The Visitation: A Far-Reaching Encounter

Danielle Peters-cropDanielle M. Peters, S.T.D.

Secular Institute of the Schoenstatt, Sisters of Mary

Post-Doctoral Fellow, Institute for Church Life, University of Notre Dame

Contact Author

Formerly commemorated on July 2, the liturgical calendar revision authorized by Bl. Pope Paul VI places the feast of the Visitation on May 31—after the Annunciation (March 25) and before the Birthday of St. John the Baptist (June 24). This year, the feast coincides with the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity and therefore will not be celebrated liturgically; nevertheless, it is well worthwhile to contemplate the mystery of the Visitation, and to ponder how it might be connected to the Trinitarian mystery.

In his 1974 Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus, Pope Paul VI noted that “the liturgy (of the Visitation) recalls the Blessed Virgin carrying her Son within her and visiting Elizabeth to offer charitable assistance and to proclaim the mercy of God” (§7). Hence, this encounter of two pregnant relatives recorded in Luke’s Gospel is not just a friendly family reunion. The Visitation is a salvific event occurring at the intersection of the old and new covenant. Elizabeth, a type of the Old Testament’s promise, meets in Mary the New Testament’s fulfillment of her own destiny. Both find themselves in an extraordinary situation: an unwed teenager and a married woman who is beyond the age of child bearing. We can only imagine the sentiments with which each greets the other. Was there pure joy? Or was there also room for fear and unsettledness?

Scripture tells us that “Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea” (Lk 1:39). She travels the strenuous way of approximately 90 miles in intimate union with the Savior growing within her, confident that God accompanies her into the unknown future. The betrothed youth, still overwhelmed by what the angel had told her, needs this time away from Nazareth in order to ponder the incredible message that changed the course of her life and that of all generations to come. Who would believe her? She could hardly fathom this mystery herself! How will Joseph, her betrothed, react? Will he still marry her and assume the duties of parenthood of his foster son, or will he accuse her of disloyalty?

The narration of the Visitation offers an insight into Mary’s encounter with a human being after the Annunciation who not only made public Mary’s secret but who also shared in the mystery. How consoling it must have been for Mary to be welcomed by her relative whose embrace shelters, affirms, and encourages the “Mother of the Lord.”

Franz Anton Maulbertsch, Visitation (detail)
Franz Anton Maulbertsch, Visitation (detail)

St. John Paul II wrote in Redemptoris Mater: “When Elizabeth’s greeting bears witness to that culminating moment [i.e. the Annunciation], Mary’s faith acquires a new consciousness and a new expression” (§36).

The simultaneous invisible encounter of their unborn children is even more significant. Luke notes that John leaps in his mother’s womb, as a result of “seeing Jesus.” Tradition maintains that at this moment Elizabeth’s baby was sanctified in his mother’s womb (cf. Lk 1:15) in anticipation of his mission as the precursor of his cousin, the Messiah.

Like all mothers, Mary and Elizabeth knew that their “Yes” to their children was not a one-time decision. Many new affirmations were needed as new paths and challenges open up. Did these two holy women also experience the dilemma between a ready Yes to God’s will and a trembling, hesitating Yes in view of the consequences? Were there long sleepless nights during which they tried to grasp the scope of God’s will for them? In such situations it is good to be in a net of relationships through which this Yes is mutually supported and protected. The narrative of the Visitation is one of the most beautiful stories of family bonds recorded in Sacred Scripture. Mary feels at home with her relatives and gives expression to her “joy of spirit” in the Magnificat.

Mary remained three months with her relatives, devoting her time and assistance to the elderly couple. Above all, she brings the Christ Child to this house, providing the most fitting ambience for their baby to be born. Overwhelmed by this bliss, Zechariah eventually regains his ability to speak and is able to profess: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them” (Lk 1:68).

What does the encounter at the house of Elizabeth and Zachariah teach us? The Visitation highlights that the first journey of the Son of God after having been conceived in His mother’s womb was to a couple in crisis. This finds resonance with the challenges faced by married couples and families throughout the world today. Pope Francis is presently devoting his Wednesday audiences to the dignity and challenge of matrimony and family life. Two synods on the family as well as the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia are proof of the Church’s endeavor to fortify couples in their calling.

