Lectio divina

on the Paschal Mystery

 

 

  By Mother Abbess Marianna Pinto O.S.B

 

 

I

 

 

 

1. Scriptural Reflections on the Resurrection of the Lord

. Lord's Resurrection is the central event of the NT and therefore of the Church, mystical Body of Christ until He comes again in his final and glorious parousia.


The Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ is the center of the faith of N. T. and first of all, there is no description of the very fact of the resurrection of Jesus.

There is only a transmission of facts, of  stories of the tomb found empty, the Angels announcing the new life of the Redeemer and the apparitions of the risen Jesus.
And yet, by the standpoint of the Christian Revelation, the resurrection of Jesus is the basis not only of these stories but of the whole New Testament: "But if Christ  is not risen, then our preaching is vain and also your faith "(1 Cor 15:14).
All the authors of N. T. understand the Resurrection as the realization of the full promise of  A. T. (see Acts 13.32-33).

. The Paschal Mystery is the mystery of the transmission for excellence:


1. The transmission of the Eucharistic mystery, namely the body and blood of the Lord until he comes (see 1Corinthians 11:23-26)


2. The transmission of the mandate of mutual washing of the feet, namely the centrality of charity throughout the Christian mystery (John 13:1-15 )


3. The transmission of the unique and eternal priesthood of Christ


4. The transmission through the centuries to all the peoples of the mystery of the Church as Bride, the mystical body of Christ (John Crisost.: the wound of his side on the cross ...)


All this is happening and is meant in the Passover of the Lord.
Everything culminates and comes down from the Lord's Passover.

. The Gospel of the Resurrection - Mt 28,1 -10 - transformed the event into a very theophany: there was a great earthquake, the angels  of  heavenly figure, his clothes were white as snow, it looks like lightning.

Is the greatest  theophany,  meaning that the resurrection of Jesus is the full and higest  manifestation of God into human history.

You see and touch what surrounds or accompanies the action of God, but not the action itself. The mystery of the resurrection of Jesus remains intact, jealous possession of the divine Triad.

The first part (28,1-8), depending a bit from Mark’s gospel,  is really a revision in which Matthew seems particularly concerned about cleaning up the Mark's account (f.i. the  inconsistency of the list  of women,  Mk 15,40.47; 16.1).
In Matthew's version the women, who early in the morning, come to the tomb are two, not three, going simply to visit (the greek word is theorein, see, watch)  the tomb.

 

Matthew   establishes a fundamental principle of Scripture for the future theology of the Church; 

he is careful to name the same two women who form the link of continuity between the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (Mt 27,55.61; 28.1).

 

. There are   many differences in the Gospel texts on the Resurrection:

- in Matthew: "An angel of the Lord came" and "Mary of Magdala and the other Mary went to visit the tomb "(28.1-2);

- in Mark:" A young man sitting on the right, dressed in a white robe "and" Mary Magdala, Mary of James and Salome "(16,1.5);

- in John:" Two angels in white sitting, the one at the head and the other foot, where he had placed the body of Jesus "and only" Mary Magdala (20,1.12);

- in Luke: "Here are two men stood by them in dazzling apparel" and for
mirrofore women: "It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary of James" the others that they were together " (24,4.10).

These differences are not a contradiction. The Fathers of the Church, for example, St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Gregory Palamas, think that women mirrofore  went to the grave several times;  each evangelist speaks only of one of these visits. In Luke does not say their number, and this explains why certain icons in their number reaches the figure of two, three, five, six or more.
The women saw the Divine Reality of the Resurrection: from that  very moment  the crucified  Lord  is the same Risen Lord.

