Resurrexit Sicut Dixit: Mary in the Liturgy of the Easter Season
Andrew Joseph S. Chanco1, Matthew L. Espino2
1Institute of Religion, University of Santo Tomas, Philippines.
2Don Bosco Pre-Novitiate Formation House, Philippines.
Easter is the most important of all the seasons in the liturgical calendar. A prolonged celebration of fifty days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday constitutes one great feast. As the Church celebrates this annual feast, it honors with special love and devotion, Mary, the Mother of God, who is inseparably connected with her Son, Jesus Christ. In her, the Church holds up and admires the most excellent fruit of redemption and joyfully contemplates, as in a faultless image, that which she herself desires and hopes wholly to be. In recent years, as mentioned in the Pastoral Letter entitled, “Ang Mahal na Birhen” of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, one aspect that calls for renewal is liturgical instruction on the role of Mary in the history of salvation, for there is a lack of its doctrinal instruction. As a response, this paper seeks to discourse on the importance of Mary in the Liturgy of the Easter Season through the textual analysis of a Mass Formulary for Easter found in the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In presenting the said theme, the following topics are discussed: first Mary in the Liturgy by explaining her connection with the public worship of the Church, second is the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary by having an overview of the liturgical book and its significance, and third is Mary in the Liturgy of the Easter Season by analyzing one of the four-mass text under the said season focusing on the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Resurrection of Our Lord.
The Liturgical devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary encompasses a vast area in the Catholic tradition. One of the necessary things to bear in mind is on how it is manifested in the celebration of the liturgy, which is the "summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed, and at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows"1 with the "ultimate aim nothing other than the perfect glorification of God and the sanctification of humanity"2. Among all the seasons in the liturgical calendar, Easter is the most important for it is the summit of the whole liturgical year3.
The Easter Season is a prolonged celebration for fifty days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday constituting one 'great Sunday'4. It commemorates the Resurrection of Jesus, which is the crowning truth of our faith in Christ5. As the Church celebrates this annual feast, it honors with special love Mary, the Mother of God who is inseparably connected with her Son, Jesus Christ. In her, the Church holds up and admires the most excellent fruit of the redemption and joyfully contemplates, as in a faultless image, that which she herself desires and hopes wholly to be6.
One distinguishable characteristics of the faith of Filipino Catholics is its Marian orientation. This is embedded in the life of every Filipino as the Philippine Archipelago is called Pueblo Amante de Maria7 – a nation in love with Mary due to the immense devotion of the people to the Mother of God. This orientation is translated to the Filipino approach to Christ, which is with and through Mary8. A Filipino goes to the mother in order to reach the Son. When determining the characteristics of our Christian faith, it takes form from the various popular devotion that we have. Through these devotions, it also leads to our faith's principal mysteries, including Christmas and Holy Week celebrations9. Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary takes a prominent place in popular devotion and practices. The Philippines has a vibrant celebration of Holy Week, with a greater focus given to the passion and death of Jesus Church. Unfortunately, one aspect that lacks attention and sharpness is the mystery of Christ’s resurrection10. The celebration of "Easter Sunday brings the deeply human and dramatic encounter of the Mother with her risen Son in the Salubong, which is artistically enacted in many places all over the Island."11 In recent years as mentioned by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines in their Pastoral Letter, Ang Mahal na Birhen, one of the aspects that call for renewal on the devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary is the liturgical instruction on her role in the history of salvation for there is a lack in terms of its 'doctrinal instruction'12 for the faithful. Thus, it includes Mary’s role in the Easter mystery.
To answer this call for Liturgical and Marian renewal, this paper seeks to discourse on the importance of Mary in the Liturgy of the Easter Season through the textual analysis of one of the Mass formulary for Easter found in the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In presenting the said theme, the following topics are discussed, first Mary in the Liturgy by explaining her connection with the public worship of the Church; second is the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary by having an overview of the liturgical book and its significance, and third is Mary in the Liturgy of the Easter Season by analyzing one of the four-mass text under the said season focusing on the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Resurrection of Our Lord.