Where is the family without problems and worries, where everything runs perfectly and all are of one heart and mind? Aren’t we all in need of a visitation? Why not invite Mary to bring her Son into our homes? Then “salvation and joy” will also visit our family, helping all to love one another more faithfully, to become not just a group of people living under the same roof, but a communion of persons—a more faithful reflection of the divine love shared by the Persons of the Trinity. And it is here that we perhaps find a fitting connection between the mystery of the Visitation and the Solemnity being celebrated this Sunday, May 31.

Our Lady of the Eucharist: A Marian Monologue

Anastasia Wright
University of Notre Dame, Class of 2015
Pacific Alliance for Catholic Education

As I sit in this upper room, I gaze upon the bread and think of my son. Forty days ago, my son hung on the cross. Forty days ago, I sat at the foot of that cross. Forty days ago, I saw my son suffer. Now, as his friends lift the bread and wine, I must confess, I have trouble seeing my son. Is it so soon that the memory begins to fade? I can’t remember the lines of his face, and the shape of the bread is certainly no reminder. Though it’s apparently supposed to be Him, this does not resemble my son.

These men, my son’s disciples, who now celebrate their Lord in this strange way, the way that he showed them just before he died, they don’t see Jesus as I do. They have never felt Him stir within their bodies. They haven’t held him as an infant, so very small and warm. They did not take him to the temple to be presented, have not known the fear of losing your twelve-year-old son.

As a mother, you see parts of your children that the rest of the world will never know. On the afternoon Joseph and I left without Jesus, that we turned around, heading back to the city to search for our son, I must admit that it was not purely love within my heart—frustration was creeping in at a son who let his parents worry. Though I have never found him to sin, my son did cause me heaps of worry. And, this time, I was exasperated. Oh yes, I’m sure that these men with whom I now celebrate have also felt frustrated with their teacher and friend, but they just have not felt the worry of a mother who’s lost her son.

And now, now the loss seems permanent. Though my Son has risen, that is true, I saw him suffer and die. He knew that he was leaving when he taught his disciples how to celebrate him in the way they do now, with the bread and wine. So when he leaves for the final time, what will be left? This bread? This wine? I am skeptical. But, at the commandment of my son, I will partake. I will have faith in what he said—that He is here, that He is present in this food. Perhaps this is the most beautiful part of my son’s command—in the effort to see Him in this bread and wine, I must remember him.

By faith that he is present, I am drawn back to everything I can recall, and I see His works, his face, his love in this food and drink. I see his tiny hand holding mine. I see a boy working in the carpentry shop. I see a young man who just wanted to make sure the party didn’t die. I see sweat dripping from the brow of a man who spent a hot afternoon preaching. I see wounds spread across the back of a man who has suffered too much already. And I see the brilliance of a love that couldn’t die. By looking at this bread and trying to see my son, I have to remember these things. No, the bread certainly doesn’t look like Him, but in the effort to find the resemblance, I necessarily recall the most lovely, most holy, most beautiful thing to ever happen to the world. And now, in this upper room, I do see my Son.

Beyond the Perpetual Discernment Mentality

Anthony OleckAnthony Oleck

MTS Student, History of Christianity, University of Notre Dame

Contact Author

Many young Catholics today seem to exhibit a strong tendency toward what one might term “perpetual discernment syndrome.” I am certainly not an exception to this category, and it was in noticing such a tendency in some of my own decision-making processes that led me to recognition of it in others. There have been times, for example, when ‘let me pray on it’ or ‘I need to discern God’s will’ were simply an excuse to put off committing to a decision.

This tendency to over-discern every decision and every situation ad nauseam could be traced to any number of causes, and at times can even simply be a mask for a deeper fear of commitment (alluded to above).  But it seems to me that it can also derive from an underlying assumption that God has a very specific and meticulous plan and purpose for one’s life, and that every step, every moment, every decision is assigned a very specific place within that plan. With this assumption firmly in place, each decision in our lives becomes an occasion for renewed anxiety and fear of “messing up.” When presented with two doors, we cannot bring ourselves to enter Door A out of a fear that God has planned for us to choose Door B. Unsure of which is the correct path, which one is truly a part of the plan, we find ourselves ‘paralyzed by the possible’ (to borrow a phrase from Samuel Bellafiore’s September blog post); we stare blankly at both doors, telling ourselves and those around us that we cannot choose either because we need to “discern.” “Discernment,” in cases such as these, seems to be more aptly labeled “indecision.”Whats-behind-door-number-3Let me be clear: I am in no way opposed to engaging in healthy prayer and discernment, especially when it comes to big decisions in one’s life (one might even call this being “responsible”). I am not an advocate (my girlfriend can attest) of rushing headlong through life’s many doors, without taking an appropriate amount of time to prayerfully consider the options in order to hear God’s voice. I do believe that God has a plan and a purpose for our lives, and I do believe that each one of us has a vocation that the Lord is calling us to.

