“Who is this one that arises like the Dawn?” (Cant. 6:10)
Summary: The following text takes into account an implicit aspect of our faith which is the apparition of the Risen Christ to Mary at dawn on the Third Day after his death. It intends to contemplate the mystery of this encounter in greater depth and to deepen its consequences for the faith of each one of us. Jean Khoury
The Lord Rising and Visiting his Mother
Is it normal that in the Gospel, the Resurrection, – the greatest mystery of God’s revelation to us – is shrouded in silence, is almost kept hidden? In fact, the very moment of the Resurrection, in all its richness, is not recounted in the Gospels. And yet it is the Resurrection which is the central point of our faith for, “if Christ is not risen, then empty is our message, empty also your faith” so that it follows that “we are most to be pitied (1 Cor. 15:16.18). It is the apparitions of the Risen One that we find in the Gospel, and not the Resurrection itself in all its mystical richness of union between the Bridegroom and the Bride. Moreover, all the apparitions are apparitions to those who weren’t waiting or expecting the Resurrection, and in this sense they are “failed apparitions”! Jesus appears in person to his disciples and apostles at a point where they were just going to see his dead body.
By contrast, Jesus’ Mother, who appears implicitly in the Gospels, in the accounts of the Resurrection appears to be the only person who believed in the Resurrection and waited for Him. The fact that she doesn’t go to the tomb, is one of the most powerful silent statements ever heard. The living tradition, both theological and liturgical, states that Mary’s faith and hope stood fast during the hours following the Lord’s death, and that the Risen Lord first visits his mother.
St. Paul invites us to participate in the death of Christ to enable us to participate in his Resurrection: “to know him, with the power of his resurrection and communion in his sufferings, to become like him in his death, in order to succeed if possible in rising from the dead” (Ph. 3:10-11) and also “We carry everywhere and always in our body the sufferings of Jesus’ death, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. Although alive indeed, we are continually given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Cor. 4:10-11) This is the deep meaning of being baptised in Christ, in his death and in his resurrection. Participating in the resurrection of Christ as St. Paul invites us to do, uniting ourselves to Him, can only take place if as participants in his death, we await Jesus ready to receive Him and to unite ourselves to Him. Let us take a closer look.
The Encounter With the Risen One is a Union With Him
The fundamental moment of the Resurrection is presented in two stages (two weddings), two unions, completely linked to each other:
1- the soul and the spirit of Christ reunite with his body, so that the latter comes back to life (He resurrects),
2- the Risen Christ, victorious Spouse, appears / unites himself to the Bride-Mary who awaited Him and called to Him with her every desire – as an authentic Spouse she does this, carrying each of us within her, as a true mother.
The following passage from the Gospel of Luke enlightens us: “Let your loins be girded and your lamps lighted. Be like, you, people who await their master on his return from Wedding, to open to him as soon as he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master on arriving will find watching!” This is emphasised beautifully in the Byzantine Liturgy of the Resurrection Vigil which is about receiving the King of Glory, the Groom, and greeting Mary, the New Jerusalem, and taking part in her joy of receiving the Risen Lord.
“Truly, I tell you, he will gird himself, have them sit at table, and, passing from one to the other, he will serve them. Whether he comes to the second or the third watch, if he finds things so, happy will they be! Understand this well: if the master of the house had known at what time the thief was to come, he would not have let the wall of his house be broken through. You too, be ready, because it is at the hour that you do not think that the Son of man will come. (Lk. 12:35-40)
The expectation that is asked of us – to be vigilant – was first realized in a perfect and unique way by a single person: Mary. It is she who must be contemplated, she is the true Bride. In this sense, we are invited to read this text of St. Luke first as a description of what Mary achieved from 3pm on Good Friday, when the Lord dies, till the early hours of Sunday.
The text says: “Let your loins be girded and your lamps lighted”. Luke therefore tells us that Mary’s loins were girded, and that her lamps were lighted. What is the meaning of these statements?
* Her “loins” or “kidneys”, a biblical symbol of strength, were “girded”, means that she concentrated all her energy in producing this act of believing/hoping that Christ, her Son, would rise as He had promised. So immense was her desire for Him that she brought Him out of death.
* The use of the word “lamps” in the plural, that have been lit, denotes that Mary does this act not only for herself, but also for each one of us. Thus, she carries us within her, and makes us advance in this dark “tunnel” of three days, in this belly of the monster, reflecting Jonah who remained three days in the belly of the sea monster: “For just as Jonah was in the belly of the sea monster for three days and three nights, so the Son of man will be in the bosom earth for three days and three nights” (Mt. 12:40) Thus we are prepared us for the Meeting/Union with the Risen Bridegroom.
The plural form of the word “lamps” also alludes to the three series of seven branched candelabra in the Temple and in the book of Revelation, symbol of Jesus, and in Jesus: Mary, and each one of us. First, that proper to Mary personally; secondly those of Mary the Bride of the Lamb taken as a whole and which is made up of Mary enlarged to the dimension of the whole humanity she carries within her, like a pregnant woman. Thirdly, Mary seen as carrying each of us in her womb, the seven lamps of each human being are thus being carried by her.
“You be like people who are waiting for their master on his return from Wedding.” In fact, Mary is waiting for Christ, she attracts Him, aspires to Him, makes Him come. The first aspect of the Resurrection is the Wedding/Reunion that takes place between the human nature which is dead (body and soul separated), and the divine nature which does not die. It is the body of Christ coming back to life and being reunited with the soul (and spirit).
Note: Body and soul (soul and spirit), each separately, after death, is never separated from divinity. Therefore, the body of Christ remains united with divinity and is not subject to corruption.
Apparition of Jesus to His-Mother at the Holy Sepulchre
It is important not only to wait, but to be present “to open to him as soon as he comes and knocks.” In fact, “opening” to the Bridegroom is this encounter with Him, an encounter which is a “sacred union”. Mary was there, for three interminable days, in the thickest darkness and the fiercest struggle* that ever existed (with Satan) waiting for Him, so that He would find someone to welcome Him and to unite with Him. For it is not just a question of resurrecting, it is a question of finding a soil/earth that will welcome Him and be united with Him.
