And after these things, Joseph of Arimathea (because he was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews) besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus. And Pilate gave leave. He came, therefore, and took away the Body of Jesus.
And Nicodemus also came, (he who at the first came to Jesus by night,) bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pound weight.
They took therefore the Body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths, with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.
Now there was in the place where he was crucified, a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein no man had been laid. There, therefore, because of the parasceve of the Jews, they laid Jesus, because the sepulchre was night at hand. (Jn. 19:38-42)
Joseph of Arimathea besought Pilate secretly for the Body of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ after It has been taken down from the wood of the Holy Cross. It was placed in a new tomb that he had hewn out of stone. Our Lady prepared the Body of her Divine Son for burial in Joseph’s tomb. The One known as the Son of Joseph of Nazareth, the carpenter, was buried in a tomb given to him by Joseph of Arimathea, who watched as Our Lady, who had wrapped her newborn Babe in swaddling clothes, wrapped the same Son’s lifeless, dead body in the burial shroud that covered Him for forty hours. Born in a cave, buried in a cave. Born in poverty, died in ignominy. Born amidst the stench of barn animals in Bethlehem to die amidst the stench of the blood and excrement of Golgotha. And now, buried in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb, the world believed, mistakenly of course, that they were done with Him forever.
Father Frederick Faber’s reflection on the Seventh Dolor of Our Lady, the Burial of her Divine Son, Our Blessed Lord and Jesus Christ, contained in The The Foot of the Cross (published originally in England in 1857 under the title of The Dolors of Mary) is quite appropriate for this day of anticipating after a night of keeping watch at the sealed tomb:
Since there are so many resemblances between the seventh dolor and the third, it is not surprising that they should in some respect teach the same lessons. We learn form this last sorrow that there is no darkness like the darkness of a world without Jesus, such as Mary’s world was on that fearful night. It is darker than the darkness of Calvary; for that is a darkness which cheers, refreshes, and inspires. Jesus is there. He is the very heart of that darkness. He is felt more plainly than if He were seen. He is heard more distinctly because all is so dark about Him, and other sounds are hushed by the gloom. It is like being in the cloud with God, as tried souls often are. It is truly a darkness, and brings with it the pain of darkness; yet there is hardly a loving soul on earth to whom such darkness would not be more welcome far than light. But the darkness of the absence of Jesus is, at it were, a participation in the most grievous pain of hell. If it is by our own fault, then it is the greatest of sorrows. If it is a trial from God, then it is the greatest of sufferings. In either case we must not let the light of the world tempt us out of the darkness. In such a gloom it is indeed dreadful to abide; but the consequences of leaving it by our self-will are more dreadful still. It is not safe there to think of creatures. We must think of God only. It is the sanctuary of “God Alone,” the motto of saints and of the saintly. We must deal only with the supernatural and leave Him who brought us there, whether for chastisement or fervor, to take us out when it shall be His will. Meanwhile we should unite ourselves to the dispositions in which Mary endured her seventh dolor, and this will bring us into closer union with God.
One more lesson still she teaches. She did her work in the world, as it were, with all her heart; and yet her heart was not there, but in the tomb with Jesus. This is the grand work which sorrow does for all of us. It entombs us in the will of God. It buries our love, together with our sorrow, in the Blessed Sacrament. Sorrow is, as it were, the missionary of the Divine will. It is the prince of the apostles. The Church is built upon it. The gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Our Lord is with it always to the end. It is sorrow that digs the grave of self, and blesses it, and burns incense in it, and buries self therein, and fills it up, and makes the flowers grow upon the tomb. The great secret of holiness is never to have our hearts in our own breasts, but living and beating in the Heart of Jesus; and this can rarely be accomplished except through the operation of sanctified sorrow. Happy, therefore, is he who has a sorrow at all hours to sanctify!
We have now brought our Blessed Mother to the threshold of those mysterious fifteen years which followed her dolors and the Ascension of our Lord. She began with fifteen years without Him, and so in like manner she ended without Him. Only as in the first fifteen years the image of the Messias was engraven upon her heart, and the shadow of His coming lay over all her growths in holiness, so in the last fifteen years he dwelt bodily within her in the unconsumed Blessed Sacrament, from Communion to Communion, and was the living fountain of all those nameless and unimaginable growths in holiness which, during that time, went on within her soul. The destiny of the Mother of God was a destiny of unutterable sorrow, exhausting at once the possibilities of woe and the capabilities of the creature. This might be expected, since it was by sorrow, shame and the Passion that the Incarnate God came to save the world. The dolors of our Blessed Lady, therefore, are inseparable from her divine Maternity. They ate not accidents of her life, one way out of many ways in which God might have chosen to sanctify her. They were inevitable to her as Mother of God, of God who took flesh and to die. Thus, rightly considered, Mary’s dolor are Mary’s self. Her first fifteen years, commencing with the Immaculate Conception, were a preparation for her dolors. Her last fifteen years, commencing with the descent of the Holy Ghost, were the maturity of her dolors. During them her sea of sorrow settled till it became a clear, profound, translucent depth of unmingled love, whose last act of taking the tranquil plenitude of possession of its glorious victim was the dislodging of her soul from her body, by the most marvellous and beautiful death which creature could ever die. Such an edifice of sorrow as the Divine Motherhood was to bring along with it could not rest on foundations less broad and deep than the immeasurable graces of her last fifteen years. What, then, must have been the grandeur of the graces which came upon that edifice when it was completed, and were its domes and towers, and pinnacles? We have often wondered what could be done to Mary, in the way of sanctification, at the descent of the Holy Ghost? What was left to do? In what direction was she to grow? The mere fact of the delaying of the Assumption meant something; and what could it have meant but increase of holiness and multiplication of grace? It she was kept on earth to nurse the Infant Church, as she had nursed the Infant Saviour, to be herself a living Bethlehem, with the Blessed Sacrament forever in her, and her queenship of the apostles and external ministry of Bethlehem to the childhood of the Church, still, untold and incalculable augmentations of grace and merit are implied in the very office, as well as in the fact that it was God’s Mother who fulfilled the office. It was her dolors which opened out in her soul fresh abysses for eager grace to fill. It was the dolors which rendered her capable of that other new creation of grace in the descent of the Holy Ghost. His graces are absolutely inexhaustible: her capacities of grace are practically inexhaustible, to our limited comprehension. Her martyrdom prepared her for those ineffable augmentations of grace and merit which were compressed into her last fifteen years. Thus her dolors are, at it were, the centre of her holiness. They reveal Mary to us as she was in herself more than any other of her mysteries. Indeed, they are hardly to be called mysteries; they are more than that: they are her life, her self, her maternity. They enable us to understand her holiness. They help us to see that what theologians say of the momentary accumulation of her merits is not to incredible as it often seems to those who have not loved and meditated their way into Mary’s greatness. There is nothing about Mary which units in itself so Mary of Mary’s part in the Incarnation, of her own peculiar personal holiness, and of her similitude to God, as the system of her dolors. They are at once the plainest and the completest as well as the most tender an pathetic revelation of the Mother of God.As her first fifteen years were secret, so were her last fifteen; but over the marvellous processes of grace, which fill them both lies the shadow of her dolors, the shadow of a coming time in the one case, the shadow of of a lofty mountainous past in the other. He who would learn Mary must enter into her broken heart to do so. It is the “dolorous Mother” who illuminates the Immaculate Conception on the one side and the fair pomp of the Assumption on the other.
Look once more at the great Mother, as she leaves the garden of the sepulchre. Eve going forth from Eden was not more sorrow-laden, and bore with her into the unpeopled earth a heart less broken and less desolate. That woe-worn woman is the strength of the Church, the queen of the apostles, the true mother of all that outspread the world, over which the blue mantle of darkness is falling fast and silently. Sleep on, tired world! sleep on, beneath the paschal moon and the stars that are brightening as it sets; they mother’s heart watches and waits for thee! (Father Frederick Faber, The Foot of the Cross, published originally in England in 1857 under the title of The Dolors of Mary, republished by TAN Books and Publishers, pp. 363-367.)
