OF THE RESURRECTED LORD JESUS CHRIST
On the day that Jesus was buried, at dusk of Holy Friday, the Evangelist Matthew refers to the presence of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. These two women were sitting near the tomb of Jesus. We read in Matthew 27:61 “And Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting opposite the tomb.” The following day, at the same time, on Holy Saturday Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were again sitting outside of the Tomb of Christ as is written in the Gospel of St. Matthew. “Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to the tomb.” (Mt. 29:1).
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ happened while the tomb was sealed and shortly after an Angel of the Lord moved the large stone from the entrance. At the time of dusk, at the beginning of Sunday, the third day after the crucifixion of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary arrived at the tomb. St. Matthew refers to the other Mary two times. This indicates to us that the evangelist knew who the other Mary was but her identity is not revealed to us.
Who therefore is this other Mary? In accordance with the opinion of many Fathers of the Church, there is no doubt that this other Mary is none other than Mary the Mother of Jesus. This opinion has been supported by many Saints of the Church such as St. John Chrysostom, St. Ephraim the Syrian, St. Ambrose of Milan, St. Romanos the Melodios, Patriarch Sophronios 1 of Jerusalem, St. Gregory Palamas, St. Nicodemus of Mt. Athos and others. St. Gregory Palamas, an outstanding theologian of the 14th century writes the following: “The first to arrive at the Tomb of Jesus was the Theotokos who was accompanied by Mary Magdalene. The Gospel passage that refers to the Resurrection of Jesus refers to Mary the Mother of Jesus as the first person to arrive at the Tomb. This was only proper and just because it was she who first saw the Resurrected Lord and spoke to Him. She was the first human being who touched His immaculate feet. The evangelist does not make it clear that it was Mary the Mother of Jesus in his Gospel. He most likely did this in order to avoid the suspicion of unbelievers that the Mother of Jesus was exaggerating about the Resurrection of Her Son. The Angel she encountered at the Tomb was the Archangel Gabriel.
Jesus Christ entrusted the news of His Resurrection to the women who had the courage to approach the Tomb. Remember these women were braver than the disciples who had fled and hid in fear of their lives at the death of Jesus. Jesus first appeared to His Mother and then to Mary Magdalene. On the night of His Resurrection Jesus revealed Himself only to the women. In doing this He honored and elevated womanhood. The fall of Mankind was brought about through Eve; the salvation of Mankind was brought about by the Holy Mother, the New Eve.
St. Sophronius the First, the Patriarch of Jerusalem writes something most important about the Holy Mother. He says: “It wasn’t simply Mary His Mother who first saw the Risen Christ but also she was the only one who lived completely the Resurrection of Jesus as the Sun rises from Hades. ‘When you see the Sun rising from the hidden recesses of Hades like a column of Light that enlightens the expanse of the universe, you the All Blameless Daughter were filled with divine joy.’
The Light of the Resurrection enlightened the endless universe and the Holy Mother was the only one who saw the Resurrected Christ rising up as Light from the depths of Hades. The Holy Mother was the first to experience the great honor and joy of the Resurrection of Her Son. This joy was granted to Her because just a few hours prior to this she experienced the great pain of seeing her Son crucified on Golgotha.
When St. Simeon held the Christ-child in his hands in the Temple of Jerusalem he directed his prayers to God and thanked Him for allowing him to see the newly born Savior of the world. He then immediately turned to the Holy Mother and said the following to her: “yes, a sword will pierce through your soul also”. (Luke 2:35). A sword is like a big knife which cuts on both sides. St. Cyril of Alexandria also said: “The sword which the just prophet Simeon speaks about is the sword that literally slaughtered the Holy Mother when she saw her only-begotten Son crucified. It was like an unbearable pain that pierced her heart. Because she was the one who suffered the most watching the passion of her Son and she was the most worthy to witness the joy of His victory over death.
St. Sophronius of Jerusalem writes the following about the Holy Mother’s encounter with her Resurrected Son: “She was the first to see you Lord before the other woman. She saw You glowing with beauty as you rose from the Tomb. It was the Mother of Jesus who heard the greeting Hail.”
The Mother of Jesus did not simply see the Uncreated Light of the Resurrection says St. Gregory Palamas but the Holy Mother herself was filled with this Light. He says: “The Holy Mother experienced the great joy of the Resurrection and she herself became Light for she reached the height of purity.
Jesus was raised from the dead when night began to fall on Saturday night, the 4th of April, 33 AD as His mother was arriving at His Tomb. Jesus waited for the arrival of His mother at the Tomb for she wanted to see the fulfillment of His promises; that He would arise on the third day. Immediately at the setting of the sun, the beginning of the third day, Sunday, the Mother of Jesus set out to visit the Tomb. She asked Mary Magdalene to escort her. Her visit to the Tomb could not have taken place earlier because it was the Saturday of the Passover. Jewish law forbids anyone from traveling prior to the setting of the sun. The Theotokos’ departure for the Tomb could not take place later in the darkness because it was not proper for her and secondly she wanted to be there for the Resurrection of Her Son.
Jesus rises from the dead the moment His mother arrives at the Tomb. In this way Jesus honors His mother and through her all of humanity. St. Gregory Palamas agrees that this is what happened when he says: “The Virgin Mother arrived at the Tomb at the very moment the earthquake took place and the stone was removed from the grave. I believe that the Tomb was opened for her as they will be opened for all of us.” St. Nicodemus the Athonite agrees with this commentary when he says: “The earthquake took place for the sake of Mary and the Archangel Gabriel came from heaven to remove the stone from the Tomb.”
The Resurrected Christ appeared to His mother at the moment that night was falling with the waning of day’s light. As darkness fell the stars in the sky became visible. As the physical light of the sun faded away the Light of Justice rose upon the world and it will never set. This is the Sun which Mary first encountered. And she herself became like the sun. She became like the Light because she is the only one who is worthy of it.
Translated from the Greek by:
+Fr. Constantine (Charles) J. Simones, May 5, 2016, Waterford, CT