The apparition of Jesus to His beloved Mother


But beyond all these issues  of the exegesis, we now wish to report an unknown tradition, whereby, as St. Gregory Palamas tells us, the risen Christ would appear for first time not to Mary Magdalene and other women mirrofore, but his most holy Mother.
"The evangelists have announced in veiled words what I love I will reveal to you all. Before they received the good news of the resurrection of the Lord, among all human beings,  the Mother of God received it first by the Lord Himself. She knew it was resurrected, she enjoyed his God's word and did not just see him with her eyes, nor hear with her ears, but it was the first and the only one to touch his feet with her hands immaculate, although the Gospels do not say anything clearly, not wanting to expose the Mother of martyrdom, nor give the infidels an opportunity to suspect ...».
To explain his statement, St. Gregory Palamas starts from the exegesis of Matthew 28.1-8. For him, the other Mary who was with Mary Magdalene was the Mother of God. As the ground shook, Mary rejoiced without scared the show. The announcer was angel Gabriel himself, who already had said from the beginning:
"Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God" (Lk 1:30). The fear had taken Mary Magdalene runs to Peter and John. But Mary, who was full of joy, goes to see other women and return them to the tomb. And so Jesus came to meet them saying: 'Hail to you "(cf. Mt from 28.6 to 8).  "And they came and encircled the feet and adored "it says (Mt 28.9).
As in the company of Mary Magdalene, the Mother of God was the first to hear the good news of the Resurrection and to understand the power of these words, so, being with other women to encounter her son and her God, first of all she saw and recognized the Risen Lord and falling at his feet touched them and became  apostle among the apostles. Mary Magdalene, returning later with Peter and John to the tomb and left alone to sob, to giving the Lord when he calls her by name while fell at his feet and tried to embrace them, she heard him say: "Do not touch me" (Jn 20:17).
From this we learn that when Jesus appeared first to his mother and women who were there, it was only with his mother that he gave her his feet to touch, although this fact is extended also by Matthew to other women, because he would not, for the reasons stated above, set out clearly the role played by the Mother of God in those circumstances.
Through these texts, we understand that it is not covinient to separate the joy of the Resurrection of Christ, which filled the hearts of the holy women and of the disciples from the joy that filled the heart of the Mother of God, just like sings and prays the liturgy of Easter Sunday:
"Hail, holy dwelling, tabernacle of God, Mother of God: it is through you that we are given the joy and we cry out: Blessed art thou among women, immaculate Queen".

 

2. The  Fathers  of  the  Church

The comments above are a  biblical and limited synthesis of what the Fathers of the Church have taught masterfully especially on the Paschal Mystery. These fathers  show  that the  NT texts on the Resurrection of the Lord of the 4 Gospels go far beyond what generations of Christians of all ages will ever understand and express in faith and love and adoration of the great Paschal Mystery.
We have chosen some typical texts perhaps already known but still very instructive.

 

 

 

St. John Chrysostom

I.

Homily composed sometime during his ministry in the late 4th or early 5th century

 

If anyone is devout and a lover of God, let him enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival.

 

If anyone is a wise servant, let him, rejoicing, enter into the joy of his Lord.

If anyone has wearied himself in fasting, let him now receive his recompense.

             

 

 

If anyone has labored from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let him keep the feast. If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; for he shall suffer no loss.

If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near without hesitation. If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let him not fear on account of his delay.

For the Master is gracious and receives the last, even as the first; he gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has labored from the first. He has mercy upon the last and cares for the first; to the one he gives, and to the other he is gracious. He both honors the work and praises the intention.
Enter all of you, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and, whether first or last, receive your reward. O rich and poor, one with another, dance for joy! O you ascetics and you negligent, celebrate the day! You that have fasted and you that have disregarded the fast, rejoice today! The table is rich-laden; feast royally, all of you! The calf is fatted; let no one go forth hungry!

Let all partake of the feast of faith. Let all receive the riches of goodness.
Let no one lament his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn his transgressions, for pardon has dawned from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Saviour's death has set us free.

He that was taken by death has annihilated it! He descended into hades and took hades captive! He embittered it when it tasted his flesh! And anticipating this Isaiah exclaimed, "Hades was embittered when it encountered thee in the lower regions." It was embittered, for it was abolished! It was embittered, for it was mocked! It was embittered, for it was purged! It was embittered, for it was despoiled! It was embittered, for it was bound in chains!
It took a body and, face to face, met God! It took earth and encountered heaven! It took what it saw but crumbled before what it had not seen!
"O death, where is thy sting? O hades, where is thy victory?"
Christ is risen, and you are overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!
For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the First-fruits of them that slept.
To him be glory and might unto ages of ages. Amen.

II.

From one of the must known Chatechesis  of Saint John Chrysostom, bishop.

(Catech. 3, 13-19;SC 50, 174-177)

"The Church was born in the heart of the Paschal Mystery  -  The power of Christ's blood".