We have now to speak of our compassion with Mary as an imitation of her Compassion with Jesus, or, in other words, of our compassion with her as itself a worship of Jesus and a true compassion with Him. First of all, devotion to our Blessed Lady is most acceptable to our Lord Himself. We quoted in the first chapter His revelation to the Blessed Veronica of Binasaco, in which He told her that tears shed over His Mother’s sorrows were more precious in His sight than tears shed in memory of His own. We may perhaps venture to explain this as teaching us, what appears to be certainly true in itself, that devotion to the seven dolors brings with it by a kind of necessity devotion to the Passion, whereas devotion to the Passion does not seem so necessarily to include devotion to the dolors. Devotion to the Passion, in which the right place and participation are not assigned to Mary, is not a scriptural devotion; and in many ways, it would be out of place to enter upon here, it betokens an imperfect and unworthy view of the Passion itself. Yet it is not uncommon to meet with this partial devotion, and it rather tends to keep devotion to the Dolors at arms’-length than to lead to it. It is based upon that untheological mistake, which some deceive themselves into thinking a theological nicety and a controversial felicity, namely, a sort of jealous, ignorant accuracy in keeping Jesus and Mary apart, and not letting one intrude on the sphere of the other, as if to speak as slightingly as they dare of the Mother of God would make truth more attractive in the eyes of a misbelieving world, to which the incredible abasement of Jesus in His Sacrament is already a far greater stumbling-block than the incredible exaltation of His Mother. On the other hand, we see that devotion to the dolors brings with it as its invariable practical result a deep, tender, accurate, minute and reverential devotion to the Passion. Again, we may venture to read in our Lord’s words a loving intent ot have reparation made to Mary for her Compassion, just a her Compassion was the grand reparation of His Passion. By inspiring saints and religious orders with this devotion, and sending forth His mighty grace and efficacious blessing to accompany it, He repays her for the beautiful reparation of her Compassion. But whatever other meanings there may be in this revelation to the Blessed Veronica, and although its force as a revelation was, as in all private revelations, intended for herself, it proves at least as much as this, that the devotion to our Lady’s dolors is one of peculiar acceptableness in the eyes of our Blessed Saviour.
This devotion has also a remarkable connection with great interior holiness. This is proved by experience. Neither is it to be wondered at. For it is a devotion which naturally makes us unworldly, because we live and breathe in an atmosphere of sorrow. It brings out the unreality of worldly joys. It sobers our thoughts. It keeps them close to Jesus Christ, and to Him crucified. It communicates to our souls the spirit of the Cross, and the enviable gift of love of suffering full often begins in a prayerful familiarity with the sorrows of our Blessed Mother. More than most devotions it tends to supernaturalize the mind, because it keeps us in a sphere of heavenly beauty, whose look and odor gradually pass upon ourselves. It is a sphere in which the most wonderful divine operations mingle with the common woes and sorrows of a suffering world, and so it expresses that union of self-abasement and self-oblivion in which all the greater graces of the spiritual life take root. Moreover, the prevailing ideas to which it weds our minds are just those which are the most solid and essential in any preserving endeavors after holiness. For it unites us to an abiding sorrow for sin, sin over which Mary sorrowed, sin of our own which was actually present and influential in both those sorrows, wronging at once the Mother and the Son. It equally unites us to the perpetual sense of needing grace, of absolute dependence upon grace, and of that ready abundance of grace on which our filial confidence reposes. It is all stained with the Precious Blood; and thus it puts us into the very depths of our Saviour’s Sacred Heart. There is no soul which worldliness finds it harder to attack than one which is entrenched within the dolors of our Blessed Lady. There is nothing which the world can graft itself upon in that devotion. There is nothing congenial to the spirit and way of the world in it, nothing even which the world can falsify for its own ends or fraudulently divert for its own purposes. Moreover, it was in the dolors that the grandeurs of Mary’s sanctity were fabricated, and fabricated out of materials which in their degree are common to every one of us her sons and daughters. It is hard to live in the bosom of great examples and be uninfluenced by them. The lessons which the dolors teach us are wanted at almost every turn of life, and are most appropriate to be the very seasons when grace is wont to be most active in us; and they are imparted with such loving tenderness, with such pathetic simplicity, and in the midst of such countless similitudes between our sinless Mother and our sinful selves, that it is difficult to conceive of a school in which so much heavenly wisdom is taught so winningly as in the Compassion of Mary.
Furthermore, this devotion to the dolors of Mary is reckoned by theologians among the signs of predestination. Certainly a special attraction of grace is a sweet prophecy of our final perseverance; and it is by a special attention of grace that we addict ourselves to this devotion. Perhaps our Lord’s revelation to St. John the Evangelist, cited in the first chapter, of the four graces which it was His blessed will to attach to this devotion, one of which concerned the gift of perfect contrition before death, may have led to its being included in the catalogue of signs of predestination. For sorrow for sin is well-nigh the queen of graces, enclosing as it does within itself the grace and more than the grace of sacraments. Contrition is nearest of kin to perseverance, and the promise of our Lady’s assistance at the hour of death is not far removed from an assurance of our salvation. Cartagena says, “A man may put before himself, as the most assured sign of predestination, the fact that he has had compassion for this most afflicted Mother; for the ancients tell us that it was conceded to the Blessed Virgin by Christ the Lord, that whoever should revolve in his mind her maternal dolors might be sure of impetrating any favor which concerned the salvation of his soul, and especially the grace of true penance for his sins before death.”
Thus also devotion to the dolors is one of the best preparations for death, not only because of the precise graces promised to it in the hour of death, but also because it concerns our Lady’s ministry to our Lord at the hour of His blessed death. Hence there is a congruity between this devotion and death. And, after all, what should life be but a preparation for death? And what graces should more attract our humility than those which promise us their succor in that tremendous hour? Alas! it is not for such as we are to look forward to death with triumph, or even with impatience. We are not saints. Triumph therefore would be unseemly in us, and impatience is surely premature. It is enough for us, in our low attainments, to be content to die, and to fear bravely that which are are contented to endure. Fine words are easy, and love is very profuse of them, when we are not tempted, and when God is flooding us with that inward sweetness which gives us such a facility in prayer. But when we are tempted, we grow silent; and when to our temptation is added spiritual dryness, querulousness and peevishness are added to our silence. We are soon prostrated; and we learn thereby the good lesson of our own real inward misery and helplessness. But if dryness and temptation brings such changes, what will death bring? It will bring such an unutterable, speechless, terrified, agonizing necessity of grace as it is appalling to think of when we bend our thoughts seriously to it. What will a devotion be worth to us, then, which has two special deathbed promises attached to it! Gold and pearls could not reckon its price. But the devotion must have been a lifetime devotion in order legally to inherit the deathbed promises. (Father Frederick Faber, The Foot of the Cross, published originally in England in 1857 under the title of The Dolors of Mary, republished by TAN Books and Publishers, pp, 394-398.)
Our Lady had to walk away from the tomb where the Sacred Body of her Divine Son had been laid to rest. She was without her Son for the first time since the Incarnation. She kept a vigilant watch in prayer. So must we. At all times! We must beseech her to never imitate the fear of the Jews that Joseph of Arimathea and the Eleven Apostles had during the forty hours of her Divine Son’s burial. We must proclaim our Faith in Christ the King openly and unabashedly as we make no concessions at all to the ethos of conciliarism or to the nonexistent legitimacy of its false shepherds.
Indeed, Joseph of Arimathea, who assisted Our Lady at the burial of her Divine Son in the new tomb that he had hewn out of stone, was very much afraid of the Jews who had served as the human instruments of how our own sins put the God-Man to death. So were the Apostles themselves, who hid in fright during the forty hours between the death of Our Lord and His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. We must be patient this day, maintaining a vigilance in prayer, as we recall the fact that all of the souls of the just who had died before Our Lord re-opened the Gates of Heaven by His Redemptive Act on Calvary had waited many, many years for Him to bring them out of their limbo following His Passion and Death. We must be patient as we await the glories of the Easter Season, and as we await Our Lord coming for us when we breathe our last here in this vale of tears.
An ancient Holy Saturday sermon describes Our Lord’s descent into the place where all of the souls of the just awaited His rescue following His Redemptive Act on the wood of the Holy Cross:
Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.
He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all”. Christ answered him: “And with your spirit”. He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light”.
I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.
See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.
I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.
Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.
The Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich explained much the same thing in her The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ:
When Jesus, after uttering a loud cry, expired, I saw his heavenly soul under the form of a bright meteor pierce the earth at the foot of the Cross, accompanied by the angel Gabriel and many other angels. His Divine nature continued untied to his soul as well as to his body, which still remained hanging upon the Cross, but I cannot explain how this way, although I saw it plainly in my own mind. The place into which the soul of Jesus entered was divided into three parts, which appeared to me like three worlds; and I felt that they were round, and that each division was separated from the other by a hemisphere.