Nevertheless, there can also be a danger in the mentality that assumes every step and every moment of our lives to have been plotted, and the only thing left for us to do is keep our eyes on the road beneath us, taking care to step in the footprints that have already been perfectly laid out. winding roadOr, to use a more seasonally appropriate analogy, it can even be tempting to think of vocation as a kind of giant Easter Egg Hunt, with God’s will being contained in very small and limited objects hidden in the various brush and shrubbery that are the decisions we face throughout our lives. We have only to uncover the egg, and inside will be God’s specific and precise directive for that moment. It is this mentality that I want to challenge.

Perhaps this reflection from Hans Urs Von Balthasar (written in 1927 during a retreat before his entry into the Jesuit novitiate) can offer a way forward for us, then:

Even today, thirty years later, I could trace my steps back to that remote path in the Black Forest, not too far from Basel, and rediscover the tree under which I was struck, as if by lightning … and what suddenly entered my mind then was neither theology, nor the priesthood. It was simply this: you do not have to choose anything, you have been called! You will not serve, you will be taken into service. You do not have to make plans of any sort, you are only a pebble in a mosaic prepared long before. All that I had to do was simply leave everything behind and follow, without making plans, without desires or particular intuitions. I had only to remain there to see how I could be useful.

Sometimes I wonder if Christ knew the specifics of His mission. Did He ever concern Himself by worrying about Gethsemane, Jerusalem, the cross, the crown of thorns, Judas, or Pontius Pilate? Did he know that He was to be betrayed by Judas, crucified on a cross, between two criminals, on a Friday afternoon?jesus-in-garden-of-gethsemane Did he pause at every juncture, afraid to move forward from fear that his action will fail to realize the Father’s specific plan for His life? It is possible that He did. It is also possible, however, that His forty days in the desert, the forty days that we commemorated and participated in with our own practices this past Lent, were spent in preparation for a mission the specifics of which He knew not.

Perhaps Von Balthasar is in some ways urging us to cultivate a life that is grounded in the Incarnation, oriented toward Heaven, and attuned to His will. Within this framework, discerning God’s will becomes first and foremost a state, rather than an action.  If we realize, as Von Balthasar did, that we have simply to “leave everything behind and follow, without making plans,” then perhaps we will shed the timidity and insecurity that tends to characterize a perpetually discerning mentality, and instead blaze a trail with confidence, zeal and hope into the true heart of God’s will.

Plenitude of Reality

Renee RodenRenée Roden

AmeriCorps Volunteer

 

 

Indeed apostolic preaching with all its boldness, and passion would be unthinkable unless the witnesses had experienced a real encounter, coming to them from outside, with something entirely new and unforeseen. Only a real event of a radically new quality could possibly have given rise to the apostolic preaching, which cannot be explained on the basis of speculations or inner mystical experiences. In all its boldness and originality, it draws life from the impact of an event no one had invented, an event that surpassed all that could be imagined. (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, pg. 275)

Recently, I was leading a group of seniors at our high school in a discussion of Fr. Jim Martin’s “Six Paths to God”, detailed in his The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything. After briefly recapping what we had discussed the day before, the students’ assignment was for each of them to identify which path they were on, and to journal for several minutes about said path. Suddenly, I had a revolt on my hands.

From all corners of the room, complaints were volleyed at me: Ms. Roden, Ms. Roooodeeeennnnn, why do we have to do this? One student’s voice rose above the throng, protesting that this course was supposed to be a chance for the students to reflect on their own lives, and was not supposed to be “just another religion class.” According to my student, religion had absolutely no application to their story whatsoever, and it was an oppressive waste of their time to make them reflect on religion at all. “And I’m not the only one that thinks that; I’m just the only one that’s saying.”

In the (surprisingly fruitful) discussion that ensued, I found that my students’ attitude towards religion shed some light on my own attitude towards Resurrection.

