"You seek Jesus who was crucified; he is not here; he is risen." St. Matthew xxviii. 6.
Dearly beloved in the Lord! This is the day which the Lord has made, let us rejoice and triumph with Him. The Church meets us today with this joyful announcement, adorned as a bride. The dawn of day has brought us a beautiful, a great day of rejoicing. As we came to the sepulchre with the holy women, the angels greeted us with this joyful message: "You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified: he is risen, he is not here." This is the joyful message from heaven which resounds loudly and joyfully from north to south, to the uttermost ends of the earth. How this glad message should resound in songs of triumph and flood the heart with joy unspeakable. The heavens behold Him, the glorious risen One, and the sky covers itself with the loveliest azure; the sun in the firmament beholds Him, and it shines with the brightest, most perfect light, the favored earth and its inhabitants behold the glory of the risen Saviour, and they too rejoice. The whole world today joins in that glorious hymn of praise of St. Ambrose, "Almighty God, we praise Thee ; O Lord, we praise Thy works; for this is the day which the Lord, has made, let us rejoice and triumph with Him." We shall hear today:
I. Why this day is such a joyful one.
II. How we ought to give the right expression to our jubilation united to the words o f the Gospel of the feast which says: "You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified: He is risen, He is not here."
May the risen Saviour bless our meditation.
1. Beloved brethren, if you wish to know the true reason of our Easter joy, let us look back to the last days of Holy Week and represent to ourselves in a vivid manner what happened to Jesus of Nazareth in those days at Jerusalem. All these events are fresh in our memory; we were, during Lent, led by the words of the preacher to follow our Saviour in His passion. We beheld Him trodden upon like a worm; we saw Him drag His rack to the place of execution; we heard the dull strokes of the hammer which fastened His hands and feet to the cross; we saw the cross lifted up with its precious burden; briefly, we were witnesses in spirit of the awful agonizing death of our Saviour, of whom even Pilate said: "What shall I do with Jesus, who is called the just man?" To her just and deep sorrow the Church wishes to give expression by exterior signs of mourning; therefore the house of God, and the sanctuary within it, the Altar, were surrounded with a deathlike stillness, the tones of the organ and the sound of the bell were silenced, the bare cross alone attracted to itself every eye, and filled our hearts with sadness. But, dear brethren, our mourning is now turned into joy. The seal of the grave is broken; He who reposed therein is living; He whom we saw die upon the wood of the cross, as the outcast of mankind, He has proclaimed His divine dignity; neither seal, nor grave, nor stone, nor lock could withstand Him; He is risen! Just as the newly awakened life in the Spring unfolds itself in a thousand buds and blossoms, touching our hearts powerfully, in like manner does every Christian soul feel itself strangely moved and touched when on Easter morning we hear the Easter bells ringing out to the cottage as to the palace the glad tidings which the angel brought from heaven: "He is risen, He is not here! Alleluia, Jesus lives!"
2. Jesus lives! At this announcement the earth rejoices, and it opens the grave of Him whose death upon Golgotha caused it to shiver and tremble at its base; Jesus lives! At this message heaven is joyfully agitated, and sends one of its angels to break the seal which the hatred of his enemies had placed upon their victim even after His death, to roll away the heavy stone and announce to the holy women: "You seek Jesus of Nazareth: he is risen, he is not here. Resurrexit sicut dixit. What joy for the poor disciples, who had fled in all directions when He was made a prisoner! Jesus lives! What glad tidings for us, beloved brethren; what joy and delight for us who are baptized in the name of Jesus, who believe in the teaching of Jesus; for us, who may live in the blessed hope that we too may one day rise again to a better life! When the Man of Sorrows, His struggle and His sufferings ended, cried out to the world with a loud voice those mighty words, "It is consummated," when He bowed His head and gave up the ghost, the sun was obscured; it did not want to behold that dreadful spectacle; the earth was shaken mightily, its graves opened, and the dead arose. Today, however, one grave is opened, and from it has arisen a sun which will never be obscured, which will never set, a sun which, like unto the sun of springtime, creates new life. This new sun is the Crucified One, the Son of God, God Himself, blessed for all eternity. 'He it is in whom the words of the Apostle are fulfilled: "Because he humbled himself and was obedient even unto death upon the cross, therefore has God exalted him, and given him a name which is above all other names."
3. When the star of Jacob arose, when the Word was made flesh, the kingdom of falsehood and darkness was doomed to defeat. Already the cradle song, which the angels sang to the incarnate Saviour, "Glory to God in the highest!" was a solemn hymn of praise which announced in advance the glory of this day. The Gloria in Excelsis of that most beloved night is supplemented in glorious manner by the glad tidings of the heavenly messenger on Easter morn, who said: "You seek Jesus of Nazareth: he is risen, he is not here." But the truth which the Son of God brought from heaven, His divine teaching, was not to be proclaimed without a struggle; the light illuminated the darkness, but the darkness could not comprehend. The only begotten Son of the Father was calumniated as the poor Son of the carpenter, the Messiah sent from heaven was mocked as the Galilean, His words of charity were branded as the work of hell. When He said that He had come to found a kingdom which was not of this world, He was denounced as a seducer of the people, and an enemy of Caesar. Thus, my brethren, falsehood struggled against truth, and it seemed as if His enemies were really triumphant in victory when Jesus hung bleeding upon the cross. His enemies appeared sure of victory, when they said to the crucified Saviour in derision, "If thou art Christ, descend from the cross. Thou didst help others, now help thyself," and He made no reply to these words, but bowed His head and died. And still more, He was laid in a grave like an ordinary mortal, the grave itself being guarded and sealed.
Now, according to human calculations, everything was over and at an end; the world seemed to conquer. Whence, dear brethren, should that mustard seed which this incarnate God now lying in the grave had thus planted obtain its strength to grow and expand into a great tree whose fruit should bless all the races of the earth? Whence should the timid disciples have obtained the courage to proclaim to the world that this Crucified One is the true God, and to preach His Gospel to every creature? Tremble not, little band of disciples, for the miracle has already taken place! The earth is jubilant with joy, heaven sends forth its messengers, the grave is empty, the hero is awakened, the Saviour is risen! Because He arose from the grave through His own almighty power, because He has built up again the temple of His body in three days, He has proven the glory of His divinity and placed the seal of completeness upon the work of redemption. If Christ had not risen again, says the Apostle, our faith would be vain! On Good Friday, when the earth trembled and the rocks were split open, we struck our breasts with the centurion and said, "Verily, He was the Son of God," we may therefore all the more cry out joyfully beside the empty grave on Easter morning, "He that is risen is the Son of God, He is the Messiah, He is the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world." Is this not the day that the Lord has made? Should we not rejoice in Him and be glad? Let the chords of the organ peal forth in sweetest harmony, let the bells ring out in thrilling tones, let the song of triumph resound, The Saviour is risen! Alleluia, Jesus lives. Neither seal nor grave, stone nor rock, could withstand Him. "You seek Jesus of Nazareth: he is risen, he is not here."
1. We have heard that we have every reason to rejoice from the bottom of our hearts on this ever memorable day, and to approach our risen Redeemer with joyous Alleluias. But this is not all, we must be active also, and make a practical use of today's celebration. Christ died for us, and He has given us an example that we should tread in His footsteps. As Christ is risen, so shall we arise and enter upon a new life. I call upon you, therefore, Christian parents, in the words of the Apostle: "Arise, and walk in the way in which thou shouldst go." You promised one another before God's holy altar mutual fidelity and help, that you would bear one another's burdens in peace, and that you would bring up your children in the fear of the Lord. How have you kept this promise? Is the throne of harmony erected in your home, and dispensing blessings upon you? Are you a good father and mother to your children, do you feed the flock confided to you in green pastures, and do you lead them, as a good shepherd should, to the source of living waters? Or are you, fathers, bad examples to your sons, and you, mothers, unnatural mothers to your daughters? Arise from your spiritual death, fortify anew the throne of peace, approach the Altar of God and renew your conjugal vows. Bring up your children as good Catholic parents should do, assist the teachers and those who have charge of their spiritual welfare in this difficult task, then, and then only, will you have a happy Easter; then Easter joys and Easter blessings will gladden you and your family.
2. Christian sons, Christian daughters, arise from the grave! We grown-up people, who have no longer the good fortune of seeing father and mother with us; we who can. now only kneel at their graves and speak to them in spirit, how we envy you, dear, happy children, especially on this day, when it is such a joy to celebrate Easter in the family circle. And now, I ask you, beloved sons and daughters, whether you know how to appreciate this great happiness of possessing your father and mother, or whether you, O frivolous son, grieve your good father by your sinful ways, and by your extravagance; and you, proud daughter, do you cause your mother to shed tears at your behavior, and at your disobedience? Well, then, today arise from the grave of sin and give your good parents an Easter joy by making the firm resolution of walking in that path which will bring you blessings in this life and in the life to come. The risen Saviour is the friend of children, He will extend His hands in blessing over you today, you will live long, and everything will be well with you upon earth.