I beheld a bright and beautiful space opposite to Limbo; it was enamelled with flowers, delicious breezes wafted through it; and many souls were placed there before being admitted into Heaven after their deliverance from Purgatory. Limbo, the place where the souls were waiting for the Redemption, was divided into different compartments, and encompassed by a thick foggy atmosphere. Our Lord appeared radiant with light and surrounded by angels, who conducted him triumphantly between two of these compartments; the one on the left containing the patriarchs who lived before the time of Abraham, and that on the right those who lived between the days of Abraham and St. John Baptist. These soul did not at first recognise Jesus but were filled nevertheless with sensations of joy and hope. There was not a spot in those narrow confines which did not, as it were, dilate with feelings of happiness. The passage of Jesus might be compared to the wafting of a breath of air, to a sudden flash of light, or to a shower of vivifying dew, but it was swift as a whirlwind. After passing through the two compartments, he reached a dark spot in which Adam and Eve were standing; he spoke to them, they prostrated and adore him in a perfect ecstasy of joy, and they immediately joined the band of angels, and accompanied our Lord to the compartment on the left, which contained the patriarchs who lived before Abraham. This compartment was a species of Purgatory, and a few evil spirits were wandering about among the souls and endeavouring to fill them with anxiety and alarm. The entrance through the species of door was closed, but the angels rapped, and I thought I heard them say, ‘Open these doors.’ When Jesus entered in triumph the demons dispersed, crying out at the same time, ‘What is there between thee and us? What art thou come to do here? Wilt thou crucify us likewise?’ The angels hunted them away, having first chained them. The poor souls confined in the place had only a slight presentiment and vague idea of the presence of Jesus; but the moment he told them that it was he himself, they burst out in acclamations of joy, and welcomed him with hymns of rapture and delight. The soul of our Lord then wended its way to the right, towards that part which really constituted Limbo; and there he met the soul of the good thief which angels were carrying to Abraham’s bosom, as also that of the bad thief being dragged by the demons into Hell. Our Lord addressed a few words to both, and then entered Abraham’s bosom, accompanied by numerous angels and holy souls, and also by those demons who had been chained and expelled from the compartment.
This locality appeared to me more elevated than the surrounding parts; and I can only describe my sensations on entering it, by comparing them to those of a person coming suddenly into the interior of a church, after having been for some time in the burial vaults. The demons, who were strongly chained, were extremely loath to enter, and resisted to the utmost of their power but the angels compelled them to go forward. All the just who had lived before the time of Christ were assembled there; the patriarchs, Moses, the judges, and the kings on the left-hand side; and on the right side, the prophets, and the ancestors of our Lord, as also his near relations, such as Joachim, Anna, Joseph, Zacaharias, Elizabeth, and John. There were no demons in this place, and the only discomfort that had been felt by those placed there was a longing desire for the accomplishment of the promise; and when our Lord entered they saluted him with joyful hymns of gratitude and thanksgiving for its fulfillment, they prostrated and adored him, and the evil spirits who had been dragged into Abraham’s bosom when our Lord entered were compelled to confess with shame that they were vanquished. Many of these holy souls were ordered by our Lord to return to earth, re-enter their own bodies, and thus render a solemn and impressive testimony to the truth. It was at this moment that so many dead persons left their tombs in Jerusalem; I regard ed them less in the light of dead persons risen again than as corpses put in motion by a divine power, and which, after having fulfilled the mission entrusted to them, were laid aside in the same manner as the insignia of office are taken off by a clerk when he has executed the orders of his superiors. (Venerable Anne Katherine Emmerich, The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus
The Apostles were hiding in fright as Our Lord descended to rescue the souls of the just. Like Apostles before us, we are to hide ourselves from the world, so to speak, as we, who have been blessed with the gift of the true Faith, anticipate the Holy Saturday Mass, whether it is offered in the morning (as it was traditionally from the Eleventh Century until 1951–and is still offered thusly in some traditional Catholic venues) orr in the evening with a Mass that ends early on Easter Sunday morning in most cases. For Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the new Moses, has led us through the night of slavery to sin to the beginning of an eternal day, the day of the Resurrection, Easter. He is the Light of the world. That is why a fire is lit in the traditional rite outside of Catholic churches this day, Holy Saturday. That is why an Easter Vigil candle will be lit in every sanctuary in every Catholic church this day–and will remain lit for the next fifty days. The Light Who is Jesus Christ wants us to understand that the Easter Vigil is held to commemorate the fact that the powers of sin and death were destroyed forever. This is the night that is to give us hope in the midst of our darkest trial.
Our Lady herself described what her Divine Son did following His Death on the wood of the Holy Cross on Good Friday as He descended in His spirit to rescue the souls of the just from Limbo:
755. The most holy soul of Christ our Redeemer remained in limbo from half past three of Friday afternoon until after three o’clock of the following Sunday morning. During this hour He returned to the sepulchre accompanied as the victorious Prince by the same Angels who had led Him to limbo, and the Saints whom He had rescued from those nether prisons as spoils of his victory and as an earnest of his glorious triumph over the chastised and prostrate rebels of hell. In the sepulchre were many Angels as its guard, venerating the sacred body united to the Divinity. Some of them, obeying the command of their Queen and Mistress, had gathered the relics of the sacred blood shed by her divine Son, the particles of flesh scattered about, the hair torn from his divine face and head, and all else which belonged to the perfection and integrity of his most sacred humanity; on these the Mother of prudence lavished her solicitous care. The Angels took charge of these relics, each one filled with joy at being privileged to hold the particles which he was able to secure. Before any change was made the body of the Redeemer was shown to the holy Fathers in the same wounded, lacerated and disfigured state in which it was left by the cruelty of the Jews. Beholding Him thus disfigured in death, the Patriarchs and Prophets with the other Saints adored Him and again confessed Him as the incarnate Word, who had truly taken upon Himself our infirmities and sorrows (Is. 53:4) and paid abundantly our debts, satisfying in his innocence and guiltlessness for what we ourselves owed to the justice of the eternal Father. There did our first parents Adam and Eve see the havoc wrought by their disobedience, the priceless remedy it necessitated, and the immense goodness and mercy of the Redeemer. Since they felt the effects of his copious Redemption in the glory of their souls, they praised anew the Omnipotent and Saint of saints who had with such marvelous wisdom wrought such a salvation.
756. Then in the presence of all of those Saints, through the ministry of those Angels, all the relics which they had gathered were united to the sacred deceased body, restoring it to its natural perfection and integrity. In the same moment the most holy soul of Christ reunited with the body, giving it immortal life and glory. Instead of the winding sheets and the ointments in which it had been buried (Jn. 19:40) it was clothed with the four gifts of glory, namely clearness, impassibility, agility and subtility. These gifts overflowed from the immense glory of the soul of Christ into his sacred body. Although these gifts were due to it as a natural inheritance and participation from the instant of his conception, because from that very moment his soul was glorified and his whole humanity was united to the Divinity, yet they had been suspended in their effects upon his purest body in order to permit it to remain passible and capable of meriting for us our own glory (Inc. 147). In the Resurrection these gifts were justly called into activity in the proper degree corresponding to the glory of his soul and to his union with the Divinity. Since the glory of the most holy soul of Christ our Savior is incomprehensible and ineffable to man, it is also impossible entirely to describe by our words or examples the glorious gifts of his deified body, for in comparison to its purity crystal would be obscure; the light inherent and shining forth from his body exceeds that of the others as the day does the night, or as many suns the light of one star; and all the beauty of creatures, if joined together as one, would appear ugliness in comparison with his, nothing else being comparable to it in all creation.
