As we continue celebrating the resurrection of Our Divine Lord Jesus Christ during this eight-day period, called an octave—the octave of Easter—we have the opportunity to contemplate the events of that first Easter Sunday when Our Lord gladdened the world by emerging glorious and triumphant from the tomb.
Who were the holy women and the men who were faithful to Our Lord during the terrible hours of his sufferings and death and then the glorious ones of his resurrection? When we read all four gospel accounts of Our Lord’s death and resurrection, we find basic agreement among them but also each of them adds its own elements to the story.
A group of sympathetic women whom Jesus calls “Daughters of Jerusalem” follow him through the streets of the city from Pilate’s palace where Jesus was condemned out to the hill of Calvary where he was crucified. An ancient tradition, but not found in the gospel accounts, is that a sympathetic woman took pity on Jesus as he made his painful way to Calvary; she wiped his face with a cloth and in gratitude for that act of kindness, Our Lord left the image of his face on that cloth. When Saint Francis of Assisi composed the devotion that we call “the Stations of the Cross,” he incorporated that tradition into the list of those stations.
At Calvary, near the cross of Jesus, the four gospels place Our Lady, Saint Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, a woman named Salome who was probably the mother of the apostles John and James, another person called Mary who was the wife of someone named Clopas, a woman named Joanna, and then Saint Mark speaks of “many other women.”
The men at Calvary were less numerous; only one of the twelve apostles seems to have been there, and that was Saint John the apostle and evangelist, into whose care the dying Savior entrusted his blessed Mother. Then there was Joseph of Arimathea who volunteered his unused tomb for the burial of Jesus. And Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin (the high court of the Jewish nation) but a secret disciple of Jesus who had visited Jesus by night so as not to be seen visiting the wonder worker of Galilee in broad daylight. These two, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, took charge of Our Lord’s burial when his body was taken down from the cross.
On that first Easter Sunday morning, Mary Magdalen, Mary mother of James, Joanna, and Salome brought aromatics to the tomb hoping to place them around the body of Jesus, only to find the tomb open and empty and to see the risen Lord in his glory.
Saints Peter and John, two of the apostles, also went to the tomb and found the same thing, but they evidently did not see Jesus until that night when they were gathered in the upper room where the Last Supper had been eaten before Our Lord’s arrest in the Garden of Gethsemani on the Mount of Olives.
We have all these friends of Jesus with whom we can identify in our joy over the resurrection of Jesus and whom we can invoke in asking for a greater faith and devotion to the risen Lord, who says to us in the gospel: I came that they may have life and have it more abundantly. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.