Mary in the Liturgy of Vatican II:
The reforms on the Roman Liturgy made by the Second Vatican Council "presupposed a careful restoration of the General Calendar"13 Within the cycle of the liturgical year, the Church unfolds the whole mystery of Christ from "incarnation and birth until the ascension, the day of Pentecost, and the blessed hope and of the coming of the Lord."14 In this annual celebration, the Blessed Virgin Mary occupies an important role in the Church's Liturgy of both in the East and West15 as she is present in the center of the celebration of salvation accomplished in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI, in his Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus, mentioned that as a fruit of the reforms made by the Second Vatican Council, he issued the said document to "restore and enhance the liturgy and make more fruitful the participation of the faithful in the sacred mysteries."16 The commemoration of the Blessed Virgin Mary is integral to its very structure, the calendar17. She has an "inseparable bond to the saving work of her Son"18. This is very evident as the Catechism of the Catholic Church would summarize our belief on the Blessed Virgin Mary that "what the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines, in turn, its faith in Christ."19 It speaks of the inseparability of the Blessed Virgin Mary with her Son, Jesus Christ, which same goes with our discussion on her place in the Sacred Liturgy.
The main source of knowledge on the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Sacred Scriptures, specifically the New Testament. The Marian text found in the New Testament defines the identity and mission of Jesus as the Messiah. It does not "only contains the foundations for a liturgical piety focused on the Mother of the Lord but also served as a witness to the beginnings of Marian devotion itself "20 One of the titles of the Blessed Virgin Mary used and invoked in the Sacred Liturgy is taken from the Gospel of Luke as "Mother of the Lord."21 Marian titles are liturgical-doctrinal expressions that derive from the Church's faith in Christ and his saving work. Therefore, before becoming a biblical text, it was first an expression of liturgical piety of the people22. As Calabuig would say that "the liturgical veneration of the Mother of the Lord has a value and meaning only if rooted in the Word of God and only if it fits harmoniously into the history of salvation"23 This is then affirmed in Marialis Cultus that in the development of the devotion "having a biblical imprint in every form of worship is necessary today as a general orientation of Christian piety."24
The place of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the liturgy is a fruit of the people's devotion. It takes it fruit "from, and an extension and unceasing increase of the devotion that the Church of every age has paid to her with careful attention to the truth with an ever-watchful nobility of expression"25 As the Directory for Popular Piety and the Liturgy would add and puts it that "confidently have recourse to her patronage. The poorest of the poor feel especially close to her. Like them, they know that she was poor and greatly suffered in meekness and patience. They can identify with her suffering at the crucifixion and death of her Son and rejoice with her in his Resurrection. The faithful joyfully celebrate her feasts, make a pilgrimage to her sanctuary, sing hymns in her honor, and make votive offerings to her."26
Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary:
The Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary was approved by Pope John Paul and promulgated by the Congregation for Divine Worship27 on August 15, 1986, which was a timely and fitting contribution of the Church's tradition of liturgical devotion to the Mother of God28. The Collection was developed by the people of the Congregation for Divine Worship from the year 1984 to 1986. The primary purpose of the collection was for the cult of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Thompson quoting Ignacio Calabuig mention that it can be considered as an appendix to the Roman Missal29. The aim of the collection was towards a celebration that promotes a "sound doctrine, the rich variety of their themes, and their rightful commemoration of the saving deeds that the Lord God has accomplished in the Blessed Virgin in view of the mystery of Christ and the Church"30 The collection is intended for Marian Shrines where the Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary are celebrated frequently and ecclesial communities that on Saturdays in Ordinary Time desired to celebrate a Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary31.
The Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary is arranged according to the divisions of the liturgical year. It is distributed in the following seasons: Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Ordinary Time. The formularies for Ordinary Time are divided into three sections. The first contains the eleven formularies for the celebrations of the Mother of God under the titles that are derived from the Sacred Scriptures or expresses her bond with the Church. The second contains nine formularies in memory of the Blessed Virgin Mary under the titles that refer to her cooperation in fostering the spiritual life of the faithful. The third contains eight formularies celebrating the memory of the Blessed Virgin Mary under titles that suggest her compassionate intercession on behalf of the people32.
The Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary is for the use everywhere and by all33. One of the things that should bear in mind is that for its correct use, the celebrant must respect the seasons of the liturgical year. As a rule, "the Mass formularies are to be used during the liturgical season to which they have been assigned."34 Masses such as the Mass of ‘The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Epiphany of the Lord' or the Mass of 'The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Resurrection of the Lord' may not be celebrated outside the seasons to which they have been assigned because of their specific congruence with these seasons"35.
Mary in the Liturgy of the Easter Season:
"The celebration of the Eucharist, the memorial of Easter, in which the Mother of Jesus is always recalled with loving reverence"36 is celebrated and carefully planned by the Christian community, especially in the Easter Season. Indeed, in this Paschal season, the Church greets and commemorates with a special devotion the Blessed Virgin Mary "as she was filled with joy because of the Resurrection of her Son and as she devoted herself to prayer with the Apostles in trusting expectation of the gift of the Holy Spirit."37 Moreover, the Easter Season is also a preferred time for celebrating the Sacraments of Initiation, properly celebrated in Easter Vigil,38 and the continual formation of the neophytes called Mystagogy.39 The celebration is focused on the Church's giving birth to new members, recalling the mysteries of Christ that are accomplished in them, and acknowledging the Blessed Virgin Mary as the model of this maternal role.40 The Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary presents four ritual texts dedicated to Easter, namely: The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Resurrection of the Lord; Holy Mary, Fountain of Light and Life; Our Lady of the Cenacle, and; The Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Apostles.
The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Resurrection of the Lord:
First of the four options for the liturgical text presents the Lord's Resurrection from the dead and the joy that flows from it.41 Likewise, it honors our Lady as the Mother and Queen that is invited to rejoice because the Lord is not anymore in the tomb, but is risen just as he said.42
The Entrance Antiphon:
Rejoice mother of light
Jesus, the sun of justice,
Overcoming the darkness of the tomb,
Sheds his radiance over the whole world, alleluia.
The antiphon makes use of the paschal symbolism of light. It recalls the words of the Exultet or Easter Proclamation: “let all corners of the earth be glad, knowing an end to gloom and darkness.43 Jesus, called as the Sun of Justice,”44 triumphed in conquering the darkness of sin and death and leads the whole world to his marvelous light.45
O God, who have been pleased to gladden the world
by the Resurrection of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ,
grant, we pray,
that through his Mother, the Virgin Mary,
we may receive the joys of everlasting life.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever.
The collect of this Mass is taken from the Common of the Blessed Virgin for Easter Time.46 Composed of the usual parts of euchological text, the collect reflects the Church's prayer for the joys of eternal life given by God the Father through the Resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ and the intercessory prayer of His Virgin Mother.47
Prayer Over the Offerings:
As we observe this Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
we bring you our offerings, O Lord,
praying to be given strength by the humanity of Christ,
who offered himself to you on the Cross
as the unblemished oblation.
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
The words of the prayer over the offerings contemplates the intimate relationship of Jesus and his mother, who is united with him and in the mysteries of his life. The Dogmatic Constitution of the Church also reflects the same mood in this prayer. It says “She conceived, brought forth, and nourished Christ; she presented Him to the Father in the temple and was united with Him by compassion as He died on the Cross. In this singular way, she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the work of the Savior in giving back the supernatural to souls”.48
Preface: The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Resurrection of the Lord
It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God.
For at the Resurrection of your Anointed One
you filled the heart of the Blessed Virgin
with joy beyond all telling
and wonderfully exalted her faith.
For it was in faith
that she conceived your Son,
it was in faith
that she awaited his Resurrection.