757. The excellence of these gifts in the Resurrection was far beyond the glory of his Transfiguration or that manifested on other occasions of the kind mentioned in this History (Inc. 695; Tran. 140, 388ff.), for on those occasions He received the gifts of glory transitorily and for special purposes, while now He received them in plenitude and forever. Through impassibility his body became invincible to all created power, since no power can ever move or change Him. By subtility the gross and earthly matter was so purified that it could now penetrate other matter like a pure spirit; hence He penetrated through the rocks of the sepulchre without removing or displacing them, just as He had issued forth from the womb of his Blessed Mother. Agility so freed Him from the weight and slowness of matter that it exceeded the agility of the immaterial angels, and He himself could move about more quickly than they as shown in his apparitions to the Apostles and on other occasions. The sacred wounds which had disfigured his body now shone forth from his hands, feet and side so refulgent and brilliant that they added a most entrancing beauty and charm. In all this beauty and glory our Savior rose from the grave; and in the presence of the Saints and Patriarchs He promised to the entire human race universal resurrection as an effect of his own in the same flesh and body which each of the mortals had, and that in their own bodies the just would be glorified. As an earnest and pledge of the universal resurrection the Lord commanded the souls of many Saints there present to reunite with their bodies and rise up to immortal life. Immediately this divine command was executed and their bodies arose, anticipating the mystery referred to by St. Matthew (Mt. 27:52). Among them were St. Anne, St. Joseph, and St. Joachim, and others of the ancient Fathers and Patriarchs who had distinguished themselves in the faith and hope of the Incarnation, and had desired and prayed for it with greater earnestness to the Lord. As a reward for their zeal the resurrection and glory of their bodies was now anticipated.
758. O how powerful and admirable, how victorious and strong was now manifested this Lion of Juda, the Son of David! None ever woke from sleep so quickly as Christ from death (Ps. 3:6). At his imperious voice the dry and scattered bones of the ancient dead were joined together, and the flesh which had long ago turned to dust was renewed, and united to the bones restored its former being, being consummately enhanced by all the gifts of glory in which the body participated in the life restored to it by the glorified soul. In one instant all these Saints gathered around their Savior, more refulgent and brilliant than the sun, pure, transparent, beauteous and agile, fit to follow Him everywhere, and by their own good fortune they now confirmed the prophecy of Job that in our own flesh and with our own eyes, and not with those of others, we shall see our Redeemer for our consolation (Job 19:26-27). Of all these mysteries the great Queen of heaven was aware, and She participated in them from her retreat in the Cenacle. In the same instant in which the most holy soul of Christ entered and gave life to his body, the joy of her immaculate soul, which as I mentioned in the preceding chapter was being restrained and as it were withheld, overflowed into her immaculate body, and this overflow was so exquisite in its effects that She was transformed from sorrow to joy, from pain to delight, from grief to ineffable jubilation and rest. It happened that just at this time the Evangelist St. John, as he had done on the previous morning (746), stepped in to visit Her and console Her in her bitter solitude, and thus unexpectedly met Her in the midst of splendor and glory, She whom he had before scarcely recognized due to her overwhelming sorrow. The Apostle now beheld Her with wonder and deepest reverence, and concluded that the Lord had risen since his Blessed Mother was thus transfigured with joy.
759. In this new joy, and under the divine influences of her supernatural vision, the great Lady began to prepare Herself for the visit of the Lord which was near at hand. While eliciting acts of praise, and in her canticles and prayers, She immediately felt within Her a new kind of jubilation and celestial delight, reaching far beyond the first joy, and corresponding in a wonderful manner to the sorrows and tribulations She had undergone in the Passion. This new favor was different and much more exalted than the joys overflowing naturally from her soul into her body; moreover, She perceived within Herself a third and different benefit, implying new divine favors, namely She felt infused into her being the heavenly light heralding the advent of the beatific vision, which I shall not here explain since I have already spoken about it in the first Part (Con. 620). In this second Part I add only that the Queen on this occasion received these benefits with greater abundance and excellence than on the previous occasions, for now the Passion of her most holy Son had gone before, as well as the merits which the divine Mother had acquired during it, and according to the multitude of her sorrows was the consolation She received from the hand of her omnipotent Son.
760. Most holy Mary being thus prepared, Christ our Savior, risen and glorious, in the company of all the Saints and Patriarchs, made his appearance. The ever humble Queen prostrated Herself upon the ground and adored her divine Son, and the Lord raised Her up and drew Her to Himself. In this contact, which was more intimate than the contact with the humanity and the wounds of the Savior sought by Magdalen (Jn. 20:17), the Virgin Mother participated in an extraordinary favor which She alone, as exempt from sin, could merit. Although it was not the greatest of the favors She attained on this occasion, yet She could not have received it without her faculties failing if She had not been previously strengthened by the Angels and by the Lord himself. This favor was that the glorious body of the Son so closely united itself to that of his purest Mother that He penetrated into it, or She into his, as when for instance a crystal globe takes up within itself the light of the sun and is saturated with the splendor and beauty of its light. In the same way the body of most holy Mary entered into that of her divine Son by this heavenly embrace; it was, as it were, the portal of her intimate knowledge concerning the glory of the most holy soul and body of the Lord himself. By these favors, as by degrees of ineffable gifts, the spirit of the great Lady was ascending to the knowledge of most hidden sacraments. In the midst of them She heard a voice saying to Her: Friend, go up higher (Lk. 14:10). By the power of these words She was entirely transformed and saw the Divinity clearly and intuitively, wherein She found complete (although temporary) rest and reward for all her sorrows and labors. Silence alone here is proper, since reason and language are entirely inadequate to comprehend or express what passed in most holy Mary during this beatific vision, the highest She had until then enjoyed. Let us celebrate this day in wonder and praise, with congratulations, and with love and humble gratitude for what She then merited for us, and for her joy and exaltation.
761. For some hours the heavenly Princess continued to enjoy the essence of God with her divine Son, participating now in his triumph as She had in his torments. Then by similar degrees She again descended from this vision and found Herself in the end reclining on the right arm of the most sacred humanity and regaled in another manner by the right hand of his divinity (Cant. 2:6). She held sweetest converse with her Son concerning the mysteries of his Passion and his glory. In these conferences She was again inebriated with the wine of love and charity, which She now drank unmeasured from the original fount. All that a mere creature can receive was conferred upon most pure Mary on this occasion, for according to our way of conceiving such things the divine equity desired to compensate the injury (thus I must call it, because I cannot find a more proper word) which a creature so pure and immaculate had undergone in suffering the sorrows and torments of the Passion, for as I have mentioned many times before (525, etc.) She suffered the same pains as her Son, and now in this mystery She was inundated with a proportionate joy and delight.
762. After all this (and still in her exalted state) the great Lady turned to the holy Patriarchs and the just who were there, and to all together and to each one She recognized in their order She spoke respectively, praising the Almighty for his liberal mercy to each one of them. She was filled with a special delight in speaking to her parents Sts. Joachim and Anne, with her spouse St. Joseph, and with St. John the Baptist, and with them She conversed more particularly than with the Patriarchs and Prophets and with the first parents Adam and Eve. All of them prostrated themselves before the heavenly Lady, acknowledging Her as the Mother of the Redeemer of the world, the cause of their rescue, and the Coadjutrix of their Redemption, for the divine Wisdom impelled them thus to venerate and honor Her. Nevertheless the Queen of all virtues and Mistress of humility prostrated Herself on the ground and reverenced the Saints according to their due. This the Lord permitted because the Saints, though they were inferior in grace, were superior in their state of blessedness, endowed with imperishable and eternal glory, while the Mother of Grace was yet in mortal life and a viator, and had not as yet arrived at the state of a comprehensor. The presence of Christ our Savior continued during the entire conference of the Blessed Mother with the holy Fathers. Most holy Mary invited all the Angels and Saints there present to praise the Victor over death, sin and hell, whereupon all sang new songs, psalms, and hymns of glory and magnificence until the hour arrived when the risen Savior was to appear in other places, as I shall relate in the following chapter. (The New English Edition ofThe Mystical City of God: The Transfixion, Chapter XXVI.)
Our Lady prayed through the dark forty hours of her Divine Son’s burial following His death on the wood of the Holy Cross to redeem us, something that she related to Venerable Mary of Agreda in he preceding chapter of The Transfixion, which describes the location of Limbo in relation to Purgatory and Hell and how the souls of the damned were more wretched after her Divine Son's Passion and Death than they had been beforehand:
743. The fullness of wisdom in the soul of our great Queen and Lady amid all her sorrows permitted no defect or remissness in noticing and attending to all the duties of each occasion and at all times. By this heavenly foresight She met her obligations and practiced the highest and most eminent of all the virtues. She retired (as I have said ) to the house of the Cenacle after the burial of Christ our Good. Remaining in the hall of the Last Supper in the company of St. John, the Marys, and the other women who had followed Christ from Galilee, She spoke to them and to the Apostle, thanking them in profound humility and abundant tears for persevering with Her up to this time throughout the Passion of her beloved Son, in whose name She promised them the reward of having followed Him with so much constancy and devotion. At the same time She offered Herself as a servant and friend to those holy women. All of them with St. John acknowledged this great favor, kissing her hands and asking for her blessing. They also begged Her to take some rest and some bodily refreshment, but the Queen answered: “My rest and my consolation shall be to see my Son and Lord risen from the dead. Do you, my dearest friends, satisfy your wants according to your necessities while I retire alone with my Son.”
