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March 26, 2005

A Day of Waiting, A Night of Anticipation (2005)

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 Lord 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.

Joseph of Arimathea was not the only one who was afraid of the Jews who had served as the human instruments of how our own sins put the God-Man to death. The Apostles themselves 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.

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 Easter Vigil Mass tonight and Mass on Easter Sunday. 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 the night before Easter morning. That is why an Easter Vigil candle will be lit in every sanctuary in every Catholic church that night--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 on the night 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.

As Dom Prosper Gueranger noted in The Liturgical Year:

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, with 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 the 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.

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 holy night 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.

It is still too early to pronounce or to print the word that was buried on Shrove Tuesday. However, this day of waiting that is Holy Saturday will lead to a night of anticipation in which we will for fifty glorious days of jubilant celebration proclaim 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.

Our prayers are with each of you for a reflective day of keeping watch at Our Lord's tomb as we anticipate the joy that is proclaimed in the Easter Exsultet this evening, 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.

May we continue to grieve on this Holy Saturday for what our sins did to Our Lord on the wood of the Holy Cross. May we also, though, look forward to the Easter Vigil tonight and 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. 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.

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.







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