If we wish to understand the power of Christ’s blood, we should go back to the ancient account of its prefiguration in Egypt. “Sacrifice a lamb without blemish,” commanded Moses, “and sprinkle its blood on your doors.” If we were to ask him what he meant, and how the blood of an irrational beast could possibly save men endowed with reason, his answer would be that the saving power lies not in the blood itself, but in the fact that it is a sign of the Lord’s blood. In those days, when the destroying angel saw the blood on the doors he did not dare to enter, so how much less will the devil approach now when he sees, not that figurative blood on the doors, but the true blood on the lips of believers, the doors of the temple of Christ.
  If you desire further proof of the power of this blood, remember where it came from, how it ran down from the cross, flowing from the Master’s side. The gospel records that when Christ was dead, but still hung on the cross, a soldier came and pierced his side with a lance and immediately there poured out water and blood. Now the water was a symbol of baptism and the blood, of the holy Eucharist. The soldier pierced the Lord’s side, he breached the wall of the sacred temple, and I have found the treasure and made it my own. So also with the lamb: the Jews sacrificed the victim and I have been saved by it.
  “There flowed from his side water and blood.” Beloved, do not pass over this mystery without thought; it has yet another hidden meaning, which I will explain to you. I said that water and blood symbolised baptism and the holy Eucharist. From these two sacraments the Church is born: from baptism, “the cleansing water that gives rebirth and renewal through the Holy Spirit,” and from the holy Eucharist. Since the symbols of baptism and the Eucharist flowed from his side, it was from his side that Christ fashioned the Church, as he had fashioned Eve from the side of Adam Moses gives a hint of this when he tells the story of the first man and makes him exclaim: “Bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh!” As God then took a rib from Adam’s side to fashion a woman, so Christ has given us blood and water from his side to fashion the Church. God took the rib when Adam was in a deep sleep, and in the same way Christ gave us the blood and the water after his own death.
  Do you understand, then, how Christ has united his bride to himself and what food he gives us all to eat? By one and the same food we are both brought into being and nourished. As a woman nourishes her child with her own blood and milk, so does Christ unceasingly nourish with his own blood those to whom he himself has given life.

 

St. Leo the Great of Rome

 

Homily 72: On the Lord's resurrection

 

 

a. The Cross is not only the mystery of salvation, but an example to follow

The whole of the Easter mystery, dearly beloved, has been brought before us in the Gospel narrative, and the ears of the mind have been so reached through the ear of flesh that none of you can fail to have a picture of the events: for the text of the divinely-inspired story has clearly shown the treachery of the Lord Jesus Christ's betrayal, the judgment by which He was condemned, the barbarity of His crucifixion, and glory of His Resurrection.

But a sermon is still required of us, that the priest's exhortation may be added to the solemn reading of Holy Scripture, as I am sure you are with pious expectation demanding of us as your accustomed due. Because, therefore, there is no place for ignorance in faithful ears, the seed of the Word which consists of the preaching of the Gospel ought to grow in the soil of your heart, so that, when choking thorns and thistles have been removed, the plants of holy thoughts and the buds of right desires may spring up freely into fruit.

For the cross of Christ, which was set up for the salvation of mortals, is both a mystery and an example -- a sacrament whereby the divine power takes effect, an example whereby man's devotion is excited. For to those who are rescued fromthe prisoner's yoke, redemption further procures the power of following the way of the cross by imitation.

For if the world's wisdom so prides itself in its error that every one follows the opinions and habits and whole manner of life of him whom he has chosen as his leader, how shall we share in the name of Christ save by being inseparably united to Him, Who is, as He Himself asserted, 'the Way, the Truth, and the Life'? The Way that is of holy living, the Truth of divine doctrine, and the Life of eternal happiness.

 

b. Christ took our nature upon Himself for our salvation

For when the whole body of mankind had fallen in our first parents, the merciful God purposed so to succour, through His only-begotten Jesus Christ, His creatures made after His image, that the restoration of our nature should not be effected apart from it and that our new estate should be an advance upon our original position.

Happy, if we had not fallen from that which God made us; but happier, if we remain that which He has re-made us. It was much to have received form from Christ; it is more to have a substance in Christ.

For we were taken up into its own proper self by that Nature which condescended to those limitations which loving-kindness dictated and which yet incurred no sort of change.

We were taken up by that Nature which destroyed not what was His in what was ours, nor what was ours in what was His; which made the person of the Godhead and of the Manhood so one in itself that by co-ordination of weakness and power, the flesh could not be rendered inviolable through the Godhead, nor the Godhead passible through the flesh.

We were taken up by that Nature which did not break off the branch from the common stock of our race, and yet excluded all taint of the sin which has passed upon all men. That is to say, weakness and mortality, which were not sin, but the penalty of sin, were undergone by the Redeemer of the World in the way of punishment, that they might be reckoned as the price of redemption. That which therefore, in all of us, is the heritage of condemnation, is in Christ 'the mystery of godliness'.

