But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Saying this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20:11-18)
We have seen the same sequence of events when the two disciples found Jesus on their way to Emmaus. They were miraculously prevented from seeing Jesus but later on, they recognized him. In that moment, Jesus disappeared and the consecrated bread remained on the table. That is perhaps the first Eucharistic miracle. Christ taught us there one more time that the bread is Him and He is the bread from Heaven. That was the first time (that we know of) that bread was consecrated after the Resurrection. In that way, the Passion of Our Lord is “contained” in time between two Masses: the Last Supper, and the supper at Emmaus.
Remember also when the Hebrews entered the Promised Land, the miraculous manna, —the bread from Heaven that fed them as they crossed the wilderness— ceased, and the Israelites were sustained by the fruit of the land they were coming to possess. The process is reverted after the Passion. Now, during the long time that the Church (the New Israel) will spend crossing the wilderness of history, she will be fed by the Eucharist, the new manna. So these two miracles may be used to exemplify the two extremes of the life of the Church. Recall that angels seen by the Magdalene, were sitting at both ends of the rock were Jesus laid, one at the head , one at the feet. Perhaps that image is meant to teach us something. The body of Christ is the Church and the angels were pointing at the beginning and the end. (Revelation 22:13)
Mary Magdalene is too sad to notice that she had seen two angels. She is prevented again, miraculously, to recognize her Lord but she believes Him to be the gardener. Yes, he is the gardener of a New Eden. At the beginning of the Passion he is taken by force from the garden of Gethsemane but now he is more alive than anyone on Earth, he is in charge of this new garden, a new paradise, a figure of the Church Triumphant. How beautiful is to contemplate all these things that God has concealed in the Gospels and is now revealing to us by grace.
“Where have you placed his body?” she asked. And Jesus says simply: “Mary” and she recognizes his voice.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. (John 10:27-30)
The Early Fathers told us that in that scene in the garden, Mary Magdalene is a figure of the Church. The Church is the body of Christ. Just as we recognize our own body and our own body recognizes us in a one-to-one seamless relationship, so does the Church recognize her Lord and Owner. The simple mention of Mary’s name exacts the loving response from the Magdalene: “Rabboni!” Can you imagine the depth of her joy in finding her Teacher, in knowing that He is not lost, not dead but there next to her in the Garden?
One day, at the end of times, the persecuted Church will be desperately seeking Jesus. Perhaps the Eucharist will be denied to us in a reverse-play of the miracle of Emmaus. But the presence of the Lord must be a constant in this world. He promised we would never be left alone. So, if his Eucharistic presence is lacking, his personal presence will be revealed in the same manner it happened at Emmaus and at the Garden. Our eyes will be opened and his revelation will happen in an instant.
That will be the time, the glorious time, when the Church will cross the Jordan into the Promised Land. Then our manna, the Eucharist, will not go away. We will have it and God will add to it the marvelous curative foods of Heaven.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:1-5)
Contrary to the belief of many who affirm that the Church made up the Resurrection by hiding the body of Jesus, here we can see this is not a Church that is actually expecting the Resurrection. They are not making this up to create the myth of Jesus ascending to Heaven after the Passion. The preparations made by Joseph of Arimathea, the two coming back from Emmaus to Jerusalem, the disciples befuddled by the report of Mary Magdalene, and so many other details show that this event was completely unexpected, even reluctantly accepted. When reading this passage, it shocked me to understand that the Passion is “marked” or contained so to speak, between the two consecrations of bread: one at the Last Supper, the other at Emmaus. The disciples at Emmaus are fleeing Jerusalem and receive the bread at the inn (which is also used as an image of the Church in the parable of the Good Samaritan) and that reminds us of the bread that David and his men received when fleeing from King Saul’s persecution. (1 Samuel 21:1-6)
We will return to those two consecrations in a future post. I am sure there is much there that we can learn.
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“The last degree of love is when He gave Himself to us to be our Food; because He gave Himself to be united with us in every way.” — St. Bernardine of Siena
“No one can fail to understand that the Divine Eucharist bestows upon the Christian people an incomparable dignity. Not only while the Sacrifice is offered and the Sacrament is received, but as long as the Eucharist is kept in our churches and oratories, Christ is truly Emmanuel, that is, ‘God with us’. Day and night He is in our midst, He dwells with us, full of grace and truth. He restores morality, nourishes virtues, consoles the afflicted, strengthens the weak. He proposes His own example to those who come to Him that all may learn to be, like Himself, meek and humble of heart and to seek not their own interests but those of God. Anyone who approaches this august Sacrament with special devotion and endeavors to return generous love for Christ’s own infinite love, will experience and fully understand—not without spiritual joy and fruit—how precious is the life hidden with Christ in God and how great is the value of converse with Christ, for there is nothing more consoling on earth, nothing more efficacious for advancing along the road of holiness.” — Bl. Pope Paul VI