*Note: This struggle has a thousand aspects. Among them, we have this human aspect in Mary “Mother of Christ”, who will overcome her motherly pain, go beyond it, and forgive the traitor, Judas. It is also the supreme temptation not to believe in the Resurrection. The discouragement that ensues.
Mary’s Participation in the Incarnation
As regards the Incarnation, for God it was not simply a question of finding a body, a soul and spirit, in other words, a human nature. Incarnation encompasses something much deeper than this. It is a question of God uniting himself with a human being (Mary), capable of giving herself to Him, and of remaining united to Him. A collaboration on the part of the human being in the work of the incarnation was vital. Mary is not a simple passive instrument; she collaborates in the very work of the Incarnation-conception-growth-birth-education-inculturation. Without Mary, without her constant collaboration, the Incarnation could never have been perfected.
Through her effort of Faith, straining towards the expectation of the Resurrection, she is like a Bridge which extends from one bank to the other: from the bank of Christ’s death to the door of his Resurrection. We can re-read the words of St. Paul describing the faith of Abraham* by applying them in all their fullness to Mary. Thus, the words describing Abraham: “Hoping against all hope, he believed and thus became the father of a multitude of peoples, according to what was said, Such shall be your offspring. It was with unfailing faith that he considered his body, already dead—he was some hundred years old—and Sara’s womb, also dead; leaning on the promise of God, without hesitation or disbelief, but with powerful faith, he gave glory to God, certain that whatever God promised, he is powerful enough then to accomplish it.” (Rom. 4:18-21) can now become for Mary: “Hoping against all hope, she believed and thus became the Mother of all peoples, as it was said to her (by the Angel): such will be your descendants. It was with unfailing faith that she considered the Body of her Son and Lord already dead, buried in the Earth. Leaning on the Promise of her Son, Lord, Saviour, and God, without hesitation or disbelief, but with mighty faith, she gave glory to God, certain that all He promised (that He will rise again on the third day), he is powerful enough to accomplish. »
*St. John Paul II’s words are worth mentioning at this point:“Consequently, we can also compare Mary’s faith to that of Abraham, whom the Apostle calls “our father in faith” (cf. Rom 4:12). In the economy of salvation revealed by God, the faith of Abraham represents the beginning of the Old Covenant; Mary’s faith at the Annunciation inaugurates the New Covenant. Like Abraham, “hoping against all hope, believed and thus became the father of a multitude of peoples” (cf. Rom. 4:18), so too Mary, at the moment of the Annunciation, after having declared her condition as a virgin (” How will it be, since I do not know a man?”), believed that by the power of the Most High, by the Holy Spirit, she was going to become the Mother of the Son of God according to the revelation of the angel: “The holy being who will be born will be called the Son of God” (Lk. 1:35). However, Elizabeth’s words: “Blessed is she who believed” do not refer only to this precise moment of the Annunciation Certainly, this represents the culmination of Mary’s faith in her expectation of Christ, but it is also the starting point, the beginning of his whole “route to God”, of his whole journey in faith. And on this road, in an eminent and truly heroic way – and even with ever greater heroism in faith – will be achieved the “obedience” to the word of divine revelation, as she had professed it. And this “obedience of faith” in Mary throughout her journey will have astonishing analogies with the faith of Abraham. Like the Patriarch of the People of God, Mary likewise, “hoping against all hope, believed” along the itinerary of her filial and maternal fiat. During certain stages of this route especially, the blessing granted to “she who believed” will be manifested with particular evidence. To believe means to “surrender” to the very truth of the word of the living God, knowing and humbly acknowledging “how unsearchable are his decrees and how incomprehensible his ways” (Rom 11:33). Mary, who by the eternal will of the Most High found herself, one might say, at the very centre of these “incomprehensible ways” and these “unfathomable decrees” of God, conforms to them in the darkness of the faith, fully accepting, with an open heart, all that is foreseen in the divine plan. (John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, 14)
In addition, St. John Paul II also goes on to express, in his own way, the mystery of Mary’s faith during these three days. Admittedly, he only describes the precise moment of the Cross and not the hours and days that follow, but we can extend what he says to the “three days in the monster”:
“Mary “faithfully kept union with her Son until the Cross” (Vat II, LG. ch.8): union by faith, by the very faith with which she had received the revelation of the angel at the moment of the Annunciation. She was then also told: “He will be great… The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father; he will reign over the house of Jacob forever and his kingdom will have no end” (Lk. 1:32-33). And now, standing at the foot of the Cross, Mary witnesses, humanly speaking, a total denial of these words. Her Son is dying on this wood like a condemned man. “Object of contempt, abandoned by men, man of pain…, despised, we did not care”, he was as if destroyed (cf. Is. 53:3-5). How great, how heroic, then, is the obedience of faith which Mary shows in the face of the “unfathomable decrees” of God! How she “surrenders herself to God” without reserve, in “full homage of intelligence and will” to him whose “ways are incomprehensible” (cf. Rom. 11:33)! And also how powerful is the action of grace in her soul, how penetrating is the influence of the Holy Spirit, of his light and of his power!
Through such faith, Mary is perfectly united to Christ in his self-emptying. Indeed, “Christ Jesus, … of divine condition, did not jealously retain the rank that made him equal to God. But he annihilated himself, taking the condition of a slave, and becoming like men”: precisely on Golgotha, “he humbled himself even more, obedient unto death, and death on a cross! » (cf. Phil. 2:5-8). At the foot of the Cross, Mary participates by faith in the overwhelming mystery of this self-emptying. This is, without doubt, the most profound “kenosis” of faith in the history of humanity. By faith, the Mother participates in the death of her Son, in his redemptive death; but, unlike that of the disciples who fled, her faith was much more enlightened.