For being free from debt, He gave Himself up to that most cruel creditor, and suffered the hands of Jews to be the devil's agents in torturing His spotless flesh. Which flesh He willed to be subject to death, even up to His speedy Resurrection, to this end: that believers in Him might find neither persecution intolerable, nor death terrible, by the remembrance that there was no more doubt about their sharing His glory than there was about His sharing their nature.

 

c. The presence of the risen and ascended Lord is still with us

And so, dearly beloved, if we unhesitatingly believe with the heart what we profess with the mouth, in Christ we are crucified, we are dead, we are buried; on the very third day, too, we are raised. Hence the Apostle says, 'If ye have risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting on God's right hand: set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

For when Christ, your life, shall have appeared, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory'. But that the hearts of the faithful may know that they have that whereby to spurn the lusts of the world and be lifted to the wisdom that is above, the Lord promises us His presence, saying, 'Lo! I am with you always, even till the end of the age'.

For not in vain had the Holy Spirit said by Isaiah: 'Behold! A Virgin shall conceive and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which is, being interpreted, God with us'. Jesus, therefore, fulfils the proper meaning of His name, and in ascending into the heavens does not forsake His adopted brethren, though 'He sitteth at the right hand of the Father' yet dwells in the whole body, and Himself from above strengthens them for patient waiting while He summons them upwards to His glory.

 

d. We must have the same mind as was in Christ Jesus

We must not, therefore, indulge in folly amid vain pursuits, nor give way to fear in the midst of adversities. On the one side, no doubt, we are flattered by deceits, and on the other weighed down by troubles.

But because 'the earth is full of the mercy of the Lord', Christ's victory is assuredly ours, that what He says may be fulfilled, 'Fear not, for I have overcome the world'. Whether, then, we fight against the ambition of the world, or against the lusts of the flesh, or against the darts of heresy, let us arm ourselves always with the Lord's Cross.

For our Paschal feast will never end if we abstain from the leaven of the old wickedness in the sincerity of truth. For amid all the changes of this life which is full of various afflictions, we ought to remember the Apostle's exhortation, whereby he instructs us, saying, 'Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, Who being in the form of God counted it not robbery to be equal with God, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, being made in the likeness of men and found in fashion as a man.

Wherefore God also exalted Him and gave Him a name which is above every name, that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow of things in heaven, of things on earth, and of things below, and that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father'. If, he says, you understand 'the mystery of great godliness' and remember what the Only-begotten Son of God did for the salvation of mankind, 'have that mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus', Whose humility is not to be scorned by any of the rich, not to be thought shame of by any of the high-born.

For no human happiness whatever can reach so great a height as to reckon it a source of shame to himself that God, abiding in the form of man, thought it not unworthy of Himself to take the form of a slave.

 

e. Only he who holds the truth on the Incarnation can keep Pascha properly

Imitate what He wrought: love what He loved, and finding in you the Grace of God, love in Him your nature in return, since as He was not dispossessed of riches in poverty, lessened not glory in humility, lost not eternity in death.

So do ye, too, treading in His footsteps, despise earthly things that ye may gain heavenly: for the taking up of the cross means the slaying of lusts, the killing of vices, the turning away from vanity, and the renunciation of all error.

For, though the Lord's Passover can be kept by no immodest, self-indulgent, proud, or miserly person, yet none are held so far aloof from this festival as heretics, and especially those who have wrong views on the Incarnation of the Word, either disparaging what belongs to the Godhead or treating what is of the flesh as unreal.

For the Son of God is true God, having from the Father all that the Father is, with no beginning in time, subject to no sort of change, undivided from the One God, not different from the Almighty, the eternal Only-begotten of the eternal Father; so that the faithful intellect believing in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit in the same essence of the one Godhead, neither divides the Unity by suggesting degrees of dignity, nor confounds the Trinity by merging the Persons in one.

But it is not enough to know the Son of God in the Father's nature only, unless we acknowledge Him in what is ours without withdrawal of what is His own. For that self-emptying, which He underwent for man's restoration, was the dispensation of compassion, not the loss of power.

For, though by the eternal purpose of God there was 'no other name under heaven given to men whereby they must be saved', the Invisible made His substance visible, the Intemporal temporal, the Impassible passible: not that power might sink into weakness, but that weakness might pass into indestructible power.

 

f. A mystical application of the term 'Passover' is given

 

For which reason the very feast which by us is named Pascha, among the Hebrews is called Phase, that is Passover, as the Evangelist attests, saying, 'Before the feast of Pascha, Jesus, knowing that His hour was come that He should pass out of this world unto the Father...' But what was the nature in which He thus passed out unless it was ours, since the Father was in the Son and the Son in the Father inseparably?

