by Dom Gueranger, 1908
This is the day which the Lord hath made: let us be glad and rejoice therein.
Our Pasch is the Lamb, and we meditated upon the mystery yesterday: now let us attentively consider those words of sacred Scripture, where, speaking of the Pasch, it says: 'It is the Phase, that is, the passage of the Lord.' God Himself adds these words: 'I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and will kill every first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments (Exod. xii. 11).' So that the Pasch is a day of judgment, a day of terrible justice upon the enemies of God; but, for that very reason, it is a day of deliverance for Israel. The lamb is slain; but his immolation is the signal of redemption to the holy people of the Lord.
The people of Israel are slaves to the cruel Pharaoh. Their bondage is the heaviest that can be. Their male children are to be put to death. The race of Abraham, on which repose the promises of the world's salvation, is doomed. It is time for God to interpose: the Lion of the tribe of Juda, He whom none can resist, must show Himself.
But in this, the Israelites are a type of another and a far more numerous people,--the whole human race; and it is the slave of satan, a tyrant worse than Pharaoh. Its bondage is at its height. It is debased by the vilest idolatry. It has made every base thing its god; and the God that made all things is ignored or blasphemed. With a few rare exceptions out of each generation, men are the victims of hell. Has God's creation of man, then, been a failure? Not so. The time is come for Him to show the might of His arm: He will pass over the earth, and save mankind.
Jesus, the true Israelite, the true Man come down from heaven, He too is made a captive. His enemies have prevailed against Him, and His bleeding, lifeless Body has been laid in the tomb. The murderers of the just One have even fixed a seal upon the sepulchre, and set a guard to watch it. Here again, the Lord must pass, and confound His enemies by His triumphant passage.
In that Egypt of old, each Israelite family was commanded to slay and eat the Paschal Lamb. Then, at midnight, the Lord passed, as He had promised, over this land of bondage and crime. The destroying Angel followed, slaying with his sword the first-born of the Egyptians, 'from the first-born of Pharaoh, who sat on his throne, unto the first-born of the captive woman that was in prison, and all the firstborn of the cattle (Exod. xii. 29).' A cry of mourning resounded through Mesraim: but God is just, and His people was made free!
The same victory was gained in the Resurrection which now gladdens us. The midnight was over, and the last shades of darkness were fleeing from before the rising light: it was then that our Lord passed through the sealed stone of His tomb, unperceived by His guards. His Resurrection was a stroke of death to His first-born people, who had refused to receive Him as their Messias, or to 'know the time of their visitation (St. Luke, xix. 44).' The Synagogue was hard of heart, like Pharaoh; it would fain have held captive Him of whom the prophet had said, that He would be 'free among the dead (Ps. lxxxvii. 6).' Hereupon, a cry of impotent rage was heard in Jerusalem: but God is just, and Jesus made Himself free!
And oh! what a happiness was this passage of our Lord for the human race! He had adopted us as His brethren, and loved us too tenderly to leave us slaves of satan: therefore, He would have His own Resurrection be ours too, and give us light and liberty. The first-born of satan were routed by such a victory; the power of hell was broken. Yet a little while, and the altars of the false gods shall everywhere be destroyed; yet a little while, and man, regenerated by the preaching of the Apostles, shall acknowledge his Creator and abjure his idols: for this is the day which the Lord hath made: 'it is the Phase, that is, the passage of the Lord'!
But observe how the two mysteries,--the Lamb and the Passover,--are united in our Pasch. The Lord passes, and bids the destroying Angel slay the first-born in every house, the entrance of which is not marked with the blood of the lamb. This is the shield of protection; where it is, there divine justice passes by and spares. Pharaoh and his people are not signed with the blood of the lamb: yet have they witnessed the most extraordinary miracles, and suffered unheard-of chastisements. All this should have taught them that the God of Israel is not like their own gods, which have no power; but their heart is hard as stone, and neither the works nor the words of Moses have been able to soften it. Therefore does God strike them and deliver His people.
But this very people, this Israel, ungratefully turns against his deliverer; he is content with the types of the good things promised; he will have no other lamb but the material one. In vain do the prophets tell him, that 'a Lamb is to be sent forth, who shall be King of the earth; that he shall come from the desert to the mount of the daughter of Sion (Is. xvi. 1).' Israel refuses to acknowledge this Lamb as his Messias; he persecutes Him and puts Him to death; and persists in putting all his confidence in the blood of victims, that have no longer the power to propitiate the anger of God. How terrible will be the Passage of the Lord over Jerusalem, when the sword of the Roman legions shall destroy a whole people!
Satan too, and his wicked angels, had scoffed at this Lamb, they had despised Him, as being too meek and humble to be dreaded; and when they saw Him shedding His Blood on the cross, a shout of exultation rang through the regions of hell. But what was their dismay, when they saw this Lamb descending like a lion into limbo, and setting free from their bondage the countless prisoners of the four thousand previous years? and after this returning to our earth, and inviting all mankind to receive 'the liberty of the glory of the children of God (Rom. viii. 21)?'
O Jesus! how terrible is Thy Passover to Thine enemies! but how glorious for them that serve Thee! The people of Israel feared it not, because their houses were marked with the blood of the figurative lamb. We are more favoured than they: our Lamb is the Lamb of God, and Thy Blood is signed, not upon our dwellings, but upon our souls. Thy prophet foretold the great mystery, when he said, that on the day of Thy vengeance upon Jerusalem, they would be spared whose foreheads should be marked with the Tau (Ezechiel, ix. 6). Israel despised the prophecy, which is our joy. The Tau is the sign of Thy cross, dear Jesus! It is Thy cross that shields, and protects, and gladdens us in this Pasch of Thy Passover, wherein Thy anger is all for Thine enemies, and Thy blessings all for us!
Jesus shows Himself to all His Apostles, on the evening of the day on which He rose from the grave; and He greets them with the wish of peace. He wishes the same to us, during this Feast of the Pasch. He desires to establish peace among us:--peace between man and God, peace in the conscience of the repentant sinner, peace between man and man by the forgiveness of injuries. Let us welcome this wish of our risen Lord, and jealously preserve the peace He thus deigns to bring us. At His birth in Bethlehem, the Angels announced this peace to men of good will; but now, it is Jesus Himself who brings it to us, for He has accomplished His work of pacification, by dying for us on the cross. The first word He addresses to His Apostles, and through them to us, is Peace! Let us lovingly accept the blessing, and show ourselves to be, in all things, children of peace.
The conduct of the Apostles, on this occasion, deserves our attention. They believe in their Lord's Resurrection; they eagerly announced the great event to the two disciples of Emmaus: but how weak is their faith! They are troubled and frighted at Jesus' sudden apparition; and when He graciously permits them to handle Him, they are overpowered with joy, and yet there is a certain inexplicable doubt still lingering in their minds. Our Lord has to condescend even to eat in their presence, in order fully to convince them that it is really Himself, and not a phantom. What a strange inconsistency there is in all this! Had they not already believed and confessed the Resurrection of their Master, before receiving this visit? We have a lesson to learn here: it is, that there are some people who believe, but their faith is so weak, that the slightest shook would endanger it; they say they have faith, but it is of the most superficial kind. And yet, without a lively and vigorous faith, what can we do in the battle we have to be incessantly waging against the devil, the world, and our own selves? He who wrestles with an enemy is desirous to have a sure footing; if he stand on slippery ground, he is sure to be thrown. Nothing is so common now-a-days as unstable faith, which believes as long as there is nothing to try it: but let it be put to the test, and it gives way.
One principal cause of this weakness of faith is that subtle naturalism, which now fills the atmosphere in which we live, and which it is so difficult not to imbibe. Let us earnestly pray for an invincible and supernatural faith, which may be the ruling principle of our conduct, which may never flinch, and may triumph over both our internal and external enemies. Thus shall we be able to apply to ourselves those words of the Apostle St. John: 'This is the victory which overcometh the world, our faith (I. St. John, v. 4).'
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us.