Introduction To Easter, Sunday of the Resurrection
On the first day of the Jewish week the women who followed and revered Jesus as their Master went to the tomb; On that very first day He appeared first to Mary Magdalene (the apostle of the apostles); Then, on the same day, two disciples on their way to Emmaus (therefore called the disciples of Emmaus) recognized Him at their evening supper because Jesus stood in the midst of them; Eight days after (so always the first day of the week) Jesus comes once more.
What an insistence! The day that most marked the disciples of Jesus will become THE day par excellence. They will call it Kyriakè, the Day of the Lord, in Latin dies (day) dominica (Lord) (in French Dimanche), Sunday (the day when Christ the/our “Sun” - our Light - rises from the death), in English. While still going to the temple on the sabbath, they will get into the habit of meeting together on the first day of the week. They thought that if Christ had risen that day, He would have appeared more willingly on that very same day - He would come back that day which would then be the last day of the world. The first Christians consequently celebrated the Paschal (Easter) event once a week. From this weekly celebrations stands one Sunday out, Easter Sunday.
There is more to this than a historical detail. The Fathers of the Church (both theologians and saints) who had a sure flair and sensed “correspondences”, seized the secret report of this first day of the week with the first day of creation. Indeed, Easter is a new beginning, a new creation. It restores the fallen old world.
This day the Fathers brought it closer to another one, the day when Yahweh (God in the Old Testament) was walking in the garden of Eden (paradise) and called the first man who was hiding in fear: “Adam, where are you?” Adam replied with shame: “Here I am.” Today a new Adam, Christ in the Garden of Resurrection, utters in triumph to His Father: “Here I am!”, I am risen and near You - thus erasing the shame of the first fallen man.
But while Adam had lost sight of God by eating the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and bad, it is by eating the body of Christ (the tree of Life) that our eyes, like those of the disciples of Emmaus, will open and that we will recognize the Lord.
Morning radiant, new light. Can one still not detect, with a shudder of joy in the heart, a word game in Marc (16: 2): “The women came early in the morning, the sun having already risen”? Does one not see, in this morning sun, that Christ is the rising sun who comes to visit us, light for those in darkness (Lk 1,78-79)?
After the Great Vigil of Easter, the feast of the night, let us enter the light of the Risen Sun. Let us celebrate with a new heart, let us toss the old ferment and eat the new bread of righteousness and truth (second reading).
At the time when the Great Vigil of Easter ended at dawn (until about the 6th century) there was no need for a “Sunday mass” after the long celebration. But when the celebration started to end before midnight, the need for a liturgical service of the day came naturally: it is already found in St. Gregory the Great (who died in 604). When finally the “Vigil” was pushed back until Saturday morning, it was the mass of Sunday morning which supplanted in fact the Great Vigil of Easter by borrowing elements from it.
The conciliar liturgical reform has restructured this mass by a choice of readings, while the emphasis is placed in the Great Vigil of Easter on Jesus’ Resurrection it here moves to the Faith of the apostles and the Announcement of the Paschal Message.
Let us celebrate with sparkling radiance the day when the Risen One appeared to Mary Magdalene who embraced Him, to the disciples of Emmaus who recognized Him at the breaking of the bread and to the apostles to whom He gave the Holy Spirit to send them all into the world . Haec dies! “Here is the day that the Lord has made” is the leitmotiv that runs through this unique feast which the liturgy makes last for eight days and even fifty until Pentecost.