But because the Word and the Flesh is one Person, the Assumed is not separated from the Assuming nature, and the honour of being promoted is spoken of as accruing to Him that promotes, as the Apostle says in a passage we have already quoted, 'Wherefore also God exalted Him and gave Him a name which is above every name'. Where the exaltation of His assumed manhood is no doubt spoken of, so that He in Whose sufferings the Godheard remains indivisible is likewise coeternal in the glory of the Godhead.

And to share in this unspeakable gift the Lord Himself was preparing a blessed 'passing over' for His faithful ones, when on the very threshhold of His Passion he interceded not only for His Apostles and disciples but also for the whole Church, saying, 'But not for these only I pray, but for those also who shall believe on Me through their word, that they all may be one, as Thou also, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us'.

 

g. Only true believers can keep the Paschal festival

In this union they can have no share who deny that in the Son of God, Himself true God, man's nature abides, assailing the health-giving mystery and shutting themselves out from the Easter festival.

For, as they dissent from the Gospel and gainsay the Creed, they cannot keep it with us, because although they dare to take to themselves the Christian name, yet they are repelled by every creature who has Christ for his Head.

For you rightly exult and devoutly rejoice in this sacred season as those who, admitting no falsehood into the Truth, have no doubt about Christ's birth according to the flesh, His Passion and Death, and the Resurrection of His body: inasmuch as without any separation of the Godhead you acknowledge a Christ, Who was truly born of a Virgin's womb, truly hung on the wood of the cross, truly laid in an earthly tomb, truly raised in glory, truly set on the right hand of the Father's majesty. 'Whence also', as the Apostle says, 'we look for a Saviour our Lord Jesus Christ. Who shall refashion the body of our humility to become conformed to the body of His glory', Who liveth and reigneth, together with His Father and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

 

St. Melito of Sardis:

from an Easter homily (ch. 65-67;sc 123;95-101)

The Lamb that was slain has delivered us from death and given us life
There was much proclaimed by the prophets about the mystery of the Passover: that mystery is Christ, and to him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.


For the sake of suffering humanity he came down from heaven to earth, clothed himself in that humanity in the Virgin’s womb, and was born a man. Having then a body capable of suffering, he took the pain of fallen man upon himself; he triumphed over the diseases of soul and body that were its cause, and by his Spirit, which was incapable of dying, he dealt man’s destroyer, death, a fatal blow.


He was led forth like a lamb; he was slaughtered like a sheep. He ransomed us from our servitude to the world, as he had ransomed Israel from the hand of Egypt; he freed us from our slavery to the devil, as he had freed Israel from the hand of Pharaoh. He sealed our souls with his own Spirit, and the members of our body with his own blood.
He is the One who covered death with shame and cast the devil into mourning, as Moses cast Pharaoh into mourning. He is the One who smote sin and robbed iniquity of offspring, as Moses robbed the Egyptians of their offspring. He is the One who brought us out of slavery into freedom, out of darkness into light, out of death into life, out of tyranny into an eternal kingdom; who made us a new priesthood, a people chosen to be his own for ever. He is the Passover that is our salvation.
It is he who endured every kind of suffering in all those who foreshadowed him. In Abel he was slain, in Isaac bound, in Jacob exiled, in Joseph sold, in Moses exposed to die. He was sacrificed in the Passover lamb, persecuted in David, dishonoured in the prophets.
It is he who was made man of the Virgin, he who was hung on the tree; it is he who was buried in the earth, raised from the dead, and taken up to the heights of heaven.

He is the mute lamb, the slain lamb, the lamb born of Mary, the fair ewe. He was seized from the flock, dragged off to be slaughtered, sacrificed in the evening, and buried at night. On the tree no bone of his was broken; in the earth his body knew no decay.

He is the One who rose from the dead, and who raised man from the depths of the tomb.

 

NB. We suggest the following other patristic texts useful for the understanding of the Paschal Mystery.

- St. Gregory of Nazianzus:

- Oratio I, in Pascha, 3-5: "we are like Christ"
- Oratio II in Pascha, 45-2: "Pascha honor of the Trinity "

- St. Gregory of Nyssa:

- Oratio IV, in Pascha: " Feast of the Passover feast of salvation"

 

 

| Home | Community | Studies & Sources | Prayer Request |Contact Us | Links |©2011 Benedictine Nuns