Wednesday 29 April 2009

Eastertide - the blessed season of grace

"Was not our heart burning within us,

whilst He spoke in the way..."

Let us rejoice greatly at Eastertide for this is a most blessed time when so much is forgiven and grace flows abundantly.

This is when we remember the time after His resurrection and before He ascended to the Father.

We remember the marvellous words of Mark 16:1-2, Dum transisset Sabbatum, telling us:

"And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalen, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought sweet spices, that coming, they might anoint Jesus.
And very early in the morning, the first of the Sabbath, they come to the sepulchre, the sun just being risen.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit."

"Dum transisset Sabbatum,
Maria Magdalene et Maria Jacobi et Salome
emerunt aromata ut venientes ungerent Jesum.
Et valde mane una sabbatorum veniunt ad monumentum orto iam sole.
Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto."

This was rendered by John Taverner in the 16th century into one of the most sublime pieces of music ever written. Here it is sung by the Cambridge Singers, fittingly with film of the beginning of Spring and the departure of Winter.

Notice how the choir burst forth with that great "ALLELUIA" to symbolise the discovery by the holy women of the empty tomb and their sudden realisation that the Lord had risen from the dead. It is as if the heavens immediately opened and the whole heavenly host burst forth with a great, universal cry of profound joy!

Three times He appeared to the Apostles in that great and glorious week after His resurrection, after he had appeared to Mary in the garden.

Noli Me Tangere. Antonio Allegri Corregio (1494-1534).

Once he appeared on the road to Emmaus, and, after explaining the Scriptures to them, they recognised him. Late that same day, the Sunday of the Resurrection, He appeared to them in Jerusalem, breathed upon them the Holy Spirit, ordaining them and giving them the power to forgive sins.

"And behold, two of them went, the same day, to a town which was sixty furlongs from Jerusalem, named Emmaus. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that while they talked and reasoned with themselves, Jesus himself also drawing near, went with them. But their eyes were held, that they should not know him. And he said to them: What are these discourses that you hold one with another as you walk, and are sad? And the one of them, whose name was Cleophas, answering, said to him: Art thou only a stranger to Jerusalem, and hast not known the things that have been done there in these days? To whom he said: What things? And they said: Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet, mighty in work and word before God and all the people; And how our chief priests and princes delivered him to be condemned to death, and crucified him... Then he said to them: O foolish, and slow of heart to believe in all things which the prophets have spoken. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and so to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures, the things that were concerning him. And they drew nigh to the town, whither they were going: and he made as though he would go farther. But they constrained him; saying: Stay with us, because it is towards evening, and the day is now far spent. And he went in with them. And it came to pass, whilst he was at table with them, he took bread, and blessed, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him: and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to the other: Was not our heart burning within us, whilst he spoke in this way, and opened to us the scriptures? And rising up, the same hour, they went back to Jerusalem: and they found the eleven gathered together, and those that were staying with them, saying: The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. And they told what things were done in the way; and how they knew him in the breaking of the bread."
[Luke 24:13-20,25-35]

"And they said one to the other: Was not our heart burning within us, whilst he spoke in this way, and opened to us the scriptures?"

Marvellous words! Who can express what it must have been like to have our Lord Himself as our teacher, unfolding the whole glorious drama of the history of our salvation!

That same day he appeared to the Apostles in Jerusalem, also, by the time that Simon Peter and Cleophas had arrived back but it seems that the Scriptural authors only count this as once, presumably because it was all on the one day - that greatest of days, that of the Resurrection.

On that occasion St Thomas the Doubter is not with them:

"Now when it was late that same day, the first of the week, and the doors were shut, where the disciples were gathered together, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them: Peace be to you. And when he had said this, he shewed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore were glad, when they saw the Lord. He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained. Now Thomas, one of the twelve, who is called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came." [John 20:19-24]

However, the following Sunday, Low Sunday, Dominica in Albis Deponendis, Close-Pasch, the Day of Divine Mercy, he appeared again and re-converted St Thomas the Doubter.

"And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them. Jesus cometh, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said: Peace be to you. Then he saith to Thomas: Put in thy finger hither, and see my hands; and bring hither thy hand, and put it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing. Thomas answered, and said to him: My Lord, and my God." [John 20:26-28]

Finally He appeared the 3rd time by the Sea of Tiberias.

"After this, Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias. And he shewed himself after this manner. There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas, who is called Didymus, and Nathanael, who was of Cana of Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter saith to them: I go a fishing. They say to him: We also come with thee. And they went forth, and entered into the ship: and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning was come, Jesus stood on the shore: yet the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus therefore said to them: Children, have you any meat? They answered him: No.

He saith to them: Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and you shall find. They cast therefore; and now they were not able to draw it, for the multitude of fishes. That disciple therefore whom Jesus loved, said to Peter: It is the Lord. Simon Peter, when he heard that it was the Lord, girt his coat about him, (for he was naked,) and cast himself into the sea. But the other disciples came in the ship, (for they were not far from the land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes. As soon then as they came to land, they saw hot coals lying, and a fish laid thereon, and bread. Jesus saith to them: Bring hither of the fishes which you have now caught.

Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land, full of great fishes, one hundred and fifty-three. And although there were so many, the net was not broken. Jesus saith to them: Come, and dine. And none of them who were at meat, durst ask him: Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. And Jesus cometh and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish in like manner. This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to his disciples, after he was risen from the dead." [John 23:1-14]

Thereafter, our Lord seems to have appeared many times to the Disciples, teaching them, eating with them and blessing them by His resurrected presence for 40 days in all before He was taken up into heaven at the Ascension.

"He shewed himself alive after his passion, by many proofs, for forty days appearing to them, and speaking of the kingdom of God. And eating together with them, he commanded them, that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but should wait for the promise of the Father, which you have heard (saith he) by my mouth. For John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost, not many days hence." [Acts 1:3-5]

Blessed, indeed, then, are these holy days, the 40 days between the Resurrection and the Ascension!

During this time, the Church, in her traditional liturgy, ever ancient, ever new, marks the sundays by singing that great hymn, loosely based upon Ezechiel 47 and quoting Psalm 117, Vidi Aquam":

Vidi aquam egredientem de templo,
a latere dextro, alleluia:
et omnes, ad quos pervenit aqua ista,
salvi facti sunt, et dicent, alleluia, alleluia.

V. Confitemini Domino quoniam bonus:
R. Quoniam in saeculum misericordia eius.

V. Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto:
R. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper,
et in saecula sæculorum. Amen.

I saw water coming forth from the temple
on the right side, alleluia:
and all those to whom this water came
were saved, and shall say, alleluia, alleluia.

V. Give praise to the Lord, for He is good:
R. For His mercy endureth forever.

V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost:
R. As it was in the beginning, is now,
and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Here it is sung by monks:


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