Weekly Features: Week of April 6, 2015

Features for the week of April 6, 2015.

Easter Season Resources

Mary's Resurrection Experience

Did Christ Visit Mary at or after the Resurrection? Early Writings

"Et Prima Vidit": The Iconography of the Appearance of Christ to His Mother

Marian Antiphon for the Easter Season

Easter Poetry

April Commemorations


The International Marian Research Institute offers a variety of items to help you reflect on Christ's Resurrection with Mary or in a Marian context. Below are listed major articles.


The Paschal Triduum and Easter Season with Mary
Popular devotion stresses Mary's sorrow more than her joy. The following provide some exceptions:

The Three Easter Days
Did Christ Visit Mary at or after the Resurrection? Early Writings
"Et Prima Vidit": The Iconography of the Appearance of Christ to His Mother
Marian Masses During the Easter Season
A Marian Reflection and Prayer

Easter: Mary's Resurrection Experience


The pictures which accompany our collection of Easter poetry each commemorate the Seven Joys of the Virgin Mary.The Virgin's seven joys are the following events: the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Adoration of the Magi, the Resurrected Christ's appearance to Mary, Christ's Ascension, Pentecost, and Mary's death and Assumption. udayton.edu/mary/resources/poetry _new/risen.html


Easter Acts of Consecration

The Rosary
The Glorious Mysteries, to be said on Wednesdays and Saturdays as well as Sundays from Easter until Advent udayton.edu/mary/questions/faq/faq07.html


Marian Antiphon for Easter
The "Regina Coeli" is one of the four seasonal antiphons of the Blessed Virgin Mary prescribed to be sung or recited in the Easter Season. The "Regina Coeli" is a twelfth-century antiphon for Evening Prayer during the Easter Season. Since the thirteenth century, it has been used as the seasonal antiphon in honor of the Blessed Virgin after Night Prayer. udayton.edu/mary/resources/antiph3.html

Music for the Easter Season udayton.edu/mary/resources/music/mus_words/easter.htm


Did Christ Visit Mary at or after the Resurrection? Early Writings

As stated above, the Gospels do not record that Christ visited Mary after the Resurrection. The only post-resurrection account of Mary finds her in the Upper Room after the Ascension of Jesus. There she gathers with the early church in prayer. (Acts 1:14) There are two other bodies of literature from the first centuries of Christianity, however, which suggest in stories and sermons that Christ must have visited Mary.

The first body of literature are apocryphal writings. These writings are not accepted as divinely inspired sacred scripture, but they are nonetheless a testimony to the belief of at least some early Christians. Several of the early apocrypha include Mary in the group of holy women who went to the tomb on Easter morning. Coptic literature seems to be the earliest source. As James D. Breckenridge writes in his study of Marian iconography, [see source below], Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem (ca. 315- ca. 386) wrote a, "so-called Discourse on Mary Theotokos,"... in which the Virgin is made to speak to the Apostles James, Peter, and John, ten years after the Resurrection:

"Ye saw the sufferings which the Jews inflicted upon Him when He was raised up on the Cross, and that they put Him to death, and that His Father raised Him up from the dead on the third day. And I went to the tomb, and He appeared unto me, and He spake unto me, saying, 'Go and inform My brethren what things ye have seen. Let those whom My Father hath loved come to Galilee' ".
"Such transfers of episodes or attributes from one individual to another are far from rare in the apocrypha; in this case, however, it becomes clear with the examination of multiple examples that they are neither accidental, nor ignorant, mistakes, but conscious attempts to increase the part played by the Virgin in the events of Christ's life."

Origen (3rd century) speaks of a text named, Gospel of the Twelve Apostles, which indicates that the following text existed already in the second century:

"She [the Virgin] opened her eyes, for they were lowered in order not to view the earth, scene of so many dreadful events. She said to Him with joy, 'Rabboni, my lord, my God, my son, thou art resurrected, indeed resurrected.' She wished to hold Him in order to kiss Him upon the mouth'. But He prevented her and pleaded with her, saying, 'My mother, do not touch me. Wait a little, for this is the garment which My Father has given me when He resurrected me. It is not possible for anything of flesh to touch me until I go into heaven'.
'This body is however the one in which I passed nine months in they loins...Know these things, O my mother. This flesh is that which I received in thee. This is that which has reposed in my tomb. This is also that which is resurrected today, that which now stands before thee. Fix your eyes upon my hands and upon my feet. O Mary, my mother, know that it is I, whom thou hast nourished. Doubt not, O my mother, that I am thy son. It is I who left thee in the care of John at the moment when I was raised on the cross.

