Kathryn Lopez writes, The Easter declaration is unlike any other declaration. It doesn't make us…
The transition from a silent night to an Easter morning
At Christmastime, my daughter’s favorite song to sing at bedtime became “Silent Night.” The transition of this lullaby/carol into her favored bedtime song supplemented the previous longtime favorite, “Immaculate Mary,” though she still sings “Aveee MaEEEEah!” at the top of her lungs while playing.
The problem with a Christmas carol becoming the nightly favorite was that when the season transitioned, the lullaby did not. We gave her a grace period until the feast of the Presentation. But any subsequent attempt to ease away from “Silent Night” has been met with not-so-silent protests.
Which means that, for our family, Lent had a taste of Christmas throughout. And suddenly, here we are on the cusp of Easter, celebrating Christ’s passion, death and resurrection with a nightly three-verse meditation on his birth.
So I have had a whole lot of time, while rocking in the dark with a head of soft curls on my shoulder, to think about Mary holding her baby, too. First, deep inside her, in the safety and mystery of her womb. Next, on the night he was born, in that stark stable in Bethlehem. Then during the toddler years when he needed comfort; hugging him tight after finding him in the Temple in Jerusalem; and perhaps embracing him in gratitude on that miraculous day at Cana.
How tightly did Mary hold her son, too, when he departed Nazareth to begin his public ministry — a quiet farewell outside of their home, perhaps, with the knowledge that things would never be the same? How closely did she cling to him when the hour approached that would cause her heart to be most profoundly pierced by the prophesied sword of sorrow?
And then of course, there was the cradling of son by mother on that agonizing Friday, when the body of our crucified Lord was laid across the same lap that had protected him as he slept in heavenly peace.
A journey from birth to death, bookended in a mother’s arms.
But our faith assures us that this was not the last time Mary held her son close. Imagine the embrace Jesus gave his mother just before his ascension. Or the greeting he gave her when she was assumed into heaven.
And imagine, too, the embrace of that first Easter Sunday, when he who had lain dead in his mother’s arms was now risen in victory. Scripture does not recount a meeting between the two, but it most certainly happened — and quite possibly before Jesus appeared to anyone else.
In a general audience address given May 21, 1997, Pope St. John Paul II said: “It is legitimate to think that the Mother was probably the first person to whom the risen Jesus appeared. Could not Mary’s absence from the group of women who went to the tomb at dawn (cf. Mk 16:1; Mt 28:1) indicate that she had already met Jesus? This inference would also be confirmed by the fact that the first witnesses of the Resurrection, by Jesus’ will, were the women who had remained faithful at the foot of the cross and therefore were more steadfast in faith.
“The unique and special character of the Blessed Virgin’s presence at Calvary and her perfect union with the Son in his suffering on the cross seem to postulate a very particular sharing on her part in the mystery of the Resurrection,” he added.
A mother’s love, from a silent night to an Easter morning.
I suppose in some ways it’s fitting, then, that our Christmas lullaby continues into Easter. For I am reminded that Mary’s loving embrace is one that I am called to imitate. In this mother’s arms, I am to hold tight to my own precious little ones — and to hold tighter still to Jesus, the one who lived, died and rose for us.
Gretchen R. Crowe is editorial director for periodicals at OSV. Follow her on Twitter @GretchenOSV.