There are two Marys who are highlighted in the celebration of Easter: Mary, the Mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene to whom Jesus appeared at the tomb. The former is based on tradition; the latter, is based on Scripture.
The First Appearance of the Resurrection based on Tradition.
St. Ignatius of Loyola writes in the Spiritual Exercises that the logical first appearance of Jesus when He resurrected was to His mother. So, in the first meditation of the Fourth Week of the Spiritual Exercises, when the retreatant reflects on the Resurrection of Jesus, Ignatius begins with the title, specifies in the First Prelude, and direct us with the First Point to consider:
The Fourth Week. The First Contemplation: How Christ Our Lord Appeared to Our Lady . The First Prelude is the history. Here it is how, after Christ died on the cross… and releasing the souls of the just from there, returning to the sepulcher, and rising again, he appeared in body and soul to his Blessed Mother. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, trans. George E. Ganss SJ, p. 91.
and the following:
First Point: He appeared to the Virgin Mary. Although this is not stated in Scripture, still it is considered as understood by the statement that he appeared to many others. For Scripture supposes that we have understanding, as it is written: “Are even you without understanding?” (Matthew 15:16). The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, trans. George E. Ganss SJ, p. 116.
The Filipino Salubong in the early dawn of Easter Sunday illustrates the above, believing with the “eyes of faith” and fired by the Catholic imagination (Andrew Greeley) informed by experience that a Son who dearly loves His mother, will primarily consider coming to her FIRST, because she has been wrought with sadness, as predicted by Simeon, when he said, “your heart will be pierced by a sword” (Luke 2:35).
So inspired by this Catholic imagination, the Salubong is about the meeting (Tagalog: salubong) of Mary and Jesus, when the Mater Dolorosa (Sorrowful Mother) meets the Resurrected Jesus. In the enactment, a child dressed as an angel removes the black veil that symbolizes sorrow and replaces it with a white veil, while the parishioners sing, “Reyna ng Langit, magalak ka! Alleluya, Alleluya!” (Queen of Heaven, rejoice! Alleluia! Alleluia!) And thus, the Salubong has been a great devotion to many Filipino Catholics.
There is a deep desire in many of us to be the “first” –this time we will take the “positive” notion of being the “first” in the heart of God. If we place ourselves in the shoes of Mary, indeed, a mother would be overjoyed to know that she is the “first” in the heart of her children (I guess, even a father would too!).
I would see this in many of students’ posts on Instagram when “flexing” their mothers on special occasions, like birthdays, Christmas and Valentines. They would say, “Always my first!” I’d believe that Mary’s heart turns from sorrow to joy, knowing that Her Son appeared to her first. His appearance is an expression of concern: He doesn’t want His mother to suffer any longer!
It is indeed a great assurance that God loved us first.Tweet
“Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him… We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen” (1 John 4: 19-21).
To be first does not mean that we are the only one. But we are first in the ranks of love. Our love of others flows from God’s love for us. This is consistent with Jesus’ exhortation to love one another, “Love one another as I have loved you!” (John 13:34).
We can see this in our deepest desire when we love someone deeply. As we course through the ups and downs of friendship, the joys and pains of maintaining relationships, we are continually faced by choices, many of which are re-commitments whenever the bonds between lovers are threatened.
In the end, we all just want someone who chooses us. Over everyone else. Under any circumstance.Tweet
The Appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene (John 20: 11-18)
The account of John about the appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene gives us a detail that is worth reflecting. Mary was outside of the tomb weeping when Jesus appeared to her. She, in her tears, thought that He was the gardener until He called her by name, “Mary!” She “turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher “ (John 20:16).
It is not uncommon for all of us to feel the absence of God when we are in great sorrow. When we are wrapped by our travails, and we are still grieving from a loss, it is difficult to see things clearly, much more so, to recognize God’s presence. When we are immersed in our own heartaches, what matters at that moment is to free the rush of emotions, like a flood that seeks a path towards a basin where it can calm itself down.
We are like Mary when her tears prevented her from recognizing Jesus. What were the moments when you were so overwhelmed by sorrow that God felt absent? When were you able to see things clearly?
When Mary’s eyes were cleared of her tears and thus, seeing Jesus’ presence, she proclaimed to the disciples what she had seen!
Many of our personal accounts of faith stems from an experience of a tragedy and then, after great reflection, a recognition of the presence of God during those darkest moments.
The recognition comes with healing– when we can say, “I have seen the Lord!” God who was there after all was working silently to bring us to light. We do not have to feel God palpably; He is with us, whether we feel Him or not.
I wrote about why Mary Magdalene is a favorite saint here. Check it out.