By the Cross, Jesus definitively confirmed on Golgotha that he was the “sign exposed to contradiction” predicted by Symeon. At the same time the words he had addressed to Mary were fulfilled there: “And you yourself, a sword will pierce your soul”. Yes indeed, “blessed is she who believed”! Here, at the foot of the Cross, those words that Elizabeth spoke after the Annunciation seem to resound with supreme eloquence and their force becomes deeply penetrating. (John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, 18-19)
Finally, The Catechism of the Catholic Church, with its dazzling intuitions about Mary, will say more completely: “the Virgin Mary who, in ‘the pilgrimage of faith’, went into the ‘night of faith’ by communicating with the suffering of her Son and at the night of his tomb. (CCC 165)
Mary’s Participation in the Work of the Resurrection
Mary, at the Annunciation and throughout her life was not a passive instrument but participated fully in the mission of her Son. Likewise, for the Resurrection Mary is not a “passive instrument”. The Resurrection does not consist in simply resurrecting the body of Christ, reuniting it with his soul, and thus regaining a glorious state! Jesus did raise Lazarus. But the latter’s resurrection is not simply a demonstration of divine power, it is a call to participation, it communicates divine life to us, it is an encounter with the Risen God, a union with Him.
Moreover, for the Resurrection to take place, the Risen One needs a “soil” which will receive Him, which will bear Him within itself, which awaits Him, joins Him in his new state, and above all, which is capable of uniting with Him to the full. Mary is this unique soil. Mary seems to participate in the “work” of the Resurrection by calling with all her heart to the Bridegroom. She seems to participate in the work of the Father by calling Him to Life, causing Him to rise.
Moreover, she does not participate in this work of anastasis (to bring forth) only for herself, but she also does it for each one of us. In fact, the Resurrection is also and above all a Wedding between the Bridegroom who returns (after having prepared a place for us) and the Bride.
Mary, by her immense charity, encompasses every human being in her bosom, and by this charity calls forth the Risen One, as she did for the Annunciation.
To sum up, then, the passion and death of Christ takes place; He leaves to prepare a place for us in Him. “Three days later, there was a Wedding” (Jn. 2:1) between Him (returning from the land of darkness, triumphant), and the Bride (coming out of His side on the Cross) who was waiting for Him.
Great is the Mystery of the Wedding
In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul says: “This mystery is great; I say this in relation to Christ and the Church” (Eph. 5:32). But let’s not forget that before the Church was, Mary, her Mother, was. And it is Mary, who by the operation of the Holy Spirit engenders all human beings to divine life and therefore engenders the Church.
Jesus Risen sees her, admires her, contemplates her; she who has waited for Him, He scrutinizes in depth: He notes that she was able to pierce the thickest night there is, that of his death. Christ sees the deep nature of Mary and exclaims: “For once, it is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh! This one will be called “Woman”, because she was taken from man, this one!” (Gn. 2:23). He thereby expresses the deepest point of the mystery of the Wedding, of the Union, of the conjunction. He finds in her, by contemplating her, the missing rib which was built into the Bride. He feels that she is “from him”, extracted “from him”. She is like Him and can collaborate with Him – give Him the divine cue so to speak. She is truly the Spouse of the Logos: his “helper”, his “similar” – his opposite companion, or vis-à-vis, at her level. “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” (Gn. 2:24) Through Christ and in Christ, the man-Adam leaves his Father (God) and his mother (the first earth, having lived on it and being henceforth resurrected from it); the Risen Jesus leaves the two separate origins (divinity alone, and earth alone), and attaches himself to his Wife (the New Earth/Soil), Mary, and they “become one flesh” at the Resurrection, at the Dawn of Sunday, when He gets up and comes to meet her to unite himself definitively to her. “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God; she made herself beautiful, like a young Bride adorned for her Bridegroom. I then heard a voice cry out from the throne: “Here is the dwelling place of God with men. He will dwell with them; they will be his people, and he, God-with-them, will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes: of death there will be no more; crying, crying and pain, there will be no more, because the old world is gone. Then the One who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I make the universe new.” » » (Rev. 21:1-5)
Our place, the Church’s place, in this profound mystery, then, becomes clear in the clarion call of Christ: “You too, get ready, because it is at the hour that you do not think that the Son of man will come.” The “Son of man” is the Risen Christ. “Standing ready”, here, means joining Mary in the Great Mystery of her fervent and unique expectation, pure and perfect expectation, as she awaits the Risen Bridegroom. Indeed, it is she who carries us within herself, who makes us pass to the “other side”, in order to be ready to welcome Him, when Christ rose again, and to be united with Him. Mary “takes us to the other side” because she is like an astonishing Bridge, erected over the Abyss, which extends from our poor humanity unable to make an Act of faith in the Resurrection, stretched forward, bringing us to the Act of Faith in “the other side”, the Resurrection of Christ, the Encounter with the Risen One and Union with Him.
“Then I heard like the noise of an immense crowd, like the roaring of great waters, like the roar of violent thunders; we shouted: “Hallelujah! For he has taken possession of his Kingdom, the Lord, the God Master-of-all. » (Rev. 19:6) All mankind, now, seeing Christ risen, rejoices and says: “Alleluia!” The Resurrection is a celebration of Christ taking possession of his reign because his flesh, from dead (not subject to the Kingdom) is resurrected (joins the soul and the spirit), so that the Body of Christ, his Church, (his true flesh which is each one of us) is resurrected.
But even as profound as this is, another dimension manifests itself as we consider the words: “Let us rejoice and rejoice, let us give glory to God, for behold the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has made herself beautiful” (Rev. 19:7) – a nuptial dimension – for the Marriage of the Lamb is the meeting/union that takes place between Him and Mary (who carries us within her). She was, indeed, waiting for Him; she fought for Him; she called for Him; desired Him and summoned Him with all the strength of her being.
She does this for herself and for each one of us, for she carries us within her. Thus, in her, we were made ready to welcome the Bridegroom on his return from War (against evil, that is to say passion and death, descent into hell), “clothed in linen of dazzling whiteness” – linen being indeed the good deeds of the saints. All the “good deeds of the saints” are good only through Mary who formed them within herself during these three days in the belly of the Monster.