In daily speech, I often find myself using the death and Resurrection DeathandResurrectionof Christ as symbols of sorts. “Death and Resurrection” is a template for our spiritual lives, it provides a lens through which to view the failures and triumphs of our lives. We see the pattern of death and resurrection stamped into the natural world all around us. They are a mystic blueprint through which I can understand my own story.

This is, perhaps, why the Paschal Triduum is so moving. Because they are not about the pattern of Death and Resurrection, but they are about a death of one man. The focus of the Triduum liturgies is the actual moment in history when Jesus was crucified. During this time, we address the fact that this story happened, to a particular person who was not us, in a particular moment that is not now. So, in this sense, my students are correct: this is a story that is not theirs. It is a concrete reality outside of their own experience.

The Triduum begins with this particularity: with the stories of the Passover meal, and then the horrible tragedy of crucifixion. These are images we can understand, we can grasp. We know what it is to share a meal with a community, we can watch a re-enactment of the Christ being scourged; we have all seen men and women in pain; we look at images of Jesus of Nazareth nailed to the cross every single day. These are images within the boundaries of our imagination.

When the Easter Vigil mass begins, however, we have entered a more mysterious realm. The Resurrection eludes the grasp of our comprehension; its relationship to history is not as simple as Jesus’ life and death. Pope Benedict XVI describes the Resurrection:

As something that breaks out of history and transcends it, the Resurrection nevertheless had its origin in history, and, up to a point, still belongs there. Perhaps we could put it this way: Jesus’ Resurrection points beyond history, but has left a footprint in history. Therefore, it can be attested by witnesses as an event of an entirely new  kind. (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, pg. 275)

What exactly is this event?

The Gospel narratives of the Resurrection indicate the novelty and mystery of this moment: the Resurrected Christ eats fish and breaks bread with them, and still bears the wounds of the Cross, yet He also walks through closed doors, and even His dearest friends and closest companions fail to recognize Him.

The Resurrection was not just a human being “coming back” from the dead, but a human being moving forward, past this life, past the end of this life, into a new life with God, as Sam Bellafiore touched upon in his article on Resurrection and Harry Potter: Resurrection means moving forward into new life, not just the old life returning. Benedict XVI describes it as an “ontological leap.” The Resurrection impacted the world in a way that Lazarus’ return to life did not. For Lazarus would die once again, but Christ will die no more.

This is an event beyond the realm of our imagination. I can picture the crucifixion, I am moved by the images that present themselves of the Suffering Servant. But images of the Resurrection lack that pathos, and they somehow fail to capture the glory of what it means to be a risen man–one who will die no more, who has passed to whatever lies on the other side of death. This new leap into the future, a new mode of being with God; a new mode of being alive baffles our imaginations.

ResurrectionBut, the Resurrection was not just a moment of glory for Christ alone. It is truly God’s triumph of love for the entire human race. God submitted to the bonds of death, which the human race imposed on each member through sin. But, through His love for us that feared no death, He broke a barrier, and opened a new way of being, of union with God. The mechanics of the Resurrection defeats my imagination and intellect, and I imagine it did the Apostles as well, but the potency of the event occurring has not diminished, even til today.

We are, most of us, all too familiar with the words of Paul that sprinkle the Easter liturgies: If we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again. (Romans 6:8-9) And too often, I think of these words as a vague promise of life after death. The Resurrection of my own self seems to be in the future. But that is not what Paul is saying. He is proclaiming to the New Church that the lives they are living right now are transformed by Christ’s Resurrection. We, too, can live in this ontological leap forward, in this new union with God.

The entire world has been transformed, now that this new mode of being has opened up, now that Christ has opened up this life with God, all of us are invited into it here and now. The Apostles were essential in spreading not only the good news of Christ’s Resurrection, but in spreading, in fact, the Resurrection. Their role in the Resurrection is essential and irreplaceable. And so, too, is ours. Apostolic teaching in all its vigor was driven by their knowledge that the Resurrection, by necessity, has remade the whole world. It is not just that Christ’s Resurrection makes us impervious to death after death, it is that Christ’s Resurrection opens up to us a way of being that is Resurrection.

The entire point of Christ’s death and Resurrection is that so we might have life, and have it in abundance (John 10:10) right now. The Resurrection is not simply a prophecy of what we may inherit after death; it is an event that has drastically shaken the core of human existence.