Now therefore, O my mother, hasten to tell my brothers, and say to them...'According to the words which I have told to you, go into Galilee: You shall see me. Hasten, for it is not possible for me to go into heaven with my Father, no longer to see you more'.

A more known work, the Book of the Resurrection of Christ by Bartholomew the Apostle, known to St. Jerome, and probably from the 4th century or late 3rd century, contains a detailed account of Mary's search for the body of Jesus, and Jesus' subsequent appearance to her:

"And the Saviour appeared and in their presence mounted on the chariot of the Father of the Universe, and He cried out in the language of His Godhead, saying, 'Mari Khar Marih' whereof the interpretation is, 'Mary, the mother of the Son of God.' Then Mary, who knew the interpretation of the words said, 'Hramboune Kathiathaari Mirth'; whereof the interpretation is, 'The Son of the Almighty, and the Master, and Son.' And He said unto her, 'Hail, My mother. Hail My ark. Hail, thou who has sustained the life of the whole world'....Then our Saviour stretched out His right hand, which was full of blessing, and He blessed the womb of Mary His mother... The womb of Mary is blessed by God the Father and by the Holy Spirit as well..."
These apocryphal texts indicate the love and reverence for Mary by the early writers. Their romanced accounts attempt to put into words Christ's own gratitude to Mary. There is another body of literature, however, that deals with this theme from the perspective of speculative theology. These are the catechetical and homiletic sources of the early centuries. The Breckenridge study continues:

Concern over the lack of agreement among the gospels on the part played by the holy women and particularly the Virgin, in the events following the Crucifixion was not confined, however, to the vulgar apocrypha. It was also shown by clerical writers from an early date, and occurs frequently enough in their writings to indicate both an awareness of the problem and a tendency to solve it in a fashion closely parallel to that of the composers of the apocrypha... Already in the second century, Tatian...seems to have confused the Virgin Mary with the Magdalene in his account of the episode of the "Noli me tangere" [do not touch me; the title given to iconography of Christ's encounter with Mary Magdalene]; but he also raised the point that was to become the fundamental thesis of all the most orthodox writers touching the subject: that a meeting at which Christ announced his Resurrection to his mother was no less than a logical necessity in the completion of his ministry.

Breckenridge lists studies which indicate that the Eastern Fathers, John Chrysostom and Gregory of Nyssa, identify Mary as one of the women in the post-resurrection scene. In the West, St. Ambrose (4th c) notes that Mary deserved to see Christ after his Resurrection. In his own words: Vidit ergo Maria resurrectionem Domini: et prima vidit, et credidit. [Liber de Virginitate, I, iii, 14. Ftn 39 of the Breckenridge study: "Ambrose's discussion is particularly interesting in that he relates the symbolism of Christ's unused tomb to that of the Virgin womb; so he remarks that Christ's rising from the dead repeats the Virgin birth."]. Sedulius, the poet (5th c) takes up this theme and expands the imagery of the womb and the tomb.

In the East, the theme begins to be more prominent in the 9th century. The earliest known source is found in a homily of George, Metropolitan of Nicomedia, on the "Presence of the Virgin at the Sepulcher."

"George of Nicomedia avoided the pitfalls of Scriptural inconcordance by suggesting that the Virgin can be assumed to have been present at the sepulcher on Easter morning before the other women arrived; he intimated that the reason she was not mentioned is that the texts speak only of the women who came to the tomb; while she was already there. In other words, Christ's mother, the only one of his followers to have had perfect confidence in his ultimate triumph, remained at his tomb from the time of its sealing until that of the arrival of the other women on Easter morning. George described the long vigil by the silent tomb, and finally the prayer of Mary to her Son, in which she expressed complete faith in his glorification, requesting only that he vouchsafe her a glimpse of him when he did arise from the dead: "When you have come, and the joy of Resurrection is accomplished, first of all appear to announce this to your Mother." And so, although, as George readily acknowledged, the Scriptures say nothing of it... George proceeded to describe it, not at all in terms of the sort of encounter between two people given by the gospels in the case of Mary Magdalene or the other women, but as a mighty vision of glory, worthy only of an apocalypse... His solution is essentially the one employed by several later Byzantine writers such as Metaphrastes, Theophanes Krameus, and Gregory Palamas."