“Then he said to me, “Write: Blessed are those invited to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. These words of God, he added, are true“(Rev. 19:9) yes, happy are we, who are invited by the Lamb and his Only Bride – in whom He finds us – to join and unite ourselves with Him.
John the Beloved Disciple, the one who introduces us into the Mystery of Mary, not yet knowing that Christ was to rise from the dead, therefore not expecting Him his return from the Wedding – supreme infidelity – arriving at the tomb did the following: “Leaning over, he sees the clothes lying on the ground; yet he did not enter. Behold, Peter, who was following him, arrives and enters into the tomb; and he sees the clothes lying on the ground, 7 and the shroud that had covered his head; not with the linens, but rolled up somewhere.” (Jn. 20:5-7)This is all John experiences of the Resurrection. He sees a great mystery and the Holy Spirit will enlighten him and make him understand the Resurrection. He sees that the shroud that had covered Christ’s head is separate from the other clothes, being rolled apart in one place. The effect on John of this division of the total Christ, head from body, is that he comes to understand that the Head, as if “rolled apart”, has in fact been resuscitated:
“Then the other disciple also entered, having arrived first at the tomb. He saw and he believed. 9 For they did not yet know that according to the scripture he must rise from the dead.» (Jn. 20:8)
John here transmits two very important points to us, points which are the key to the Resurrection:
On the one hand, no one (apart from Mary) knew, or had the ability to know, that Christ had to rise from the dead. Mary alone knew it, and Mary alone waited for Him, and Mary alone united herself to Him: the Marriage of the Lamb.
On the other hand, he tells us that he himself saw the mystery of the Resurrection staged through the arranging of the linens. He saw the parable, and he believed in the mystery it conveyed to him.
More significant, however, is that through Mary, who believed, we realise that it was the Spirit who made her understand that the Head of the Body had been already rolled apart.
Mary is the only channel that leads to the Resurrection, she is the Only Spouse, the Pure One, who awaits: “One alone is my dove, my perfect one” (Cant. 6:9) It is Mary who is first of all the unique and the perfect. She carries within her the heavenly Jerusalem, the Church, the Body of Christ. It is through Mary who carries the Church within herself and gives birth to her that she in turn becomes unique and perfect. “She is the mother’s special one, the favourite of her who gave birth to her. » (cfr. Cant. 6:9-10) Jerusalem, the Bride of the Lamb, can only be considered pure and perfect by the one who made it so and imprinted in it her own purity and perfection. If we praise the heavenly Jerusalem “the young women saw it and glorified it, queens and concubines celebrated it” it is Mary his Mother who is praised in her, for Mary is par excellence and properly the Unique and the Perfect. Thus, we contemplate Mary, the one who carries within her the billions of humans: “Who is this who rises like the Dawn, beautiful like the moon, resplendent like the sun, formidable like battalions? » (Cant. 6:10) Mary rises and appears at dawn on Resurrection Sunday to the Meeting/Union with the Risen Bridegroom. She arises like the Dawn who is Christ, the Risen One. Rising, He said to her:
“Get up , my beloved,
my dear, come.
For the winter is past ,
the rains are over, they have disappeared .
On our land the flowers show themselves.
The time of pruning the vines has come,
the cooing of the dove is heard on our land.
The fig tree forms its first fruits
and the flowering vines exhale their fragrance.
Get up, my beloved,
my beautiful, come!
My dove, hidden among the rocks ,
in steep retreats ,
show me your face ,
let me hear your voice;
because your voice is sweet
and charming your face. »
Catch us the foxes, the little foxes ravaging the vines,
because our vines are in flower. »
Rising and going to meet Him and uniting with Him, she will say: “My beloved is mine, and I his.” (Cant. 2:16) And to signify all the humanity that she carried in her during this meeting, being heavy and big with billions of people buried in her belly, she says of Him that “he grazes among the lilies”(Cant. 6:3). These “lilies” being the people she harbours inside her.
How can we Take Part in the Resurrection?
It is up to us, to become true Christians and “believe in the Resurrection”; it is up to us to rediscover our “faith and our hope” – up to us who are in Mary, and up to us to use these virtues. The only way to make the Resurrection of Christ our own is by passing through the “Narrow Path” of the Faith of Mary. A path certainly narrow because it passes through a person, which could be an obstacle to some, but when entering it, we will receive “the strength to understand, with all the saints, what is the Width, the Length, the Height and the Depth” , in it… we will know “the love of Christ which surpasses all knowledge” and through it we will enter “into all the Fullness of God” (Eph. 3:18-19) which is in Christ.
It is in her bosom that the capacity to believe, to hope and to love is hidden It is in her bosom that it is preserved, and that it is communicated to us; it is in her bosom that we are made capable of believing in the Resurrection; it is in her bosom that we live these moments of struggle and of waiting for the Risen One who promised a single Promise, who said a single Word: “I will rise on the Third day” .
Often, we do not sufficiently realize how much the structure of the Gospel is built on the Faith of Mary. We do not realize how much our faith can only find its strength and its virtue in Mary. She who believed, and not only for herself but also for us. She communicates Faith to us: through her Eyes (to believe) we believe and her Heart (to love) we love. Mary is the key to God’s mysterious drawing of us to Himself – to a God who has enclosed us all in his Bosom, to bring us to the Light, to make us believe in it and to unite us to it!
“Saint Augustine surpassing himself, and all that I have just said, says that all the predestined, to be conformed to the image of the Son of God, are in this world hidden in the womb of the Most Holy Virgin , where they are guarded, nourished, maintained and enlarged by this good Mother, until she gives birth to them to glory, after death, which is properly the day of their birth, as the Church calls the death of the righteous. O mystery of grace unknown to the reprobate, and little known to the predestined! » (De Montfort, “True Devotion to Mary”, 33)
There is no other way to access the Son of Man than through the Woman, shown so poignantly in Christ’s loving words to John from the Cross: “Here is your Mother” (Jn. 19:26), and “from that moment he takes her into his own home” (Jn. 19:27), into his heart, because she is the source of the act that his heart will have to produce: the Act of Faith in the Resurrection! He got it!