744. Thereupon She retired with St. John, and being alone with him She fell upon her knees and said: “Do not thou forget the words which my Son spoke to us on the Cross. He condescended to call thee my son, and me thy mother. Thou art my master and a priest of the Most High, and because of this dignity it is appropriate for me to obey thee in all I am to do; and from this hour I desire thee to order and command me in all things, remembering I shall always be thy servant, and all my joy shall be to serve thee as such until my death.” This the Lady said with many tears. And among many other things the Apostle said: “My Lady and Mother of my Redeemer and Lord, I am the one who should be subject to thy authority, for the name of a son implies devotion and subjection to his mother. He who has made me priest has made Thee his Mother and was subject to thy authority, though He was the Creator of the universe (Lk. 2:51). It is reasonable that I likewise be subject to Thee, and that I labor with all my powers to make myself worthy of the office He has conferred upon me, which is to serve Thee as thy son, for which I would desire to be rather an angel than a creature of earth.” This answer of the Apostle was most appropriate, but it did not avail to overcome the humility of the Mother of virtues, who answered: “My son John, my consolation shall be to obey thee as my superior, since such thou art. In this life I must always have a superior to whom I can render my will in obedience. For this purpose thou art the minister of the Most High, and as my son thou owest me this as a consolation in my solitude.” “Let then thy will be done, my Mother,” said St. John, “for in this lies my own security.” Without further answer the heavenly Mother then asked permission to remain alone in meditation upon the mysteries of her divine Son, asking him also to provide some refreshment for the holy women who had accompanied Her, and to assist and console them. She reserved only the Marys, because they desired to persevere in their fast until they would see the Lord risen from the dead, and She asked St. John to allow them to fulfill their pious affection.
745. St. John then went to console the Marys and execute the commands of the great Lady. Having attended to their needs these pious women all retired to spend that night in sorrowful and bitter meditations on the Passion and mysteries of the Savior. With this knowledge so divine most holy Mary labored amid the floods of her anguish and afflictions, without ever forgetting the least point of the most perfect obedience, humility, charity, and prudent foresight for all that was necessary. She did not forget to attend to the necessities of these pious women, nor did She because of this forget anything necessary for the exercise of the highest perfection in Herself. She approved of the fast of the Marys as being strong and fervent in their love, and attended to the necessities of the weaker. She instructed the Apostle in his duties toward Herself, and proceeded in all things as the Instructress of perfection and the Lady of Grace. All this She did when the waters of tribulation had entered into her very soul (Ps. 68:2). Then remaining alone in her retreat She let loose the impetuous floods of her afflicted love and permitted Herself to be possessed interiorly and exteriorly by the bitterness of her soul. She renewed in her mind the recollection of the frightful death of her divine Son; the mysteries of his life, his preaching, and his miracles; the infinite value of the Redemption; the new Church which He had founded and adorned with the riches of the Sacraments and the treasures of grace; the happiness of the human race, now so copiously and gloriously redeemed; the inestimable fortune of the predestined, who would actually obtain that happiness; and the tremendous unhappiness of the reprobate, who by their own fault would make themselves unworthy of the eternal glory merited for them by her Son.
746. In the deep consideration of these high and hidden sacraments the great Lady passed that whole night, weeping and sighing, praising and glorifying the works of her divine Son, his Passion, his hidden judgments, and the rest of the high mysteries of divine Wisdom and the hidden providence of the Lord. All of them, as the only Mother of true wisdom, She contemplated and understood, conferring sometimes with the holy Angels, and at others with the Lord himself, concerning what the divine influences caused Her to feel in her own purest Heart. On the following sabbath morning, after four o’clock, St. John entered to console the Sorrowful Mother. Falling on her knees before him She asked him for his blessing as from her superior and a priest. Her new son on his part asked it of Her with tears in his eyes, and thus they gave their blessing one to the other. The heavenly Queen then ordered St. John to go into the city where he would shortly encounter St. Peter who was looking for him, and receive him, console him, and bring him to her presence, and to do the same with the other Apostles he would encounter, giving them hope of pardon and offering them her friendship. St. John left the Cenacle and a few steps away met St. Peter, who full of confusion and in tears was very timidly seeking the presence of the great Queen. He had just come from the cave where he had wept over his denials, but he was now consoled by St. John and encouraged by the message from the divine Mother. Then these two went in search of the other Apostles. Having found some they went together to the Cenacle, hoping for pardon. St. Peter entered first and alone into the presence of the Mother of Grace, and falling at her feet he said with great sorrow: “I have sinned, Lady, I have sinned before my God, and have offended my Master and Thee.” He could not speak another word, further speech being stifled by tearful sobs and sighs which came from the depths of his oppressed heart.
747. The most prudent Virgin, seeing Peter kneeling on the ground, and considering him on the one hand as doing penance for sins so recently committed, and on the other hand as the head of the Church, chosen by her most holy Son as his vicar, did not deem it proper to prostrate Herself before the pastor who had just denied his Master, but neither would her humility suffer Her to withhold the reverence due to his office. In order to conform her action to both these circumstances, She resolved to show him proper reverence without disclosing her motive. For this purpose She fell on her knees to do him reverence, at the same time concealing her intention by saying: “Let us ask pardon for thy guilt from my Son and thy Master.” She prayed for him and revived his hope by reminding him of the merciful behavior of the Lord in regard to wellknown sinners, and pointing out his own obligation as head of the Apostolic College to give the example of constancy in the confession of the faith. By these and other arguments of great force and sweetness She confirmed Peter in the hope of pardon. Then also the other Apostles presented themselves, prostrating themselves before most holy Mary and asking pardon for their cowardice in forsaking her divine Son during his sufferings. They all wept bitterly over their sin, being moved to greater sorrow by the presence of this Mother so full of sorrowful pity. Her wonderfully sweet countenance caused in them divine movements of contrition for their sins and love of their Master. The great Lady raised them up and encouraged them, promising them the pardon they sought and her intercession to obtain it. Then all of them in their turn related what had happened to each in his flight. Though the heavenly Lady knew all concerning these events, even to the last particulars, She heard them all kindly, taking occasion from what they said to touch their hearts, confirm them in their faith in their Redeemer and Master, and arouse in them divine love. In this the heavenly Lady succeeded completely, for they all went away from this conference burning with new fervor and justified by new increases of grace.
748. These were the occupations of the heavenly Queen during part of the sabbath. At the approach of evening She again retired, leaving the Apostles now renewed in spirit and full of consolation and joy in the Lord, yet also full of grief for the Passion of their Master. In her retirement during this evening the great Lady contemplated the doings of the most holy soul of her Son after leaving the sacred body, for from the time of his death the Blessed Mother knew that the soul of Christ, united to the Divinity, descended into limbo in order to release the holy Fathers from the subterranean prison where they had been detained since the death of the first just man who had died in expectation of the advent of the Redeemer of the whole human race. In order to speak about this mystery, which is one of the articles of faith pertaining to the most sacred humanity of Christ our Lord, it seems best to mention that which has been given me to understand regarding that place of limbo and its location. Thus I say the diameter of the earth’s globe, passing through the center from one surface to the other, measures two thousand, five hundred two leagues; and from the surface to the center, one thousand, two hundred fifty-one leagues; and according to the diameter is to be calculated the circumference of this globe. In the center is the hell of the damned, as in the heart of the earth. This hell is a chaotic cavern which contains many darksome dwellings for diverse punishments, all of them dreadful and terrible. All of these together form a vast globe like a huge round jar, with an opening or mouth of vast expansion. In this horrible dungeon filled with confusion and torments are the demons and all the damned (Mt. 25:41), and shall be there for all eternity, as long as God is God, for in hell there is no redemption.
