On Easter Sunday we hear a beautiful, thousand-year-old chant sung before the Alleluia and the Gospel. This Easter Sequence is called (in Latin) the “Victimae Paschali.” The chant captures the breathless moment when Mary Magdalene bursts into the upper room and declares that she has seen the Risen Lord. It works something like a dialogue between the disciples and Mary Magdalene. Some of the words of this beautiful sequence are incorporated into the design of one of our new garden windows to be installed in the Narthex during Eastertide in A.D. 2015.
The window will depict a lesson from John’s Gospel. Mary Magdalene has hastily set down the urn of myrrh by her feet. She is confused. She was surprised to see the rolled back stone and shocked to find the empty tomb. With hindsight she could reason that the two odd fellows she encountered in the tomb might have been angels, but at this moment, Mary Magdalene believes that something terrible has happened. She is thinking to herself, “What could they have possibly done with my Lord’s body!” and “Why, after all the humiliation of the Cross…why would they have trespassed even His tomb to further desecrate His body?” Mary Magdalene is beside herself. This is not a woman easily shocked. This is no distraught, fragile flower. She had stayed by the Cross while most others had fled. Out of pious duty she was now coming, three days later, to anoint what she was fully expecting to be smelly, wrecked, bloated corpse. Mary Magdalene wasn’t hysterical. Mary Magdalene was angry!
Out of the corner of her eye she catches a glimpse of an approaching figure. At first, through her tears, she dismisses the figure as possibly a gardener, but then starts to demand of him what has happened here. But when the Master speaks her name, she recognizes her “Rabboni.” The Magdalene turns, and rushes to embrace her Lord, but He cautions her not to cling to Him, but to go and give witness to His rising to the other disciples locked behind closed doors, fearful and confused. Thus Mary Magdalene is to be the apostle to the apostles! And so she runs back to tell the disciples that she has seen the Risen Lord.
This beautiful Easter window is placed where it is so as to catch the morning sun. Like its opposite counterpart, it portrays a scene from Holy Week that takes place within a garden (the Lord’s tomb is nearby in this garden). The flowers in the window are more Southern than they are Palestinian, but this is by design. Our native dogwood symbolizes the Passion of Christ, while the white Easter lilies trumpet his Resurrection. There are over a thousand pieces of glass in this one Easter window alone, each painted by the hand of Joe Beyer of Philadelphia.
Our parish is so grateful to the benefactors of all our beautiful stained glass windows, which are works of art without rival. The story of the Resurrection of Christ is arguably the most important part of the Gospel that we as Catholics are called to proclaim, and here it is to be announced in sublime and stunning beauty. In years to come, as our families gather around our own caskets being brought into this church, they will see on one side of the Narthex the Lord’s agony facing His death, but on the other side, the Resurrection. How consoling these windows will be to them, for the Lord Himself dreaded the death He had to accept. But the good news is that He overcame death victoriously like a glorious warrior!
We are so blessed at Our Lady of the Mountains. It really is an extraordinary little parish. Now, every Sunday morning when we enter into our parish church from the outside, we will transition through these two beautiful “gardens,” and no matter what the season may be on the outside, we will be reminded of that greatest of Sunday mornings that changed the world forever!