Pope Benedict XVI prayed the Regina coeli with the faithful gathered in the courtyard of the Apostolic retreat in Castel Gandolfo on Easter Monday – a bright, crisp, clear day, with an April breeze stirring the air.
Easter Monday – a day of rest and recreation in many countries, as the Holy Father noted at the beginning of his remarks to the gathered faithful ahead of the traditional Eastertide prayer of Marian devotion – a day in which people often take leisurely walks in the city, or visit the country, spending precious hours with friends and family.
The real reason for this holiday, though, is the resurrection of Our Lord – as Pope Benedict called it, “the decisive mystery of our faith.”
The Holy Father went on to note that the Gospel writers do not describe the Resurrection, itself. “The event,” he said, “remains mysterious – not as something unreal, but as something beyond the reach of our knowledge - as a light so bright the eyes cannot bear it.” The narratives begin instead by when, at dawn the day after the Sabbath, the women went to the tomb and found it open and empty.
St. Matthew speaks of an earthquake and a bright angel who rolled away the great tomb stone and sat on it (cf. Mt 28.2). The women, when they had received from the angel the announcement of the resurrection, ran full of fear and joy, to break the news to the disciples – and it was in just that moment that they met Jesus, fell at his feet and worshiped him – and Jesus said to them, “Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee: there shall they see me (Matthew 28:10).”
The Pope went on to note important role that women play in the Gospel accounts of the appearances of the risen Jesus, as also in His passion and death.
“In those days, in Israel,” said Pope Benedict, “women's testimony could have no official legal value.” Nevertheless, the Pope continued, “women have experienced a special bond with the Lord, which is crucial for the practical life of the Christian community, and this always, in every age, not only at the beginning of the Church’s pilgrim journey.”
The Holy Father then called the attention of the faithful to Mary, Mother of the Lord: Sublime and exemplary model of this relationship with Jesus, especially in His paschal mystery. Precisely through the transformative experience of the Passover of her Son, the Virgin Mary becomes Mother of the Church, that is, of all believers and of their communities. “May Mary,” he concluded, “obtain for us that we too might experience the living presence of the Risen Lord, source of hope and peace.”