (1957) Upon reading about it, it seemed to fit perfectly because there is a connection to the painter Matisse whose work I used last week. It seems that daily for an entire month Mark Rothko visited a painting by Matisse called The Red Room which hangs at the MoMA in NY. It was the inspiration for Rothko's all color-field paintings, such as the one featured here. Of Saffron Rothko said, "If you look at it you become that colour and you become saturated by it." This is how I understand the mystery of the resurrection: the more we partake of it through our prayer and meditation, but specifically through the Sacrament of Eucharist, the more saturated by it we become. I also like how the light seems to be trying to burst forth from the field of red. If you look carefully you will see that the colors are similar to the ones used by Grunewald to surround Jesus in the first picture above.
You can find the source I used at http://anartlovers.blogspot.com/
Finally the last image is a photo I took while on vacation in Oregon a number of years ago. I chose this waterfall because of the play of light at the top of the photo and because of the life present in the green of the trees and moss, as well as in the water. The rush of water in this place reminds me of the waters of Baptism which have washed over us and over all those who were baptized at the Easter Vigil this weekend.
Heart Speaks to Heart