This is why John places it at the starting point of the process of purification of our faith and of its growing strength: at Cana, the first Sign. And at each sign, thereafter, at each of the “6 + 1” signs that remain, she is present (even if she is not named, for John describes that “she came down with them” (Jn. 2:12)), and so carries us in her. This is very subtly given us in Nicodemus’ question to Jesus: “How can a man be born, being old? How can he enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born? » (Jn. 3:4). Mankind is empowered to do so, for although “being old” we are called to “enter again into the Bosom” of our Mother, to be formed there, to learn to make an Act of faith in the Resurrection of the Bridegroom.
It is in this Bosom that we can experience the Resurrection for the first time. Outside this Bosom, there is no Resurrection possible. It is this Breast that carried us towards the Meeting of the Risen One. This is John’s Secret, a secret he gives us between the lines: “Who has ears to understand, let him understand”.
Grignon de Montfort tells us that “God the Holy Spirit wants to form in her and through her the elect”, and he makes the Holy Spirit say to Mary: “In my elect, take root. Throw, my beloved and my Spouse, the roots of all your virtues in my chosen ones, so that they grow from virtue to virtue and from grace to grace. I took so much pleasure in you, when you lived on earth in the practice of the most sublime virtues, that I still desire to find you on earth, without ceasing to be in heaven.
Reproduce yourselves for this purpose in my chosen ones: that I see in them with complaisance the roots of your invincible faith, of your profound humility, of your universal mortification, of your sublime prayer, of your ardent charity, of your firm hope and of all your virtues. […]
When Mary has cast her roots into a soul, she produces there marvels of grace that she alone can produce because she alone is the fertile Virgin who has never had and will never have her equal in purity and fertility. (True Devotion to the Virgin Mary, 34-35)
“Mary produced, with the Holy Spirit, the greatest thing that has been and will ever be, which is a God-Man”, and it is she who – always through the Holy Spirit – called the Son of Man from the womb of the Monster, so that it Resurrects itself. It consequently produces the greatest things in us – our faith in the Resurrection. She sees to the formation of our faith and gives us the “oil” which makes her burn with divine Light. Thus, we go, in her and through her, to the Meeting of the Bridegroom: “at midnight a cry resounds: Behold the Bridegroom! go out to meet him! Then all those virgins awoke and trimmed their lamps. […] when the bridegroom arrived: those who were ready entered with him into the wedding hall, and the door closed. (Mt. 25:6-10)
Let us join Mary, let us approach her, let us receive Faith from her, ask her for her Eyes and her Heart in order to be able to See Christ and Love Him. Each time we go to her, we receive this Life that God has put in her for us. Mary believed. She is the Archetype of the Act of Faith, the supreme example. And Jesus says that “whoever believes in me, rivers of living water will flow from within him” (Jn. 7:38) If Mary is the Archetype of faith, not only are these words of Christ realized in her to perfection, but she is like the Mould. From his bosom springs rivers of living water – it is up to us to go and draw.
Here is how the Catechism of the Catholic Church evokes the Faith of Mary (faith being above all “faith in the Resurrection”):
“The Virgin Mary realizes in the most perfect way the obedience of faith.” (148) “Moreover, the Church venerates in Mary the purest realization of the faith.” (149) Of this faith, the Virgin Mary is the supreme model, she who believed that “nothing is impossible with God” and who was able to magnify the Lord: “The Mighty One did wonders for me, holy is his name “. (273) “By her complete adherence to the will of the Father, to the redemptive work of her Son, to every prompting of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary is for the Church the model of faith and charity. In this way she is a “supereminent and absolutely unique member of the Church”, she even constitutes “the exemplary achievement” (“typus”) of the Church.” (967)
And as if to crown it all, the Catechism reminds us of a profound statement by St. Thomas Aquinas which shows the deep bond that exists between Mary and each of us: “She pronounced her yes ‘in the name of all human nature’”. (511) This link existed not only at the time of the Annunciation, but at all stages of Jesus’ life and above all when in the heart of the “sea monster”. She believed “in our name” in the Resurrection, waited “in our name” and as it were attracted the Son of Man at dawn on Sunday also “in our name”. Our profound thanks to you Mary. All the generations will call you blessed, because it is in you all were born: “It is in Sion that they were born. And of Zion it is said: All were born there.” (Ps. 87:4-5)
Link Between Mary and the Night of the Spirit
Through these developments on Mary, we understand the link that exists between her and us during the purification. In fact, it presides over our formation, the formation in us of the act of pure faith, this act which marks the end of our purification, and which allows us to “join” God, to touch Him, by “piercing” the clouds that separate us from Him.
It is through this deepening of the meaning of Mary’s action for the Apostles that we better understand her role for us in our spiritual journey towards Union with God – especially the passage of deep purification. Like the Apostles, we are called to participate in the Passion, to appropriate the Passion and to pass through it. She is this crucible that God gives us in which to purify our Faith. And as for the Apostles, we have no other refuge than the Faith of Mary to succeed in going to the Meeting of the Risen One. The Faith of Mary is this astonishing and mysterious Bridge, erected between earth and heaven, between the human modality and the divine modality of knowing, loving, and following the Risen Christ. It is she who connects us to Christ, brings us to Him in fullness. This is what St. Paul says when he affirms: “So from now on we do not know anyone according to the flesh; and if we knew Christ according to the flesh, now we no longer know him in this way” (2 Cor. 5:16), we know him according to the Spirit. St. John in his own way takes up the same notion: “You, you are from below; I am from above.” (Jn. 8:23) “But to all those who received him, he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, he who was not begotten of blood nor of will. of flesh, nor of a human will, but of God.” (Jn. 1:12) “What is born of the flesh is flesh, what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be surprised if I told you: You must be born from above.” (Jn 3:6-7) The act “born of the Spirit,” and of Mary, is the act of pure faith to which we aspire. For this, during our participation in the Passion, we allow ourselves to be shaped by Mary, this Mould of the divine modality, that is to say of the pure way of approaching God.
