“The day-star shining alone at the heart of the east in gloom,
The rooster crows and the Magdalen hurries out to the tomb.” – Paul Claudel
In the quiet of the morning, with no witnesses, Our Lord stirred in the tomb. As if awakening from slumber, stretching and rising as if from sleep, Divine Love proved once and for all that it was stronger than death (Sg 8:6).
Scripture tells us, “On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb” (Jn 20:1). It was a new day.
This day, a full week past the Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, brings with it new light, new life. St. Clement, in his epistle to the Corinthians, says, “My friends, look how regularly there are processes of resurrection going on at this very moment. The day and the night show us an example of it; for night sinks to rest, and day arises; day passes away, and night comes again.” Every sunrise is its own preaching of the resurrection. The new day is a promise of the hope and glory of divine grace.
Easter morning was a totally new day. Easter was the newest day that has been; the freshest morning since the Lord created the world’s first light. The Catechism says, “But for us a new day has dawned: the day of Christ’s Resurrection. The seventh day completes the first creation. The eighth day begins the new creation. Thus, the work of creation culminates in the greater work of redemption. The first creation finds its meaning and its summit in the new creation in Christ, the splendor of which surpasses that of the first creation” (CCC, 349).
The first day of the week, the eighth day, is the day of bringing to fulfillment all that the Lord planned from the beginning. The symbolism of eight in the Old Testament is important here. The Lord delivered eight members of Noah’s family by keeping them safe through the great flood on the ark. For the Jewish people, the day after the first sabbath for a newborn boy (the eighth day of his life) is the traditional day of his circumcision.
St. Barnabas, the companion of Paul, writes, “We rejoice in celebrating the eighth day; because that was when Jesus rose from the dead, and showed himself again.” Thus the Church began to build her baptisteries as octagons, eight-sided buildings meant for baptism. Baptism, the moment every Christian dies and comes to new life with Christ, is a descent and rising on the new day, the day of the Lord, the eighth day.
Christ will continue to make perfect in us this work of redemption. We are, all of us, being re-created in his new image. Christ is fulfilling the work of his ancient promises of salvation.
In a garden where our first parents sinned, the Risen Christ brings new life. The stone once rolled over the entry to the tomb (symbolizing our stony hearts, cf. Ez 36:26) is rolled away, allowing the grace of the resurrection to come forth. The burial cloths of Christ (signs of the constraints of the Old Law) are set aside, and Christ wears the new garment of the Gospel.
The Resurrection takes place in the morning. The liturgy, echoing the cosmic rhythms first bestowed by our Creator, imprints in our hearts the designs Providence has brought to completion. In the evening hour Christ died. And at daybreak he rises from the dead.
With the joy and hope of a new day, amidst the freshness of dawn, Christ the true Light, makes himself fully known to humankind. Here in the garden, in the stillness of morning as the first light breaks, the promise of Christmas is fulfilled. The light has come. The world is bathed in the rays of a new day.
Death is but a sleep! The Church jubilantly sings on Easter, “Death with life contended: combat strangely ended! Life’s own Champion, slain, yet lives to reign” (the Easter Sequence). The Easter Christ, the Lord risen from the dead promises every believing heart, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
The world longs for a new day more than anything else. To awake fresh and renewed from the nightmare of sin and death, hearts long to be free. Christ, the victorious, the one who contended with death, the one who took upon himself all our sin, he alone brings light!
The dark night has passed! The sunrise breaks on the horizon! Rejoice in the grace of this new day! Alleluia!