3. Well may we apply to ourselves the words of the Apostle: "Man who is of the earth, is earthly." Now, if we have been in the past slaves of the flesh, and if our thoughts and actions were earthly, this is Easter; let us throw out the old leaven so that we may become a new dough. Then the words of the Apostle will come true: "If thou art risen with Christ, seek ye therefore the things that are above, not that which is upon earth." But in reality, to seek and to find that which is above, we must not only arise from the grave of sin, cleanse our hearts from every sin, but we must purify them from the old leaven. When Christ arose from the grave He left the burying sheets behind; so should we at our spiritual resurrection leave in the graves the fetters of our old habits; we must break with the old life and walk in a new one; we must put off the old man and put on the new man, which is created in holiness and justice. And so it must be with thee, O sensual man; let me say also of you, he is risen, he is not here, no longer there where he has so often sinned. We must be able to say: "He is risen, the miser, he lingers no more with his treasures, which the rust and moth will eat away; he no longer kneels at the altar of Mammon; he has become the father of the poor." He is risen, must be said of the drunkard, the gambler, he is not here, behold the place is empty where formerly he sat till far into the night playing and drinking, whilst his poor wife and hungry children suffered want at home. And this is what ought and must be said of all sinners: they are risen, they are not here, the grave of sin is empty, they are leading a new life. O then indeed we shall all spend a blessed and happy Easter, a day of gladness, a day which the Lord has made.
1. Christ is raised from the dead to die no more. He is exalted high above principalities and powers and majesties, and He sits at the right hand of the Father. His words, spoken to the disciples of Emmaus, are true: "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and so to enter into his glory?" If then, dear brethren, crosses and sufferings come upon us, let us, too, kneel in the garden of olives; let us drain the chalice of suffering to the dregs on Golgotha, let us look up with courage and holy zeal. Good Friday was followed by a joyful Easter morn for the incarnate God, and we, too, shall enjoy a day of rejoicing, for if we suffer with Christ we shall also be glorified with Him. Our cross will be for us Jacob's ladder, upon which we shall ascend from earth to heaven, where there shall be no more weeping, no more pain, but where eternal joy, eternal peace, and eternal rejoicing will reign.
2. The glorified risen Saviour bears in His hand, instead of the reed, a flag of victory, upon which is written, "I am the resurrection and the life; whosoever believes in me shall live, though he were already dead." My brethren, what a consoling word ! We can exclaim with jubilation: Death, where is thy sting? Death is defeated; now we may face death with confidence and say with job: "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he will raise me up at the last day." Dry thy tears, then, poor wife, thou who art weeping at the heavy loss of thy children's provider; weep not, poor husband, at the early death of thy wife; children, mourn not the loss of your parents, who have left you orphans. My brethren, let us not weep and mourn for our beloved dead, like those who have no hope. We have a hope in the risen Saviour, that He will one day send His Angels to call us from our graves; we shall see one another again; we shall rejoice, and our joy no man shall take from us.
3. And if in our days we look sorrowfully into the future, and if the enemy presses hard upon our mother, the Church, she, too, our Church, will arise from the grave of oppression. That this will be the case every century testifies; the deeper they dig her grave, the tighter they seal and close it, the more gloriously has she ever arisen from the grave, and the more victoriously does she unfurl her flag. Her founder, who rose from the grave today, has said: "The gates of hell shall never prevail against her." And this founder proclaims joyfully to the redeemed world today: "All hail, Conqueror of Golgotha, Conqueror like unto none other! Alleluia!"
Let us, therefore, dear brethren, celebrate this Easter festival with glad, jubilant hearts; let us, at the empty grave of the Redeemer, the Prince of Peace, extend to one another the hand of pardon. He calls to us indeed: Peace be unto you! Let us break the bonds of sin, let us live in God, let us swear fidelity anew today to the victorious flag of Jesus Christ, let us stand fast in the faith! Then, yes then, we shall one day arise gloriously; we shall be transformed, and we shall possess the kingdom which has been prepared for us from the beginning. God grant it! Amen.