Mary gives birth in us to the purified faith that allows us to unite ourselves with God. It is through her Faith, through her Eyes, that God gives us the capacity to be able to go to meet the Risen One today like the wise virgins, carrying in their lamps the oil of Mary’s Faith. Faith in the Resurrection of the Son of Man is the equivalent for us of Union with the Risen One (see “Spiritual Marriage”, Interior Castle, St. Teresa of Avila, 7thMansions).
We return to our original question: how is it that the greatest mystery to be revealed is so hidden in the Gospel? John of the Cross comes to our aid to explain the reasons for this:
“And then we shall go forth To the lofty caverns of the rock…
2. The rock of which she here speaks is Christ, according as S. Paul says to the Corinthians: Petra autem erat Christus. (1 Cor 10:4) The lofty caverns are the lofty and high and deep mysteries in the wisdom of God which are in Christ, concerning the hypostatical union of human nature with the Divine Word, and the correspondence to this which is in the union of men in God, and in the agreement which there is between the justice and mercy of God as to the salvation of the human race in the manifestation of His judgements. These judgements are so high and so deep that they are very properly called lofty caverns: lofty, because of the height of their mysteries; caverns, because of the depth and profundity of their wisdom. For even as caverns are profound and have many recesses, even so each of the mysteries that are in Christ is most profound in wisdom, and has many recesses, which are His secret judgements of predestination and fore- knowledge with respect to the sons of men. Wherefore she says next:
which are well hidden
3. So much so that, despite all the mysteries and wonders which have been discovered by holy doctors, and understood by holy souls in this estate of life, there has remained much more to be said, and even to be understood, and thus there are great depths to be fathomed in Christ. For He is like an abundant mine with many recesses containing treasures, of which, for all that men try to fathom them, the end and bottom is never reached; rather in each recess men continue to find new veins of new riches everywhere, as S. Paul said of Christ Himself in these words: In quo sunt omnes thesauri sapientiae et scientiae Dei, absconditi. (Col 2:3) Which signifies: “In Christ dwell hidden all the treasures and wisdom of God”.” (St. John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle A, stanza 36,2-3)
Jean Khoury, London, 24th October 2006
Contemplate yourself hiding in Mary’s Heart, while she is praying and waiting for Him to rise, hastening his resurrection and then suddenly, He appears to her, and they hug. You are there watching…
The following articles carry on the theme of the union of the Virgin with the Bridegroom and give it greater depth and prominence.
“This is the Day that YHWH made” (Ps. 118,24)
Christ in St. John says something extremely powerful and astonishing: “Abraham, your father, exulted at the thought that he would see my Day. He saw it and was overjoyed.” (Jn. 8,56) Does to “see the day” mean to see Jesus being born? What is the “Day” to which Christ refers? For Easter, we rightly sing: “This is the Day that Yahweh has made for us joy and joy” (Ps. 118,24), and by this we mean the great Day, the day of Easter, that of the Resurrection of Christ. Now this Day is “the Third Day”. But even more mysterious is this Day’s connection with “on the third day there was a Wedding” (Jn. 2,1). It embodies the moment of encounter with Mary, completely full and pregnant with all humanity, who, like the wise Virgin, goes to meet the Bridegroom who is to come. Who can enter and understand the mystery of this Meeting, of these unique Weddings?! Who can “Behold the dwelling place of God among men” (Rev. 21:3), who comes to meet the Bridegroom, and sees it is Mary? John is the privileged Great who was allowed to see what the eye cannot see: “And I saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, […] it was made beautiful, like a young bride adorned for her Bridegroom” (Rev 21:2). Yes, it is Mary bearing all her children within her, who presents herself, carrying them, to her Spouse. Indeed, “Let us rejoice and be glad, let us give glory to God, for the Marriage of the Lamb is here, and his Bride has made herself beautiful: she has been given to dress herself in linen of dazzling whiteness” (Rev 19:7-8). A truly astonishing mystery is this meeting which takes place between Mary and the Bridegroom, on the third day, the great day, the day that Abraham wanted to see.
Revelation also poses the question of who would be invited to “see” and “contemplate” this mystery, with the words: “Blessed are those invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb. These words of God, he added, are true. » (Rev. 17:9) Who can join the true Wedding which takes place between the True Bride and Mother and the Bridegroom and Father?!
“Come, let me show you the Bride, the Lamb’s Bride. » (Rev. 21,9), then, becomes the guide for those who wish to enter into the Mystery of Mary the Mother, into the Mystery of her divine Charity, which allows her to carry within herself the multitude of humanity.
What Abraham saw was indeed this mysterious Meeting, a sign of the most total victory against all evil, the Meeting between the true Bride and the Bridegroom. This is why God said to her: “Here is my Covenant with you” (Gn. 17:2), and he showed her the Meeting that takes place between the Wise Virgin and the Bridegroom. It is through this Virgin that Abraham can become the Father of a multitude, because it is through Mary that one of God’s adopted children can be realised. If the total verse says, “I will make this covenant with you: you will become the father of many nations.” (Gn. 17:3) it must be divided into two parts. First: “I, will make this covenant with you” and “you will become the father of a multitude of nations.” Furthermore, you have to realize that God shows Abraham his Covenant, in an amazing vision, and that this takes place between the two phrases, just after “I, will make my covenant with you”. It is therefore necessary to mark a pause here by giving prominence to the Vision that Abraham has (and that Christ points out in St. John). God shows him the Wise Virgin meeting the Risen Bridegroom, returning from Victory, and uniting herself to Him. By saying to Abraham: “behold” Christ also shows him, in the same vision, the Virgin bearing in her Abraham himself and all his descendants: “Here is my Covenant with you”.
The Covenantal Alliance comprises those Weddings that take place on the Third Day, the “Day” par excellence. This sacred and unique Union that takes place is a victorious Union, all of Light and Love. This is the essential object of our contemplation, the dazzling point from which springs all the light, the mystery of the Meeting, of the Union. The Heart springing from all Vision.
