Fr. Brian Doerr, Vice Rector of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary
"And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothing was white as snow."
The significance, the majestic and incompressible significance of this most Sacred Day, is expressed somewhat closely (but even still inadequately) by an ancient text that some attribute to St. Ambrose of Milan and that others believe is even more ancient.
As the Easter Liturgy of the Church begins, the sacred fire, the Light of Christ, now glowing atop the Paschal Candle, enters the nave of the Church and is taken to the Ambo and is incensed. The minister, a Deacon of the Word, vested in a white dalmatic, calls to our mind the angel of the Gospel, who stood next to the empty tomb to proclaim to all the world the joyful news, “He is risen, as He said!” The Sacred Scripture records, “And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothing was white as snow” (Matthew 28:3).
And the angelic Deacon begins to proclaim one of the most beautifully profound texts preserved by the Church: “Exalt! Let them exalt, hosts of heaven… Be glad! Let the earth be glad… Rejoice! Let Mother Church exalt!
What follows has the power to destroy the grip of the Evil One over all the world! The text continues to proclaim “the awesome glory of this holy night,” the night that saw the work of Christ complete, the work that “paid Adam’s debt” and “wiped clean the record of our ancient sinfulness.” “This is the night, when Christ broke the prison bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld” “THIS,” the text demands, “This is the night!”
And, in the midst of the power and glory and triumph of so great a risen Savior crashing forth upon the earth, the text turns radically to a truth so beautiful, so tender, that those who listen and truly hear, men or women, girl or boy, feel tears dripping down their face: “O love, O charity beyond all telling, to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!”
What is this proclamation? One’s mind returns to the desert where nomads traveled about and are caught or raided by a marauding party and you, a worthless slave, is manhandled and taken from your master and his tribe. Contemplating the violence, abuse and, perhaps, death to come, you are succumb to a dark and hopeless despair. Then it happens: you look up from the darkness, utterly stunned to see your master at the edge of the camp, ready to exchange his own son into slavery to win your release. It is not comprehensible! Nobody would believe it; you, yourself, do not even believe it.
And yet, that is what we proclaim! Man, you and me, captured by so great an enemy as Satan, a fallen-spirit of Archangelic Power, tears us from the life of the Father… who, in turn, pursues us over the centuries until he approaches us, at the edge of Satan’s camp… and with an unfathomable depth of love, comes before us, beaten down and enslaved as we are, and makes the offer of His Son for YOU. Sweet unfathomable exchange! His life for your life; too great for us even to conceive.
What good would life had been to us, had Christ not come to us as our redeemer!
Lord Jesus, thank You for the brightness of Your light and for ransoming us back from slavery to freedom. You have gives us new life in You. May we forever live in Your life and love. Amen.
Acts 10:34, 37-43; Ps 118: 1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Col 3:1-9 or 1 Cor 5:6-8; Jn 20:1-9 or Mt 28: 1-10