Thus, as I suggested to my students, perhaps the stories outside of our own can shed light on the narrative of our lives. And, if we give these stories a chance, we may be shocked to discover that they are an essential part of our own story. The story of the Resurrection has a starting point: the third day, when Christ left behind an empty tomb, but there is no ending. We are living in the story right now. Each day, we are living in the Resurrection, and the Resurrection requires our participation, because the Messiah suffered these things so that not just he, but we, might enter into His glory (Luke 24:26).

Precarious Preaching: A Year at Oblation

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 1.43.20 PM

Samuel Bellafiore

Undergraduate Fellow

B.A. 2015 Philosophy, Vocal Performance

Three years ago I took my first writing-intensive class. Never before did I have to write regularly or at length. This made me worry. Writing at 3:30am in the library usually does.

Why is there such a gap between loving and writing about love? Where’s the line between meaning things and making them up? Do I believe what I’m writing or am I just writing because this is due when I wake up? How many times can you write about love before you know what it is?

On long library nights fueled by iced tea and Snickers (what was I thinking?), I first felt how precarious it is to write about faith. Conversing about my deepest-down thoughts wasn’t bad—spoken words fade fast. But these went on paper, stared me back in the face and got submitted. I teetered between loving and thinking about loving, between aching and faking, between lively urgency and deadline panic.

Most of all I wanted the precarious balanurlce of being authentic, whatever that may be: I imagined writing in some simple and beautiful unified procession of my thought onto paper. That never really happened.

I’ve learned a bit since then. First of all, most of these problems can be solved by outlining. Start essays before they’re due. The joy of reading amazing, life-changing books; school did in fact matter. When you’re working and need sleep you should go to sleep. Apparently there’s a reason college is four years—I can actually learn something in that time! And the most comforting and important thing I’ve ever read: love means turning and saying, “‘It’s good that you exist; it’s good that you are in this world!’” (Josef Pieper’s Faith Hope Love)

Time resolved a lot of my freshman questions but the precarious lingered.

My year at Oblation reminded me how precarious it is to believe and write about belief. Will I mean what I’m saying when I’m getting paid for it? How to write my ideas for someone else? Writing for an audience meant I couldn’t write for me; I had to consider people’s positions and preferences when I wrote. When an okay post got some less-than-lovely comments, I certainly felt the precariousness of writing for an audience.

I was precarious when learning how far I could push my deadline before exasperating the editors. (Last time: Sorry this is late, guys…) I had to balance between reviewing my writing later to improve it and the pride of gazing on my own words published…online!

I have loved working at Oblation because it embraces precariousness. Life’s precariousness means accommodating other people and publishing necessitates this. Weekly editorial meetings made me consider the difference between what I wanted to cover and needed to cover, how we wanted to publish and how the audience did.

When I was hired Oblation attracted me because it insisted on balancing. It resists the quick tendency to categorize and condemn, so easy when it comes to liturgy. It’s easy to kick your playmate off the see-saw for the security of knowing where the see-saw will land. But Oblation doesn’t do this. The answers aren’t always self-evident and the path forward isn’t always well lit. Church life is harder than platforms, parties, and ballots.

The Church is precarious. Chesterton describes the Church’s position as “the equilibrium of a man behind madly rushing horses, seeming to stoop this way and to sway that, yet in every attitude having the grace of statuary and the accuracy of arithmetic” p1474644018-5(Orthodoxy, ch. 3). The Church stretches and wavers between the human and divine, seeking out sheep and looking for the Face of God. The Gospel is precarious or rather it makes us precarious. The Word surprised and scared kings when it first came. The Gospel still unseats us. When our age’s highest good is autonomy the Gospel asks us to listen, trust and even to rest like a child in the arms of its mother.

The Church, precariously placed on this wild ride through the world’s story, finds a virtuous middle in her ministry of reconciliation. This reconciliation is Oblation’s greatest trait and the biggest reason I’ve loved working here. The Church brings people and God back toward each other.

At Oblation I’ve seen how real this really is in the way the blog constantly examines culture, places it near the Gospel, relates them and shows them how they bear on one another. The easiest thing in religious life today is to think Christ doesn’t bear on your existence. Oblation disrupts this myth without ever naming it. Proclaiming the Eternal Word, I saw this year, is important for every single moment of human life. Reconciling the Eternal Word and the right-now is what preaching is.