It is significant to note how much this encounter is not an intimate, personal, and isolated encounter that takes place between Mary and Jesus! It is a mystical encounter that involves and includes the whole world, all times, all generations, all humans, past from creation, present and to come, until the end of time! They are all present there.
She waited for Him, carrying us within her…carrying us to Him, presenting us to Him. He only sees Her in us – she is bearing us, in her immense charity!
No one was present at these Weddings, at this meeting, and yet we were all there! What a mystery! We enter it by growth, by choice and not by creation*! We were not present there because no one has the capacity to be there: no one is capable of believing in the Resurrection, only Mary was capable of it! We are invited only! This is why it is written: “Blessed are the guests”… it is the fact of being invited to these Weddings that makes us rejoice and fills us with joy.
*Note: As St. Augustine says: “God did not ask us for permission to create us, but he will not save us without our collaboration”. Here too, we do not enter into the Mystery of this Encounter by right, we are invited to it, and we collaborate with Grace, and this, in order to be worthy of entering it.
“On the third day there was a wedding” (Jn. 2:1)
“trimmed their lamps
took off the robe of mourning, put on…”
“The third day” in the above quotation refers to the Resurrection (Jn. 2:19), as does Christ’s statement, “in three days I will rebuild it”. However, on the third day, Mary is the only one waiting for the Bridegroom on his return!
“Then it will be with the Kingdom of Heaven as with ten virgins who went out, armed with their lamps, to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were foolish and five were sane. The fools, indeed, took their lamps, but without providing themselves with oil; while the sensible, together with their lamps, took oil from the vials. As the Bridegroom kept them waiting, they all dozed off and fell asleep.
But at midnight a cry resounded: Behold the Bridegroom! go out to meet him! Then all those virgins awoke and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the sensible: Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out. But these answered them: There would doubtless not be enough for us and for you; rather go to the merchants and buy some for yourself. They had gone to buy some when the Bridegroom arrived: those who were ready entered the Wedding Hall with him., and the door closed. Finally, the other virgins also arrived and said: “Lord, Lord, open to us”! But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you! Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. » (Mt. 25,1-12) As is the case in the opening statement to this article, none of the five wise virgins who have oil for the Meeting with the Bridegroom are ready! There is only One: Mary, “Ishsha” (Gn. 2), the “Woman” (Jn. 2 and 19), who alone knows and is able to wait for the resurrection of her Son: “flesh of his flesh and bone of his bones” (Gn. 2)
No one believed in the Resurrection, no one had oil in their vial. John makes a point of saying this clearly: “For they did not yet know that, according to the Scriptures, he must rise from the dead” (Jn. 20,9). Yet there had to be someone who went to meet Him when He arose! (otherwise, the Meeting could not take place, the conjuncture with humanity between the Risen One and humanity could not take place.) Mary alone believed in it. She held on! She struggled! She prepared for the Meeting. She carried us in her bosom.
The first Wedding therefore takes place on Easter morning, the third day, between Jesus and the only (Cant. 6:9: “unique is my dove, my perfect”) pure and wise Virgin who awaits Jesus. Cf. the Creed: “and he rose again on the third day”.
The Resurrection is the realization of the Wedding! The (Christian) Sabbath is the day when the Wedding takes place. This is the encounter/union of each of us with Christ: his Body is resurrected and is reunited with the head. It takes place “in Mary”, – the wedding hall, the nuptial chamber. Through her immense charity, Mary, Mother of all men, carries us within her. And it is thus – carrying us in Her – that She goes out to meet the Risen Bridegroom, namely, in the nuptial chamber He encounters each of us.
“On the third day, when she had ceased to pray, she took off her suppliant’s garments and put on all her splendour. Thus having become dazzlingly beautiful, she invoked the God who watches over all and saves them. Then she took with her two servants. On one she leaned softly. The other accompanied her and lifted her garment. At the height of her beauty, she blushed and her joyful face was as if blooming with love. But fear made her heart groan. Passing through all the doors, she found herself before the king. He was seated on his royal throne, dressed in all the ornaments of his solemn apparitions, all gleaming with gold and precious stones, formidable as possible. » (Est. 5:1-4) This description provides an astonishing parallel which sheds light on the passage which follows, for this is also what can be said to Mary at this precise moment:
“Jerusalem, take off your dress of sorrow and distress, put on the beauty of God’s glory for evermore, wrap the cloak of God’s saving justice around you, put the diadem of the Eternal One’s glory on your head, for God means to show your splendour to every nation under heaven, and the name God gives you for evermore will be, ‘Peace-through-Justice, and Glory-through-Devotion’. Arise, Jerusalem, stand on the heights and turn your eyes to the east: see your children reassembled from west and east at the Holy One’s command, rejoicing because God has remembered. Though they left you on foot driven by enemies, now God brings them back to you, carried gloriously, like a royal throne. For God has decreed the flattening of each high mountain, of the everlasting hills, the filling of the valleys to make the ground level so that Israel can walk safely in God’s glory. And the forests and every fragrant tree will provide shade for Israel, at God’s command; for God will guide Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with the mercy and saving justice which come from him. (Baruch 5:1-9)
