The Blessed Mother’s Easter
by Fr. Alan Benander, O.Praem.
“This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to His disciples after being raised from the dead”— words of the holy evangelist, St. John, from his Gospel.
Of all the reports of the appearances of the Risen Lord to His disciples which the evangelists report, we do not read of any appearance to that disciple of His who was the most faithful—that disciple being, of course, his Blessed Mother. Thus, we might ask ourselves: Why is this? Why does there seem to be no explicit mention in the Scriptures of the Risen Christ appearing to Mary Immaculate?
One answer that could be given to this question is that Christ, in fact, did not appear to His Blessed Mother at all after the Resurrection. After all, it could be argued, she was a woman of great faith, the disciple with the greatest faith, and so she had no real need for Him to appear to her in order for her to know of His rising from the dead. She, the most blessed of Christ’s disciples, would know by faith, even without any vision, that He rose. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
Yet, while that answer is certainly a plausible—and, thus, a valid—one, a great number of spiritual and theological authorities hold to a different view on the matter. For great teachers such as Saints Anselm, Albert the Great, Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, and Pope John Paul II hold not only that Christ appeared to His Mother, but that she was the one to whom he appeared first after His Resurrection (surely, it would be reasonable to hold that if He were to appear to her at all, it would only be fitting for her to be the one who would first see the Risen Christ).
St. Ignatius of Loyola, in his famous Spiritual Exercises, in directing his retreatants to meditate on the Resurrection, has them contemplate first the appearance of our Lord to our Lady, which appearance the saint says occurred first before any others. Then again, in 1997, Pope St. John Paul II, that great devotee of our Lady, dedicated a Wednesday audience to this very topic, arguing the case for our Lord appearing to our Lady first before any others after the Resurrection. Among many insightful comments made in that particular audience, the holy pontiff stated:
The Gospels report a small number of appearances by the Risen Jesus and certainly not a complete summary of all that happened during the forty days after Easter. St. Paul recalls that [the Risen Christ] appeared “to more than 500 brethren at one time.” How do we explain the fact that an exceptional event known to so many is not mentioned by the Evangelists? It is an obvious sign that other appearances of the Risen One were not recorded, although they were among the well-known events that occurred. How could the Blessed Virgin, present in the first community of disciples, be excluded from those who met her divine Son after He had risen from the dead? Indeed, it is legitimate to think that the Mother was probably the first person to whom the Risen Jesus appeared.
The holy pontiff then goes on to argue that, just as the Virgin—she who, we must remember, is the New Eve—played such an important role in the other important events of the life of her Son (the New Adam), including sharing most intimately in His Passion, it would stand to reason that she would also share most intimately, and first of all, in the joy of His Resurrection. Regina Caeli, laetare!
While, perhaps, this question concerning whether or not our Lord appeared to our Lady first (or even at all) after His Resurrection may never be definitively answered in the Church (although the view that He did appear to her first has certainly become very widely accepted among the faithful in the last millennium), the very raising of the question does direct our minds to consider her who was, as Pope St. John Paul II reminded us, most intimately associated in the redeeming work of her Son. And, with this thought in mind, we should grow in our love and appreciation for her, this great Mother of God, who gave us Jesus, and who stood so faithfully by her Son in His time of suffering on the cross, so as to merit an even more intense joy on the occasion of His glorious Resurrection. And so may we frequently think about and lovingly call upon her throughout this Easter season, in order to have at least some share in that immense joy which rightly belonged to her that first Easter. Blessed be the Risen Christ and His holy and glorious Mother Mary! Amen.
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