749. To one side of hell is purgatory, where the souls of the just are purged and where they purify themselves if they have not satisfied for their faults in this life, or have not departed from this earthly life entirely free from the defects incapacitating them for the beatific vision. This cavern is also large, but much smaller than hell, and though there are severe punishments in purgatory they have no connection with those of the hell of the damned. To the other side is limbo with two different divisions, one for the children who die without Baptism and tainted only with original sin, without either good or bad works of their own election, and the other which served as a retreat for the just who were already purged from their sins but could neither enter heaven nor enjoy the vision of God until the Redemption of man was accomplished and until Christ our Savior would open the gates of heaven closed by the sin of Adam (Ps. 23:9). This cavern is likewise smaller than hell and has no connection with it, nor are there in it the pains of the senses as in purgatory, for it was destined for the souls already purified in purgatory and implied only the absence of the beatific vision, which is the pain of privation. Hence in this part of limbo were all the purified souls who died in the state of grace until the death of the Redeemer. To this place of limbo the most holy soul of Christ, united to the Divinity, descended and to which we refer in saying that He descended into hell, for the word “hell” may be used to signify any of the infernal regions in the depths of the earth, though commonly we apply it only to the hell of the demons and the damned. This is the most notable meaning of this word, just as “heaven” ordinarily signifies the empyrean, the habitation of the Saints, where they are to dwell forever, while the damned remain forever in hell. The other parts of hell have also the more particular names of purgatory and limbo. After the Last Judgment only heaven and hell are to be inhabited, since purgatory shall become unnecessary and from limbo the infants also shall depart to another different habitation.
750. To this cavern of limbo then the most holy soul of Christ our Lord went in the company of innumerable Angels, who gave glory, fortitude and divinity to their victorious and triumphant King. In accordance with his greatness and majesty they commanded the portals of this ancient prison to be opened so the King of glory, powerful in battles and Lord of virtues, would find them unlocked and open at his entrance. At their command some of the rocks of the passage were rent and shattered, although this was not really necessary since the King and his militia were immaterial spirits. By the presence of the most holy soul of Christ this obscure cavern was converted into a heaven and was filled with a wonderful splendor, and to the souls therein contained was imparted the clear vision of the Divinity. In one instant they passed from the state of long-deferred hope to the possession of glory, and from darkness to the inaccessible light which they now enjoyed. All of them recognized their true God and Redeemer and gave Him gratitude and glory, breaking forth in canticles of praise, saying: “The Lamb that was slain is worthy to receive power, and divinity, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and benediction (Apoc. 5:12). Thou hast redeemed us, O Lord, in thy blood, out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and hast made us to our God a kingdom and priests, and we shall reign on the earth (Ib. 9-10). Thine is, O Lord, the power, thine the reign, and thine is the glory of thy works.” Then the Lord commanded the Angels to bring all the souls in purgatory, and this was immediately done; and as a debut of human Redemption they were absolved then and there by the Redeemer from the punishments still due to them, and they were glorified with the other souls of the just by the beatific vision. Thus on that day in the presence of the King were depopulated the prisons of both limbo and purgatory.
751. But for the damned in hell this was a terrible day, because by the disposition of the Most High all of them were made to see and feel the descent of the Redeemer into limbo, and likewise the holy Fathers and the just were made witnesses of the terror caused by this mystery to the demons and the damned. The demons were yet terrorized and oppressed by the ruin which they had undergone on mount Calvary as related above (710), and when they heard (according to their manner of hearing and speaking) the voices of the Angels advancing before their King to limbo they were confounded and terrified anew. Like serpents pursued they hid themselves and clung to the most remote caverns of hell. The damned were seized with confusion upon confusion, becoming still more deeply conscious of their aberration and of the loss of salvation, now secured to the just. Since Judas and the impenitent thief had so recently and signally shared this unhappiness, so their torments were greater and the demons were more highly incensed against them. Then and there the infernal spirits resolved to persecute and torment more grievously the Catholics, and chastise more severely those who would deny or repudiate the Catholic faith, for they concluded these merited greater punishment than the infidels to whom it is not preached.
752. Of all these mysteries, and of other secrets which I cannot mention, the great Lady of the world had a clear knowledge and vision from her retreat. Although this knowledge in the higher parts of her being or in her soul where this knowledge originated caused Her exquisite joy, yet She did not permit it to overflow into her virginal body, her senses, or her inferior faculties, to which it would naturally have been communicated. On the contrary, when She felt some of this joy overflow into the inferior parts of her being She besought the eternal Father to retard this overflow, for She did not wish to permit such enjoyment to her body as long as that of her divine Son rested in the grave and was not yet glorified. Such a careful and faithful love was that of the Blessed Mother toward her Son and Lord that She strove to be a living, true and perfect image of his deified humanity in all respects. Attending thus minutely to the smallest particulars, She was rejoiced exceedingly in her soul while She still felt the sorrows and distress of her body in imitation of the state of Christ our Savior. During this vision She composed songs of praise, magnifying the mysteries of this triumph and the most loving and wise providence of the Redeemer, who as an affectionate Father and omnipotent King desired in his own Person to take possession of the new reign given to Him by the Father, and who now rescued his subjects by his own presence so they could immediately begin to enjoy the reward merited for them. For these reasons, and others recognized by Her in this sacrament, She rejoiced and glorified the Lord as his Coadjutrix and the Mother of the Conqueror. (The New English Edition of The Mystical City of God: The Transfixion, Chapter XXV.)
We need to beg Our Lady to help us to participate in the victory her Divine Son won for us on the wood of the Holy Cross on Good Friday as it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God, worse yet to fall into His hands and to hear the Divine sentence of eternal damnation pass from His holy lips. We desire Heaven, not Hell. We desire to be friends of God in this life so as to bask in His glory in eternity, not to be His enemies here below and then for all eternity below in the very depths of fiery, eternal torture chamber known as hell.
We must do the same as we see the lighted Easter Candle for the year 2019 held high as the priest chants Lumen Christi, the Light of Christ. We must follow this Light always, never extinguishing it by means of a deliberate Mortal Sin.
Dom Prosper Gueranger provided a history of the ceremonies associated with the blessing of the new fire and the lighting of the Paschal Candle and he explained their meaning in a very concise and moving manner:
Last Wednesday the catechumens were told to present themselves at the church, for the hour of to-day’s Tierce (that is, nine o’clock in the morning). It is the final scrutiny. The priests are there to receive them; upon those who have not previously examined upon the Symbol, are now questioned. The Lord’s Prayer and the biblical attributes of the four evangelists having been explained, one of the priests dismisses the candidates for Baptism, bidding them spend the interval in recollection and prayer.
At the hour of None (our three o’clock in the afternoon), the bishop and the clergy repair to the church, and Holy Saturday vigil begins from this moment. The first ceremony consists in the blessing of the new fire, which is to furnish light for the whole Service. It was the daily custom, in the first ages of the Church, to strike a light from a flint before Vespers: from this the lamps and candles were lighted for the celebration of that Hour, and the light thus procured was kept up in the church till the Vespers of the following day. The Church of Rome observed this custom with great solemnity on Maundy Thursday morning, and the new fire received a special blessing. We learn, from a letter written in the eighth century by Pope St. Zachary to St. Boniface archbishop of Mayence, that three lamps were lighted from this fire, which were then removed to some safe place, and care taken that their light was kept in. It was from these lamps that the light for the Holy Saturday night was taken. In the following century, under St. Leo IV, whose pontificate lasted from 847 to 855, the custom of every day procuring new fire from a flint was extended also to Holy Saturday.
It is not difficult to understand the meaning of this ceremony, which is no longer observed by the Latin Church save on this day. Our Lord said of Himself: ‘I am the light of the world.’ Light, then, is an image of the Son of God. Stone, also, is one of types under which the Scriptures speak to us of the Messias. St. Peter, and St. Paul, quoting the words of the prophet Isaias, speak of Jesus as the Corner-Stone. The spark which is struck from the flint represents our Lord rising from His rock-hewn seuplchere, through the stone that had been rolled against it.
It is fitting, therefore, that this fire which is to provide light for the Paschal candle, as well as for those that are upon the altar, should receive a special blessing, and be triumphantly shown to the faithful. All the lamps in the church have been extinguished. Formerly, the faithful used to put out the fires in their houses, before going to the church; they lighted them on their return, which light taken from the blessed fire, which they received as a symbol of our Lord’s Resurrection. Let us not here omit to notice, that the putting out of all the lights in the church, is a symbol of the abrogation of the old Law, which ended with rending of the veil of the temple; and that the new fire represents the preaching of the new Law, whereby our Lord Jesus Christ, the light of the world, fulfilled all the figures of the ancient Covenant.