In the West, the theme became prominent in the 11th and 12th centuries. This coincides with the emergence of the theme in Western art. Eadmer (1064-1124) and Rupert of Deutz (12th c) take their position from Ambrose's way of thinking. They see it as a matter of course that Christ appeared to Mary after the resurrection. According to Breckenridge, Eadmer's sermon states:

"But if anyone should ask why the Evangelists do not describe the resurrected Lord appearing first and quickly to His sweet Mother, that He should mitigate her sorrow, we reply what we have heard inquiring into this matter ..., and what he concludes is that the very narrative character of the Gospels made it impossible for the Evangelists to describe the transports of joy which filled the Virgin when she saw her Son after the Resurrection: for if her joy was so great when He was alive, who can comprehend what it must have been when He arose from the dead?"

By the 13th century, an anonymous author, known as Pseudo-Bonaventure, wrote about Christ's appearance to his mother in Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ. This work became the basis for the theme in future thought and art. The text of Pseudo-Bonaventure follows:

"And then about the same time, that is to say early in the morning, Mary Magdalene, Mary, Jacob, and Salome, taking their leave first of Our Lady, took their way toward the grave with precious ointments. Dwelling still at home Our Lady made her prayer in this manner: 'Almighty God, Father most merciful and most pitying, as You well know, my dear Son Jesus is dead and buried. For truly He was nailed to the cross and hanged between two thieves, And after He was dead, I helped to bury Him with my own hands, Whom I conceived without corruption, and bore Him without travail or sorrow; and He was all my good, all my desire, and all the life and comfort of my soul; but at last He passed away from me beaten, wounded, and torn. And all His enemies rose against Him, scorned Him, and damned Him; and His own disciples forsook Him and flew from Him; and I, His sorrowful Mother, might not help Him. And as You know well, Father of pity and of mercy, that have all power and might, You would not then deliver Him from cruel death; but now You must restore Him again to me alive, and that I beseech Your high majesty. Lord, where is He now, and why tarrieth He so long from me? God the Father, send Him, I pray You, to me; for my soul may not be in rest until the time that I see Him. And my sweet Son, what doest Thou now? And why abidest Thou so long ere Thou comest to me? Truly Thou saidst that Thou shouldst again arise the third day; and is this not the third day, my dear Son? Arise up therefore now, all my joy, and comfort me with Thy coming again, whom Thou discomfortest through Thy going away?' "

"And with that, she so praying, sweet tears shedding, lo suddenly Our Lord Jesus came and appeared to her, and in all white clothes with a glad and lovely cheer, greeting her in these words: 'Hail, holy Mother.' And anon she turning said: 'Art Thou Jesus, my blessed Son?' And therewith she kneeling down honored Him; and He also kneeling beside her said: 'My dear Mother, I am. I have risen, and lo, I am with thee.' And then both rising up kissed the other; and she with unspeakable joy clasped Him sadly, resting all upon Him, and He gladly bare her up and sustained her."

The writings which depict the meeting of Christ and his mother are found in private mystical writings as well, such as in the Revelationes of St. Birgitta of Sweden († 1374) and others.


"Et Prima Vidit": The Iconography of the Appearance of Christ to His Mother

What was written in early Christianity could only be read by the educated few. What was depicted in iconography could be "read" and learned by many. Hence, two examples of the visit as far back as the 6th century. One is found in a miniature of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection in the Rabula Codex (Syria and Palestine, dated 586-587 A.D.). The scenes first show two holy women at the tomb and second at the feet of Christ. One of the women has a halo, which indicates that she is the Blessed Virgin Mary. The second example is, according to Breckenridge, "a panel of Palestinian provenance in Rome," which shows a woman figure in a black mantle decorated with white spots, which was used to depict the Virgin of the Ascension in Palestine.

"The Virgin continues to appear in occasional miniatures, usually showing traces of a Syrian-Palestinian archetype, of the middle Byzantine period. ... the scene finds its way to Western Europe in the twelfth century: the Virgin is distinguished from the other holy women in a mosaic over the crossing of San Marco in Venice; she is the only one with a halo in a twelfth century miniature of the Breviarum Franconicum at Cologne; and she is also singled out in an initial in the Codex Gisle of about 1300, in the Osnabrück Domgymnasium. ... It seems to survive in rare instances right through the Renaissance: one of Fra Angelico's assistants places Mary at the tomb of Christ in a fresco in San Marco in Florence; and as late as about 1614, Rubens placed the virgin in the center of the group of holy women hearing the words of the angels, in a painting formerly in the Czerin Gallery, Vienna. ...

