The fact that Mary was the “first” to see the Risen Lord is attested to by the Gospel of John. This datum did not escape the notice of liturgical tradition: it is recorded, for example, by the above mentioned prefaces n. 1154: “primum se beatae Mariae Magdalenae vivum exhibuit” (He showed Himself alive first to blessed Mary Magdalene) and n. 1585: “quem prima resurrexisse nuntiavit a mortuis Iesum Christum Dominum nostrum,” (who first announced that He had risen from the dead, our Lord Jesus Christ) and also the hymn ad Laudes: “tu prima vivi ab inferis es testis atque nuntia” (you are the first witness and messenger of Him who is alive from the underworld) (Liturgia Horarum, die 22 iulii); John Paul II also recalls this fact in Mulieris dignitatem n. 16.
In second place, the preface says that Christ “eam apostolatus officio coram apostolis honoravit” (honored her with the duty of the apostolate). This expression is also owed to the already mentioned Vita attributed to Rabanus Maurus, in which we read that Mary: “apostolatus officio quo honorata fuit fungi non distulit…” (did not delay to perform the duty of the apostolate with which she had been honoured) (cap. XXVII, PL 112, 1475). If the Apostles were to ensure that “bonum novae vitae nuntium ad mundi fines perveniret” (the good news of the new life would reach the ends of the earth), it was Mary’s task to bear them the gospel of the Living Christ. Saint Gregory the Great recalls this fact: “Tantumque apud eum locum gratiae invenit, ut hunc ipsis quoque apostolis, eius videlicet nuntiis, ipsa nuntiaret” (She found so great grace with Him, that she herself announced Him to the very apostles, who were His own messengers) (Homiliae in Evangelia, Hom. XXV: CCSL CXLI p. 215).
Indeed this “apostolatus officium” (duty of the apostolate) received from the Lord himself also earned her the title “apostolorum apostola” (apostless of the apostles) from Saint Thomas Aquinas (In Ioannem Evangelistam expositio, c. XXX, L III, 6), an eloquent appellation that has been used as the title for the new preface. The same pseudo-Rabanus Maurus observed that “Salvator… ascensionis suae eam ad apostolos instituit apostolam, digna mercede gratiae et gloriae, primoque et praecipue honoris privilegio, digne pro meritis omnium ministrarum suarum remunerans signiferam, quam ante modicum instituerat resurrectionis evangelistam, et ait illi ‘Vade ad fratres meos, et dic eis’” (Our Savior made her, to the apostles, the apostle of His ascension, with the due reward of grace and glory, having the first and pre-eminent privileged position; He fitly rewarded her, His standard-bearer, for the merits of all her services, whom a little while before He had made the preacher of His resurrections, saying to her, “God to my brethren and tell them”) (cap. XXVII, PL 112, 1474).
Finally, in recalling that Christ “in horto manifestus apparuit Mariae Magdalenae” (He plainly showed Himself in the garden to Mary Magdalene) the preface evokes, by way of contrast, the garden of paradise in which Eve was the harbinger of death. Such a connection did not escape the notice of Saint Gregory the Great who observed: “Ecce humani generis culpa ibi absciditur unde processit. Quia in paradiso mulier viro propinavit mortem, a sepulcro mulier viris annuntiat vitam, et dicta sui vivificatoris narrat, quae mortiferi serpentis verba narraverat. Ac si humano generi non verbis Dominus, sed rebus dicat: De qua manu vobis illatus est potus mortis, de ipsa suscipite poculum vitae” (Homiliae in Evangelia, Hom. XXV: CCSL CXLI p. 212). (See how the fault of the human race is cut away in the same place where it had begun. Since a woman administered death to a man in paradise, a woman announces life to men from the tomb; she speaks the words of the One who gives her life, as she had spoken the words of the serpent who gives death. It is as if our Lord were saying to the human race, not with words but with realities: ‘From the hand that gave to you the draught of death, receive also the cup of life).
The final protocol is taken from the praefatio II de Sanctis of the Missale Romanum.
+ Arthur Roche
of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments