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John 20:1-9

St Augustine reminds us that Christians call the day of the Resurrection of the Lord the first day of the week because of that fact.

Chrysostom (whose Paschal homily we had earlier today) reminds us that each and every event that happened to the Saviour is an outward sign of the great mystery of our redemption. Just as Christ was born from the inviolate womb of his virgin Mother, so too he rose again from an inviolate tomb; the only-begotten son of God, he was the first-born of his mother, and through the resurrection became the first born from the dead. His birth did not break the seal of the virgin’s integrity, neither did his resurrection break the seals of the sepulchre – and just as no human hand can express the joy of his birth, so none can tell of that of the resurrection.

Human flesh was sanctified when the Word became Incarnate, and now the Second Adam redeems the sin of the old Adam, and death is defeated, its sting drawn, the day of our new birth is here. Adam is restored, Eve consoled and death trampled under his glorious feet.

Theodore of Mopsuestia deals with a subject modern atheists seem to think they discovered – the seeming inconsistencies between the Gospel accounts. He points out that they all agree that it was early, before dawn, when the women set out. As St Cyril of Alexandria points out, ‘their accounts add up’ since ‘early dawn and late night fix the same point of time, that is the very dead of the night’.

St Gregory the Great advises us to read with the eye of faith and to see the deeper meaning in the account of Mart coming in the dark. She was still in the spiritual darkness of those who do not know the resurrection. Mary was startled to see the stone rolled away; she had come to seek consolation and to do him a service, but he was not there – he had risen, though she did not yet know it.

In mentioning only her, St John does not mean she was the only woman, but rather focusses in on the great love she had for the Lord. Chrysostom also points out how truthful John is in making a woman, whose word would not count in a court, the first witness to the resurrection. Augustine, too notes the depth of her love, which has some texts saying “they have taken my Lord”.

St Cyril marks Mary’s observance of Jewish law, which alone had kept her at home since the burial. But the moment it was lawful for her to come to the tomb, she came, though it meant doing so in the perilous still of the night. It was natural she should have first thought that the tomb had been desecrated and she went back to the Apostles to tell them what she had seen; her love for the Lord was not ended by his death.

Eusebius notes that by the time John and Peter got to the tomb, it was daylight, so they could hardly have done what chief priest accused them of – stealing the body. Chrysostom points out that the arrangement of the discarded linen spoke against the body having been stolen away. Only then did John recall the words of his Master and understood them afresh in the light of the empty tomb.

Until this blessed day, we, too, were in the darkness and knew not the Light – but now we do, and let us say, as they said of old “He is Risen! He is Risen indeed!”

A happy and a holy Easter to you all!

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