[Other examples include] the Passionale Kunigundae, a manuscript [of] 1312 by the Canon Benesius for the daughter of King Ottokar of Bohemia; Kunigunde was the Abbess of the Monastery of St. George on the Hradschin, Prag, where the manuscript was preserved."

By the 1400s, the subject had become familiar from Italy to the Low Countries, with the exception of Spain, where the image seldom surfaces until much later. When the theme occurs in Spain it is not based on the description of the Pseudo-Bonaventure. The Spanish theme (more specifically, the Catalan art) shows Mary looking through a window or a door out into a garden where she sees the Resurrected. It seems that the Spanish interpretation goes back to the works of George of Nicomedia. In any event, these scenes do not resemble or cannot be confused with the "Noli me tangere" scenes with Mary Magdalene.

Christ Appearing to the Virgin by Roger van der Weyden

For our Mary Page reflection of Mary and Easter, we have chosen just one of many representations. It is Roger van der Weyden's, Christ Appearing to the Virgin (above), now found in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The following material is taken from the Breckenridge study:

The Weyden panel is the right wing of an altarpiece which was prepared for Juan II of Castile, ca. 1438. The left panel portrayed the Adoration of the Infant Christ and the central panel is devoted to Christ's Lamentation. "The resurrected Christ is seen at the moment that he confronts his mother; as he approaches from the spectator's left, clad in a red mantle, he draws back at the last instant with that same gesture of recoil which we have noted derives originally from the 'Noli me tangere.' Mary herself, who wears a blue robe with its hem embroidered (as in the other panels) with the words of the Magnificat, turns from her reading to behold him; she is still seated, surprised and, as yet, still sorrowing; her gesture is an instant past that of prayer seen in earlier representations...and suggests that surprise and joy of recognition are just dawning upon her.

The setting is a vaulted Gothic chamber, beyond the open doors of which is visible a landscape where the Resurrection itself is taking place: Christ rises from the tomb in the act of benediction, but is seen only by a single angel, while the three soldier-guardians sleep, and the three women, approaching in the distance, are yet too far removed to witness the momentous scene.

The voussoirs of the framing arch contain figured scenes, counterfeiting sculpture, which when linked with the principle subject, form a connected narrative of the Life of the Virgin. Below the arch, on colonnette pedestals, are the figures of SS. Mark and Paul with their attributes; while within the actual chamber where the Appearance is taking place, two of the four column capitals supporting the vaulted roof are decorated with Old Testament scenes which, according to the Speculum humanae Salvationis, prefigured the events of Christ's Resurrection. At the crown of the framing arch an angel holds a crown and a scroll which, as in the other panels of the triptych, makes explicit the importance of the Virgin's role in the Act of Redemption."

The Roger van der Weyden masterpiece, a theme rare up to the time of its creation, was now copied in abundance, especially by Flemish painters.

There is a third type of iconography which depicts the scene of Christ's appearance to his mother and resembles to a large extent the composition of Annunciation scenes. The purpose of this type is to show the parallel between the announcement of the Incarnation by the angel and Christ's proclamation to his mother that the Incarnation has been fulfilled in the resurrection. The images portray less a personal encounter between the beloved Son and sorrowing mother, and more a proclamation of victory.

Breckenridge concludes his article by stating:

"After the Council of Trent, the tendency to reemphasize the value of collective worship spelled the end for our subject, with its variants and offshoots, in favor of a more or less impersonal message about the Redemption. The Appearance of Christ with the Redeemed, although derived from the writings of the Spanish mystics, has a far less personal content than the ...scene described by the Pseudo-Bonaventure... This very impersonalization soon brought an end to the useful life of the theme."


Marian Antiphon for the Easter Season

The Regina Caeli is a twelfth-century antiphon for Evening Prayer during the Easter Season. Since the thirteenth century, it has been used as the seasonal antiphon in honor of the Blessed Virgin after Night Prayer.

Queen of heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
The Son whom you merited to bear, alleluia,
has risen as he said, alleluia.
Pray to God for us, alleluia.
Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.
Regina caeli, laetare, alleluia:
quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia.
Resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia.
Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.
Gaude et laetare, Virgo Maria, alleluia.
Quia surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia.


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In the News: Posted April 6, 2015

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