Circular Letter No. 4/2011
April 25, 2011
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the MMP,
“Live, together with your heavenly Mother, the profound joy of this Easter Day. Christ is alive! Christ is risen!” (Message 593 a)
I greet you “A Blessed Easter” with these words from our Blessed Mother. For, who else can best express the joy and grandeur of this great feast except the Mother of the Risen Lord herself? Surprisingly, the Bible is silent about her concerning the Resurrection. The gospels mentioned prime witnesses as Mary Magdalene and her companions, Peter and John, the two disciples from Emmaus, and the rest of the apostles gathered inside the tightly secured room, but nothing was said about her.
But, the Bible is not the only source. The Church tells us that the Holy Tradition is another source of divine revelation. It consists of the Lord’s teachings and examples handed on orally by the apostles, including what the Holy Spirit had taught them. Out of this Tradition came various liturgical and devotional traditions born in local churches over the years and retained by the Church’s Magisterium as authentic expressions of the great Tradition of the apostles. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 74 - 83)
One ancient tradition that was handed down to us is the celebration of the “salubong.” The word “salubong” refers to the act of meeting someone who is arriving. As the word connotes, the celebration is the re-enactment of the Risen Christ’s meeting with his sorrowful mother, the first ever. In the Philippines, it is traditionally done right after the Easter Vigil on Saturday evening, or at dawn of Easter Sunday before Mass. Though not written in the Bible, it is a tradition that has endured long years of existence in the local churches, religiously observed by the faithful. It expresses the faith of the people that if there is someone to whom Christ will show himself first after his resurrection, it must be to his mother who loved him so much. This explanation is quite reasonable.
St. Ignatius himself seems to have the same logic in his Spiritual Exercises when he highlighted this event, making it the first among the contemplations of the Fourth Week of the Exercises. He writes: "Rising again, he appeared in body and soul to his Blessed Mother" (no. 219), explaining that "although this is not stated in Scripture, still it is considered as understood by the statement that he appeared to many others" (no. 299).
Beyond the custom or logic, the one who can best affirm this tradition is our Lady herself. In her message to Fr. Gobbi on March 29, 1977, Easter Sunday, she said: “I have become the first and silent witness of his resurrection. The first witness, because Jesus has willed to share above all with his Mother the first fruits of this Easter joy. I am however a silent witness, because it is to the pious women and to the disciples that the task of announcing to world this stupendous and divine prodigy has been entrusted (Message 593 c). Earlier, she vividly described that first “salubong:” When Jesus, in the light of his glorified body, appeared to me in all his divine splendor and, as a Son, bent over to close each wound of my motherly sorrow, my heart was submerged in the fullness of Easter joy” (Message 593 b).
I could not help but look at Our Lady with admiring glance. How she puts herself carefully in the delicate story of the Resurrection - a silent witness - allowing the mystery to unfold according to the well-arranged plan of her Risen Son. Having been declared as mother in her new maternal role since Friday afternoon, she could have made a scene, even more than the other witnesses. But, she didn’t; she is a silent witness as she insisted. How fused her will was to the Will of her Son! This is the reason why the gospels have not spoken of this (Message 593 e), she explained.
Our Lady knows very well her time and place in God’s plan. It will be later at the cenacle - when our Lord has finally ascended in glory - there, she will be prominently at the center of the scene. But, this is another story that we can reflect in another opportune time.
In the meanwhile, let us ponder on her silent witness to the resurrection. To her has been entrusted, she said, “the joyous task of bearing witness in life that my Son Jesus Christ has risen and is sitting at the right hand of His heavenly Father in the glory of paradise (Message 593 g). Speaking intensely of her task, she is giving us an equally earnest command: In these times, when the historical fact of his resurrection is being denied or placed in doubt by many, I charge you, my beloved ones, to announce with force and to give witness with courage to the wonderful event of Christ Risen” (Message 593 g-h).
Let us be inspired by the silent witness of our Blessed Mother. Indeed, by living our consecration, in gathering to pray in the cenacle, we are witnessing to the Risen Lord. By this, we make others to be witnesses, too.
I will be in Tagaytay next Wednesday until Friday (April 27-29) to give retreat to seminarians of the Sons of St. Anne, a religious congregation of priests based in Cubao. The retreat will be in the form of a continuous cenacle where, I know, Our Lady will be the silent witness. The same is true for the priests’ retreat that I am preparing this coming May 9-13 in Baguio. Please pray that, through these retreats, Our Lady will bring the seminarians and priests into a deep experience of her silent witness, be renewed in their vocation, and live with greater commitment to the Risen Lord.
Again, a Blessed Easter to all!
Yours in the Immaculate Heart,
REV. FR. ROMERICO A. PRIETO
Marian Movement of Priests – Philippines