In order to help our readers to enter more fully into the mystery of the ceremony we are now describing, we will here mention a miracle which was witnessed for many centuries. The clergy and the people of Jerusalem, assembled for the service of Easter eve in the church of the holy sepulcher. After waiting for some time in silence, one of the lamps suspended over our Lord’s tomb was miraculously lighted. The other lamps and torches throughout the church were lighted from this, and the faithful took its holy flame with them to their houses. It would seem that this annual miracle first began after the Saracens had taken possession of Jerusalem: God so ordaining, that it might be a proof to these infidels of the divinity of the Christian religion. The historians of those times, who have written upon the Latin kingdom of Jerusalem, all speak of this miracle as an incontestable fact; and when Pope Urban II went to France, there to preach the first Crusade, he brought forward this miracle as one of the motives which should inspire the faithful with zeal for the defence of the sepulchre of Christ. When our Lord, in the unsearchable ways of His Justice, permitted Jerusalem to be reconquered by the infidels, the miracle ceased, nor has it ever been witnessed from that time. Our readers have no doubt heard of the scandalous scene, which is now repeated every Holy Saturday in the church of holy sepulchre in Jerusalem: we allude to the deception practiced by the schismatic Greek priests, whereby they persuaded their deluded people that their ingenious trick for lighting a lamp is the continuation of the miracle.
The Church also blesses the five grain of incense, which are to be used in the morning’s Service. They represent the perfumes prepared by Magdalene and her companions for embalming the Body of Jesus. The prayer said by the bishop, when blessing the incense, not only shows us the connection there is between it and the light, but it also teaches us what is the power theses several sacred objects have against the wicked spirits.
The bishop, with his attendants, goes in procession from the church to the place where he is to bless the fire and the incense. The fire, as we have already said, is the symbol of our Lord Jesus Christ; and the sepulchre, whence He is to rise to life, is outside the walls of Jerusalem. The holy women and the apostles , when they go to the sepulchre, will have to forth from the city.
Dom Prosper Gueranger then went on to explain the meaning of the blessing of the grains of incense:
After the prayers [blessing the grains of incense], an acolyte puts some of the blessed fire into a thurible. The bishop then censes the fire and the incense, after having first sprinkled them with holy water. Another acolyte lights a candle from the blessed fire, that the new light may be brought into the church. The deacon then vests in a white dalmatic. This festive colour, which contrasts so strongly with the purple cope worn by the bishop, is used on account of the joyful ministry which the deacon is about to fulfil. He takes into his right hand a reed, on the top of which is placed a triple branched candle. The reed is in memory of our Lord’s Passion: it also expresses the weakness of the human Nature which He assumed to Himself by the Incarnation. The three-branched candle signifies the blessed Trinity, of which the Incarnate Word is the Second Person.
The procession returns. Having entered the church, the deacon after advancing a few steps, lowers the reed, and the acolyte who carries the new light, lights one of the three branches of the candle the deacon then kneels, as do also all the clergy and the people. Raising this light on high, he sings these words: “Lumen Christi.” All answer: “Deo gratias.”
The first showing of the light expresses the revelation made to us by Jesus, of the Divinity of the Father. ‘No one,’ says He, ‘knoweth the Father, but the Son, and he to whom it shall please the Son to reveal Him.’
After this, all rise, and the procession advances as far a mid-way up the church. Here the deacon again lowers the reed, and a second branch of the candle is lighted by the acolyte. The same ceremonies are observed as before, and the deacon sings on a higher note: “Lumen Christi.” The whole assembly answers: “Deo gratias.”
This second showing of the light signifies the world’s receiving the knowledge of the Divinity of the Son; he appeared and dwelt among us, and, with His own sacred lips, taught us that He was God, equal to the Father in all things.
The procession continues as far as the altar-steps. The third branch of the candle on the reed is lighted, and the deacon once more sings, but on a still higher and gladder note: “Lumen Christi.” Again, the response is made: “Deo gratias.”
The third showing of the light signifies the revelation of the Divinity of the Holy Ghost, which was made to us by our Saviour when He commanded His apostles to do what the Church is to do this very night: ‘Teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.’ It is, then, by Jesus, who is the Light of the world, that mankind has been taught to know the Blessed Trinity. The bishop, before administering Baptism to the catechumens, will ask them if they believe in this great mystery. During the whole of the night’s Service, they will have before their eyes the expressive symbol of the Trinity, the three-branched candle.
This, then, is the first use which the new fire is put: to proclaim the holy Trinity. It is next to publish the glory of the Incarnate Word, by lighting the glorious symbol which is now to be brought before us. The bishop is seated on his throne. The deacon kneels before him, and asks a blessing, before beginning the great work entrusted to him: “The Lord be in thy heart and on thy lips, that thou mayst worthily and fitly proclaim his Paschal praise. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”
Thus prepared, the deacon rises and goes to the ambo. The acolyte, holding the triple candle and the five grains of incense, are standing at his side. Near the ambo is a marble pillar, on which is fixed the Paschal candle.
Going on to explain the Easter Exultet, Dom Prosper Gueranger teaches us why the deacon takes the five grains of incense after having sung:
“Hoc nox est, da qua scriptum est: Et nox sicut dies illuminabitur; et: Nox illuminatio mea in deliciis meis. Hujus igitur sancticatio noctic, fugat scelera, culpas lavat; et reddit innocentiam lapsis, et maestis laetitiam. Fugat odia concordiam parat, et curvat imperia. [“This is the night of which it is written: And the night shall be as light as the day, and the night is my illumination in my delights. Therefore the sanctification of this night blots out all crimes, washes away sins, and restores innocence to sinners, and joy to the sorrowful. It banishes enmities, produces concord and humbles empires.
Here the deacon pauses, and taking the five grains of incense, he fixes them in the candle in the form of a cross. They represent the five Wounds received by our Lord upon the cross; as also the perfume which the Magdalene and her companions had prepared for embalming His Body in the tomb. Thus, far, as we have already explained, the Paschal candle is the figure of the Man-God not yet glorified by the Resurrection.
The Abbot of Solesmes and the founder of the true Liturgical Movement that was hijacked by Modernists in the early Twentieth Century explained the lighting of the Paschal Candle from the triple reed candle, which is used today in those Mass venues adhering to the General Roman Calendar of 1954. It is after the phrase: Sed jam columnae hujus praeconia novimus quam in honorem Dei rutilans ignis accendit [And now we know the excellence of this pillar, which the sparking fire lights for the honour of God] that:
the deacon again pauses, and taking the reed which holds the triple candle, he lights the Paschal candle with one of its branches, This signifies the instant of our Lord’s Resurrection, when the divine power restored His Body to life, by uniting with it the Soul which death had separated. The glorious symbol of Christ, our Light is now prefect, and holy Church exults in the thought of soon beholding her heavenly Spouse triumph over death.
Qui licet sit divisus in partes mutate tamen luminis deterimenta non novit. Alitur enim liquantibus ceres, quas in substantiam pretiosae hujus lampadis, apis mater erexit [Which fire, though now divided, suffers no loss from the communication of its light. Because it is fed by the melted wax, which its mother the bee made for the composition of the precious torch.] Here lighted, from the new fire, the lamps of the church. They are lighted after the Paschal candle, to signify that Jesus’ Resurrection was made known gradually. It also tells us that our resurrection is to be a consequence and a likeness of that of our Saviour, who opens to us the way, whereby, after having like Him, passed through the tomb, we shall enter into life everlasting. (Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., The Liturgical Year: Volume 6--Passiontide and Holy Week pp. 552-565.)
Much of our liturgical history and its meaning is unknown to most Catholics today, and this is tragic as the liturgical revolution, wihch made great inroads in the 1950s before blossoming after the death of Pope Pius XII on October 9, 1958, has wiped out the memory of what Holy Mother Church had done on this day for nine hundred years.
The Resurrection is neigh-well upon us, and this glorious feast reminds us that each day is a re-creation of salvation history. We arise in the morning, symbolic of God’s creation of the world at the beginning of time. We go about our business during the course of the day, symbolic of the “hidden years” Our Lord spent in Nazareth before He assumed His Public Ministry. We eat and drink to feed our bodies, symbolic of the nourishment we receive from the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. And we go to bed at night, symbolic of the fact that our bodies will one day be put to rest in the dust of the earth. We go through this routine day in and day out. In fact, the routine can dull our senses, leaving those who lack an interior life of prayer and total consecration to Our Blessed Mother’s Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart positively hopeless about the meaning of human existence.