A similar parallel is to be found in Isaiah: “Awake, awake, put on your strength, Zion! Put on your best clothes, Jerusalem, holy city, for the uncircumcised and the unclean will never come to you again. Shake off your dust, arise, captive Jerusalem! the chains have fallen from your neck, captive daughter of Zion! For thus says Yahweh: You were sold for nothing, you will be redeemed without money. For thus says the Lord Yahweh: It was to Egypt that my people once went down to sojourn there, it was Assyrian who finally oppressed them. But now what am I to do here? – oracle of Yahweh – because my people have been kidnapped for nothing, their masters are crying out in triumph – oracle of Yahweh – constantly, all day long, my name is flouted. Therefore my people will know my name, therefore they will know in that day that it is I who say: “Here I am. How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, of the messenger of good news who announces salvation, who says to Zion: “Your God reigns. It is the voice of your watchmen: they lift up their voices, together they shout for joy, because they have seen with their own eyes Yahweh who is coming to Zion. Together shout, shout for joy, ruins of Jerusalem! for Yahweh has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. Yahweh has uncovered his arm of holiness in the sight of all nations, and all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Go away, go away, get out of here, touch nothing unclean, get out of here, cleanse yourselves, you who wear Yahweh’s articles. For you will not go out in haste, you will not run away, it is Yahweh, indeed, who marches at your head, and your rear guard, is the God of Israel. » (Is. 52:1-12)
In what does the last phase of waiting for Mary consist, just before the Resurrection? I don’t think she was surprised in her pain, curled up on herself. Certainly, this could be her state after hours of struggle against the Enemy who wanted to make her give in to despair. But not only does she resist him, she will even go further. She takes off her mourning clothes and prepares to receive him, she offers her beauty as an expression of her fullest faith in the Resurrection. Like Esther, she metamorphoses. “On the third day, when she had ceased to pray, she took off her suppliant’s garments and put on all her splendour. Thus having become dazzlingly beautiful, she invoked the God who watches over all and saves them. » (Est. 5:1-2) She overcomes her mourning by her Faith in the Resurrection as she takes off her garments of supplication, shows all her beauty and goes to meet the Risen One. She is already adapting to joy, to celebration, to Him as the Risen One! “Awake, awake, put on your strength, Sion! Put on your most beautiful garments, Jerusalem, holy city” (Is. 52:1) “Jerusalem take off your robe of sorrow and misery, put on forever the beauty of the glory of God, put on the robe of God’s righteousness, put on your head the diadem of glory of the Eternal” (Baruch 5:1-2) Mary hears these voices. She is carrying each of us as she adorns herself with all her splendour and goes to meet her Bridegroom. This astonishing power of the Faith (the gaze cf. Cant. 4:1) of Mary which pierces the thickest veils! Who breaks the Force of the Enemy, breaks the Wall of separation (Ep. 2).
She puts on her most beautiful dress, her most beautiful jewellery. Her Face, her Eyes, her Lips, her Neck, her Breasts, everything is glowing in her, waiting for the King Bridegroom on his Return!
What a meeting! What joy!
Rejoice Queen of Heaven
This article seeks to show the different ways the Resurrection is celebrated according to the various rites in the Church. We will look in particular at the expressions given to Mary and what they convey to the faithful. To begin with in the Byzantine Liturgy, the assembly sings: “Shine Jerusalem” at the beginning of the Easter Vigil, “Jerusalem” being one of the appellations of Mary. It is a call to Joy addressed to Mary. Likewise in the Latin Roman Liturgy, and others which follow below, we have the Antiphon: “Queen of Heaven, rejoice”, the call to joy:
Latin Roman Liturgy
“Queen of heaven, rejoice, hallelujah
for the One you have deserved to carry in your bosom, hallelujah
is risen as He said, Hallelujah
Pray to God for us, hallelujah.
The call to joy can be clearly paraphrased as:
- Rejoice and rejoice, Virgin Mary, hallelujah.
- Because the Lord is truly risen, hallelujah. »
Easter, Byzantine Liturgy
Holy Saturday Vespers – Easter Vigil and Liturgy of St. Basil – begins with the words “Shine Jerusalem”.
Thus, the Vespers of Holy Saturday bring us into the joy of the Resurrection of Jesus.
The Resurrection of Jesus is his victory over evil, sin and death. It projects a glorious light on the mother of Jesus since through the Virgin Mary Jesus was incarnated and He was able to undertake the great combat of the Passion.
“Let’s sing the one that is the glory of the universe*
hatched in our humanity*,
the Mother of the Lord, the gate of heaven, *
the Virgin Mary, she whom the celestial spirits sing, the adornment and adornment of the faithful,*
for she has become the sky, *
the temple of the deity; she knocked down the barrier of enmity*
and brought us peace by opening the doors of the kingdom to us; holding within itself the anchor of faith,*
our defender is the Lord whom she bore;*
Take courage henceforth, take courage people of God, for the Lord fights your enemies*,
the Almighty Lord.
(From the French, Guillaume Denis, Le Spoutnik: New Synecdimos, Apostolic Diaconia , Parma, 1997; Paris, 2001, p. 576)
Easter Morning, Matins Service
The Matins Office establishes a link between the Resurrection of Jesus and his virgin birth (Ode 6 below), and a link between the homage of the Magi to the child tenderly swaddled in swaddling clothes and the homage of the holy women to Christ cruelly wrapped in the shroud (Ikos).
Ode 9 sings of the Mother of God in the joy of the Resurrection, the final troparion too, marvelling over the Mother of such a Son….
“Without breaking the seals, O Christ, you rose from the tomb, you who had left the Virgin without breaking the seal of virginity, and you reopened the gates of paradise to us.”
It is the sun prior to the sun, once descended to the tomb, that the Myrophores sought like the day, before the dawn hastening and saying to each other:
“O my dear friends, let us embalm the vivifying body of him who, in the buried sepulchre, after his fall raises Adam; come, let us hasten and like the Magi prostrating ourselves, offer myrrh in homage to him who is no longer of swaddling clothes, but of a wrapped shroud. ; and in tears we cry out to him: Arise, Lord, you who save us by granting us the resurrection.”
“Shine with light, new Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord has shone upon you. Exult and dance for joy, daughter of Sion; rejoice also, holy Mother of God, on this day when your Son is resurrected.”
“Rejoice, hallowed abode, divine tabernacle of the Most High; Mother of God, it is through you that we are given joy, and we cry out: you are blessed among women, Immaculate Sovereign.”
(Guillaume Denis, Le Sputnik: New Synecdimos, Diaconie Apostolique, Parme, 1997; Paris, 2001, p. 605-614.)
The Content of Joy Summarised
What is the content of this joy? It is the joy of the Nuptial encounter between the Risen Bridegroom and the Bride who awaited Him during the night!
We are all enclosed in it, and we are called to share in this joy.