The end seemed to have come. The Prophet of Nazareth had died on a cross, like a vile slave. The apostles, terrified, had disappeared; some women, after following Him to His burial place, were returning home weeping. The chief priests and pharisees were unquestionably triumphant, and nevertheless, astonishing to say, they seemed still to dread that prodigious personage, Who had so often frightened them by His power. The darkness overspreading the city during His agony, the earthquake at the moment of His death, the veil of the Holy of holies miraculously rent, appeared to all as sinister forebodings. But what made them especially uneasy was that the Crucified had declared that He would rise again three days after His death.
When predicting His death, His death on the cross, Jesus always added that He would rise again on the third day. “Destroy this temple,” said He to the Jews, when speaking of the temple of His body, “and I will rebuild it in three days.” He even declared to the pharisees, who demanded of Him a sign from heaven in proof of His divinity, that the great sign of His divine mission would be His resurrection. “Just as Jonas remained three days and three nights in the belly of the whale so shall also the Son of man remain three days in the bosom of the earth.” That was the great miracle, the miracle which was to draw the world to the feet of the Son of God. Jesus foretold it, and His word must necessarily be fulfilled.
The victory which Jesus gained on this day over a power which no man has ever overcome or shall ever overcome throws all other victories into the shade. By this sign the universe recognizes its God, its Savior. This day of the resurrection shall have a special name: it will be the Sunday, the Lord’s day, the day of the eternal alleluia, “because on this day Death and Life have fought a gigantic duel, and the Master of Life hath overcome Death. The Lord is truly risen. Alleluia!” Thus shall the children of the kingdom sing, which Jesus, after leaving the tomb, is about to establish in the whole world and perpetuate to the end of ages.
The life of men and their influence over the world end at their death; the life of Jesus and His reign here below begin at the very moment in which He died for the salvation of mankind. On that day His Father invested Him with royalty over the offspring of Adam whom He had wrested from death and hell. Wherefore the cross, the instrument of His victory, was to become the standard of His royalty, Vexilla regis, and through it, He was to conquer all nations, Jews, Romans, barbarians. And it was this that He longed for the baptism of blood: “When I shall be lifted up between heaven and earth,” He said, “I will draw all things to Myself.”
On Easter Sunday, when He came out of the tomb, there remained to Him for founding His kingdom, one soul, the only one that had not suffered shipwreck at the time of His Passion. It was His Mother, the Mother of sorrows. Mary, at the foot of the cross, beheld her Son die; but her faith underwent not the slightest eclipse. Never did she forget that Jesus, her Son and her God, would rise on the third day, as He had foretold. Hence, in mentioning the different apparitions of Jesus to the unbelieving apostles, Scripture is silent concerning the apparitions of Jesus to Mary, lest we should imagine that He appeared to her as He had done to them to reawaken their faith. There was, then, one day, Saturday the eve of the resurrection, when Mary alone constituted the nascent Church. By the side of the New Adam stood the New Eve, the Mother of believers.
Thus was Christianity born of the most Precious Blood of the Man of Sorrows. We must fight for it to triumph entirely, and with the greatest splendor possible, on this Earth. Let us ask Our Lady, the august Mother of Sorrows, who stood unwavering even when she saw her divine Son dying on the Cross, for the strength necessary to not falter in this good fight. She kept the Faith, the absolute certainty that He would resurrect on the third day.
Excerpts adapted for publication from Jesus Christ: His Life, His Passion, His Triumph, by Fr. Augustine Berthe, C.SS.R., Second ed. (St. Louis, Mo. & London W.C.: B. Herder Book Co., 1919), Chapter 8.