And preaching’s been on my mind during this pre-graduation precipice, wavering between college and the hereafter. Barring any thunderbolts, the other end of my precipice is St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, NY, where I’ll be studying in the fall as a seminarian for the Diocese of Albany, NY. Oblation has made me think harder about preaching. The year has shown me how hard it is squash my own preferences in favor of offering what people most need. But it’s also reminded me how much people want that one needful thing (Lk 10:42) and respond when they find it. Please keep me in your prayers; I’ll pray for you. And I will try not to lose the wild instability that is trusting and preaching Christ.

Rejoice, O Queen of Heaven

Danielle Peters-cropDanielle M. Peters, S.T.D.

Secular Institute of the Schoenstatt, Sisters of Mary

Post-Doctoral Fellow, Institute for Church Life, University of Notre Dame

Contact Author

She was allowed to hold her dead son in her lap one last time; she attended his burial and then endured the night after this fateful Friday. In her grief she pondered all that had happened. Life had ended so cruelly for Jesus. Not even a week ago, the crowds were hailing him as their king, spreading their cloaks and leafy branches on the road, and shouting their Hosannas! And then things changed so abruptly. On Monday, Mary of Bethany used costly perfume to anoint the feet of Jesus, which irritated Judas the Iscariot. Jesus calmly reprimanded his disciple, prophesying his burial. The drama reached a highpoint at the Last Supper that Jesus shared with his twelve closest friends. He had chosen each one; they had dropped everything to follow him. Yet, Jesus knew that among them there was one who would betray him and one who would deny him three times. He knew that Peter, James, and John would not be able to stay awake and pray with him during the night of his agony—and still: He washed the feet of all of them. He offered to each one his own Body and Blood. And then he faced the trial; he humbly and lovingly accepted the Cross, and carried it all the way up the hill to Golgotha.

Pietà by Daniele Crespi
Pietà by Daniele Crespi

By then, all but one of his apostles had disappeared. This did not weaken his love for them as he willingly let himself be crucified. In his final torment, he was consoled by the few who loyally had followed him. Among his last words and legacy was the entrustment of the beloved disciple to his mother, and of his mother to the beloved disciple. Thereupon everything was fulfilled.

On the following day, while she profoundly felt the wound of her own pierced heart, she could still thank her Son for his ultimate sacrifice. Yet along with her own sadness, she was deeply concerned about Jesus’ disciples. She sensed that the experiences of the previous days affected them to the core, and possibly also destabilized their belief in Jesus’ message. Moreover, their relationship to one another now lacked its uniting center. She was the only one whose faith was unbroken; she trusted his words: “The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again” (Lk 24:7). Just as at the Annunciation, she did not know how this would happen; but she held silent vigil and believed.

And then she heard the Good News: “We have seen the Lord! He is alive! Be happy, Mary, all is well again!” How much she rejoiced as she listened to the stories of the women and of the disciples: the removed rock, the empty tomb, the encounter in Emmaus! And again she treasured everything in her heart: the angel’s greeting to the women echoed her encounter with the messenger at the Annunciation: do not be afraid! Is anything impossible for God?

Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
The Son whom you merited to bear, alleluia.
Has risen, as He said, alleluia.
Pray for us to God, alleluia.
Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.

The Resurrected Christ Appears to the Virgin by Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri)During the Easter season, this prayer—the Regina Coeli—takes the place of the Angelus, and it is also the Marian antiphon at the conclusion of the Church’s evening prayer. What an emotional roller coaster: in an instant, the Mother of Sorrows is transformed through the victory won by the risen Lord! Suffering and death do not have the last word; at the end of the dark tunnel rises the sun of a glorious Easter morning! “Death where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55)

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord!” (Lk 1:46) Mary’s Magnificat takes on a fuller meaning now that she has witnessed “the great things” he has done for her and for all of us! This is the message Mary wants to teach us: all our mourning and sorrow will turn into joy and dancing!

Fittingly, Easter is celebrated amidst the blossoming of spring. The budding growth of nature resembles the new life we receive through baptism in Jesus Christ. In the power of the paschal mystery, we can rise above mediocrity and live in the freedom of the children of God. Like Mary, and through her intercession, we can endure the night of darkness, of broken relationships, and of mourning for—like her—we trust that there will be a new morning with new hope, a surprising encounter, and new life!