In the strength of faith
she waited for that day of light and life
when the night of death would be ended,
the whole world would exult,
and the infant Church tremble with joy
at seeing again its immortal Lord.
Through him the Angels of heaven
offer their prayer of adoration
as they rejoice in your presence forever.
May our voices be one with theirs
in their triumphant hymn of praise:
The Preface for this Mass formulary is rich in paschal symbolism and meaning. The first part is in keeping with the general tone of the Mass formulary regarding the invitation for Mary to rejoice because of the Resurrection of her Son. The second and third parts acknowledge Mary's faith49 that enabled her to bring forth the Son of God into the world will also be the same faith that she clings on to as she waits for Jesus' Resurrection. Mary mirrors the Mother Church who awaits in trembling at the Resurrection of the Lord. The dogmatic constitution continues “She herself is a virgin, who keeps the faith given to her by her Spouse whole and entire. Imitating the mother of her Lord, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, she keeps with virginal purity an entire faith, a firm hope and a sincere charity.”50
Rejoice, O Virgin Mother,
for Christ has risen from the tomb, alleluia.
The Communion Antiphon echoes the ancient prayer of Christians to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Regina Coeli, that equally celebrates her joy in the Resurrection of her Son: "O Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia! For he whom you did merit to bear, alleluia! Has risen as he said, alleluia!"
Prayer after Communion
Confirm in our minds the mysteries of the true faith,
we pray, O Lord,
so that, confessing that he who was conceived of the Virgin Mary
is true God and true man,
we may, through the saving power of his Resurrection,
merit to attain eternal joy.
Through Christ our Lord.
The Prayer after communion suggests that: through faith in the Son of God, Jesus who was conceived in the womb of our Lady, the Church, through the saving power of the Resurrection, looks forward to eternal happiness.51 This prayer resounds what St. Paul wrote to the Roman “Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.”52 The joy that the Resurrection brings is not in vain, for it carries with it a salvific effect. The Church rejoices because, finally, they have the hope of eternal life.
The Blessed Virgin Mary occupies an important role in the Sacred Liturgy for every celebration, for she is inseparable from her Son, Jesus Christ. She is truly the 'Mother of the Lord,'53 as Elizabeth pronounced during their meeting at Ain Karim. This cultivated the devotion among the people that is why "every celebration of the Eucharistic Liturgy are offered to Mary, have molded the faithful's faith, piety, and prayer. In the centuries they have permeated their whole spiritual outlook, fostering in them a profound devotion to the 'All Holy Mother of God'"54 As an expression of the faith and devotion of the faithful to the Mother of the Lord promulgated the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary which is a rich heritage of resources in commemoration in her honor for the use in the liturgy. As Choate said that "each formulary offers a glimpse, more or less successfully presented, of the Church's Marian devotion, and, taken together, the formularies of a particular season can present a wider perspective for the celebration of Mary through the presentation of individual themes. The introductions provided for the seasons and individual Masses are especially important for this understanding."55 One of the formularies for the Easter Season is 'The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Resurrection of the Lord', which highlights the joy of the Blessed Virgin Mary for his Son, Jesus Christ, who has been raised from the dead. As Pope Benedict XVI in his Easter Message 2012 mentioned that "But that faith never completely failed: especially in the heart of the Virgin Mary, Jesus' Mother, its flame burned even in the dark of night."65 We are true, "an Easter people and Alleluia is our song," as St. Augustine had said. We turn to "Mary, image or exemplar of the Church and the internal spiritual life of the individuals participating in the liturgy."57
10. Catechism for Filipino Catholics, no. 617
29. Thompson, Thomas A. The Virgin Mary in the Liturgy: 1963-1988,,Marian Studies: Vol. 40, Article 13. accessed February 22, 2022 from https://ecommons.udayton.edu/marian_studies/vol40/iss1/13
30. Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Volume 1: Missal, no. 19
Received on 26.06.2022 Modified on 14.07.2022
Accepted on 29.07.2022 ©AandV Publications All right reserved