Even faithful Catholics can let the difficulties, both ecclesiastical and civil, that exist in our times discourage them. We can thus lose sight of the fact that God has not abandoned His Church collectively or us individually, that we are being led by a column of fire to our true home, Heaven, through the midst of our desert journey here on the face of this earth. Just as our spiritual ancestors, the Hebrews, were guided in their desert journey by a column of fire to light their way to the Promised Land of Canaan, so are we being led by the fire, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Whose burning love desires to illumine and warm our path on the rocky road that leads to the narrow gate of eternal life. This day, Holy Saturday, reminds us quite particularly to be patient in the midst of our sufferings and difficulties, understanding that Our Lady uses absolutely everything we give as her consecrated slaves in ways that may only become manifest to us in eternity. Holy Saturday is really a simile for the “forty hours” of life, if you will, in which we are called to have complete and total childlike trust in Our Lord and His Blessed Mother, realizing that the graces won for us on Calvary are more than sufficient to handle whatever crosses we are asked to bear in our own lives and in the larger life of the Church and the world.
Yes, we wake, work, eat and drink, sleep. But, please God it is His holy will for us to rise the next morning after going to sleep the previous evening, we shall repeat the pattern all over again, giving all to Our Lady from the moment we arise until the moment we go to sleep. The ancient liturgy of the Easter Vigil reminds us that each morning is not only symbolic of the creation of the world; it is symbolic of mankind’s re-creation on the Holy Cross. It is symbolic of the fact that our bodies will rise up incorrupt and glorious on the Last Day to be reunited with our souls if we cooperate with Our Lord’s Easter victory over sin and death that we anticipate this evening with rightful jubilation. Our Lord wants to take each one of us through the Gates of Heaven that He had reopened on Good Friday.
The price of admission through those Gates has been paid by the shedding of Our Lord’s Most Precious Blood. The price of admission through those Gates has been paid as well by the piercing of Our Lady’s Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart. She, who was given to us to be our Mother by her Divine Son as he hung on the Cross, wants each one of us to rise from our tombs as her Son did. But we can only avail ourselves of admission if, signed by the Blood of the Passover Lamb Who is Our Lord, we follow the column of the cloud of fire which He wants to ignite anew each day in the life of each person through the Church born of the Blood and Water which poured forth from His Wounded Side. It is by following the One Whose five wounds are configured on the new Easter Candle that we will be prepared to celebrate Easter Sunday at dawn with gratitude and a renewed determination to cooperate with the graces won for us on Calvary to scale the heights of sanctity and to plant seeds for the restoration of His Social Kingship in the world and of authentic Tradition within the Church.
We have had a day of waiting. We now have a day of anticipation. We are within a few hours of a period of fifty glorious days of jubilant celebration, proclaiming with renewed Faith, Hope, and Charity the word that signifies Our Lord is Risen! Let us hold high the Light of Christ–Lumen Christi–in every aspect of our daily lives.
We must keep this day one of reflective watching at Our Lord’s tomb as we anticipate the joy that is proclaimed in the Easter Exsultet today, parts of which proclaim:
Let now the heavenly troops of angels rejoice: let the divine mysteries by joyfully celebrated: and let a sacred trumpet proclaim the victory of so great a King. Let the earth also be filled with joy, being illumined with such resplendent rays: and let it be sensible that the darkness, which overspread the whole world, is chased away by the splendour of our eternal King. Let our mother, the Church, be also glad, finding herself adorned with the rays of so great a light: and let this temple resound with the joyful acclamations of the people. Wherefore, beloved brethren, you who are now present at the admirable brightness of this holy light, I beseech you to invoke with me the mercy of almighty God. That He who has been pleased, above my desert, to admit me into the number of His levites, will, by an infusion of His light upon me, enable me to celebrate the praises of this candle. . . .
It is truly right and just that with all of the ardor of our hearts and minds, and through the agency of our voices, we should proclaim the invisible almighty Father, and His only-begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who paid the debt of Adam for us to His eternal Father, and with His Precious Blood washed away the penalty of Original Sin. This is the paschal feast in which the true lamb is slain, whose blood hallowed the doorposts of the the faithful. This is the night on which your brought our forefathers, the children of Israel, in the flight from Egypt, dry-shod through the Red Sea. This is the night in which the light of the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin. This is the night which at this hour restores to grace and unites in holiness throughout the world those who believe in Christ, separating them from worldly vice and the darkness of sin. This is the night in which Christ burst the bonds of death and arose victorious from the grave. For life itself, without redemption, would be of no avail to us.
O how admirable is Thy goodness towards us! O how inestimable is Thy love! Thou hast delivered up Thy Son to redeem a slave. O truly necessary sin of Adam, which the death of Christ has blotted out! O happy fault, that merited such and so great a Redeemer! It is of this night that Scripture says: “And the night shall be as bright as day. And the night shall light up my joy.” The holiness of this night banishes wickedness and washes away sin., and restores innocence to the fallen. It puts to flight hatred, brings peace and humbles pride. (Easter Exultet.)
The Easter Exsultet is followed by the reading of the Twelve Prophecies. This summary of the history of salvation provides us with much food for meditation as we reflect on how God prepared to enter the world personally in the flesh in Our Lady’s Virginal and Immaculate Womb by the power of the Holy Ghost so as to redeem us on the wood of the Holy Cross on Good Friday.
The Prophecies in the Easter Vigil Mass are followed by the blessing of the Holy Water in the baptismal font and, if there are candidates, the administration of baptism and confirmation.
New children are added to the Church today. Just as Our Lady give birth to us in great pain as the adopted sons and daughters of the living God as she suffered in perfect communion with her Divine Son as he hung on the gibbet of the Holy Cross, so is it the case today that countless numbers of people are regenerated in the bath of baptism offered by Holy Mother Church in the Mass that is offered this morning or tonight. Those baptized will be confirmed immediately thereafter. Others will be confirmed as soldiers in the Army of Christ that is the Catholic Church.
Dom Prosper Gueranger noted the following in The Liturgical Year about this aspect of today’s Mass:
We have the explanation of this given us by the great apostle: the water of Baptism is the tomb, in which we are buried together with Christ; and, together with Him, we rise again to life: the death we had suffered, was the death of sin; the life we are henceforth to live, is the life of grace. Thus is the mystery of Jesus’ Resurrection repeated, with all its fulness, in them that are baptized. But before the baptized comes from the font, a sacred rite is performed over him, which completes his resemblance with Christ. While Jesus was yet standing in the waters of the Jordan, the Holy Ghost descended upon Him in the form of a Dove: and before the neophyte comes forth from the font, a priest anoints his head with the chrism, which is a gift received from the holy Spirit. This anointing expresses the kingly and priestly character that resides in the Christian, for by his union with Jesus Christ, his Head, he partakes, in some degree, of the royalty and the priesthood of this divine Mediator. Thus loaded with honours by the divine Word and the Holy Ghost, and adopted by the eternal Father, who sees him a member of His own Son, the neophyte comes up from the font by the steps of the side opposite to that by which he descended, beautiful in grace and spotless as the flocks of which the Canticle speaks such praises. The sponsor is ready to receive him from the font: he stretches out his hand to help him to mount the steps, and covers his shoulders with a cloth. (Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., The Liturgical Year.)
However, those of us who assist at Mass today must continue to wait–until after the Easter Vigil Mass in the morning or in the evening–for the glories of the Easter season to begin. We continue to grieve, therefore, until the conclusion of the Easter Vigil Mass today for what our sins did to Our Lord on the wood of the Holy Cross–and for what they caused Our Lady to suffer in her Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart.
May we also, though, look forward to Easter Sunday tomorrow by ceaselessly giving thanks to Our Lord and Our Lady for the unmerited gift of our Redemption, being ever ready to cooperate with the graces won for us on the wood of the Holy Cross so that we will know an unending Easter Sunday of glory in Paradise.
Keep watch this day. A tomb is about to open in Jerusalem. The One Who was put to death by evil men acting as our agents is about to rise from the dead on His own power and to pass through the rock that sealed His tomb as miraculously as He passed through His Blessed Mother’s Virginal and Immaculate Womb at His Nativity in Bethlehem.
Keep watch. We do not know the day or the hour when He is going to ask us to make a rendering of our own lives at the moment of our Particular Judgments.
Keep watch. The time of salvation is at hand:
And that knowing the season; that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep. For now our salvation is nearer than when we believed. The night is passed, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day: not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in contention and envy: But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh in its concupiscences. (Romans 13: 11-14.)
Ave Maria, gratiae plena, benedicta tu in mulieribus et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.
Saint John the Evangelist, pray for us.
Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Gabriel the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Raphael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saints Joachim and Anne, pray for us.
Saints Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, pray for us.