A. Invoking the Holy Spirit.
We invoke the Holy Spirit using the words of St. Augustine.
Come, Holy Spirit, by whom every devout soul, who believes in Christ, is sanctified to become a citizen of the City of God! (en. Ps. 45:8) Come, Holy Spirit, grant that we receive the motions of God, put in us your flame, enlighten us and raise us up to God. (s. 128,4) Amen.
With hearts well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing yourself to be touched by them.
1 On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” 3 So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. 4 They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; 5 he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. 6 When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, 7 and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. 8 Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. 9 For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.
Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to St. John.
“Well then, the first day of the week, early in the morning, when it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw the stone removed. The first day of the week is what Christian custom calls ‘the Lord’s day’ (Dies Dominica) because of the resurrection of the Lord. … Then Mary Magdalene ran and came to Simon Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved and told them: ‘They took the Lord from the tomb and we do not know where they put him.’ Some codices, including the Greek, have ‘They took my Lord’ which may imply very intense affection of love or of servitude; but in majority of the codices that I had at my disposition, I have not found this….
Thus Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They ran together but the other disciple ran ahead of Peter and arrived first at the tomb. Here one takes note and evaluates the conclusion: how he returns to what was overlooked and which nevertheless is added as though it followed. Thus, even though he had already said: ‘they arrived at the tomb,’ he turns back to narrated how they arrived. He affirms: And having inclined (the beloved disciple) saw the linens in their place; nevertheless, he did not enter. Then Peter arrives after him and entered the tomb and saw the linen in place and the sudarium, which had been covering his head, no placed with the linens, but separately rolled up in a place. Do we suppose that these details did not means anything? I don’t think so. But I must hurry to other things where the necessity of a problem or the obscurity may detain me…. Then the other disciple, who had arrived first at the tomb, also entered. He was the first to arrive and the last to enter. Evidently neither is this light, but I have no time for it. And he saw, he says, and he believed. Some, not being attentive, suppose here that John had believed this: that Jesus arose from the dead; but what follows does not indicate this. Therefore, what does this mean which he immediately adds: ‘they did not yet know the Scripture: that it was necessary that he rise from the dead?’ Therefore, someone who did not know that he had to rise from the dead, he did not believe that he had risen from the dead. Therefore, what did he see, what did he believe? Surely he saw the empty tomb and, since they did not yet know the Scripture –that he had to rise from the dead,- he believed what the woman had said: that they had removed him from the tomb. And therefore, when they heard something from the Lord in person, even though he was speaking very clearly, since they were accustomed to hear him speak in parables and did not understand, they also believed that he was alluding to something else (I.. eu. tr. 120,6. 4. 9).
With the text, let us now pray from the depths of our heart. I suggest the following phrases and questions that can awaken in you dialogue with God, and at the same time can give rise to affections and sentiments in your dialogue with God. Do not move to the next phrase or question if you can still continue dialoguing with God in one of them. It is not a matter of exhausting the list, but of helping you to pray with some points that better fit your personal experience.
a. “On the first day of the week, at dawn before the sun had risen, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb” (Jn. 20:1).
- Why do you think did Mary Magdalene go so early to the tomb?
- Where were the other disciples at early dawn on the first day of the week?
b. “He saw and believed: for they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead” (Jn. 20:9).
- How can you apply in your life the two verbs “to see” and “to believe”?
- What importance do the Scriptures have in your life?
c. Pray with this phrase: “Grant O Lord that I may see and believe in you.”
I propose to you some points for affective interior contemplation. Once again, you need not follow all of it, rather you can choose what fits your personal experience,
a. Contemplate Mary Magdalene and her surprise before an empty tomb. Contemplate how she runs. Experience with her the joy of the resurrection.
Contemplate the Risen Christ who comes out of the tomb.
b. Contemplate Christ’s empty tomb. Enter it with the beloved disciple and observe what things are in it and live the joy of the morning of the resurrection.
Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially concerning the joy of Christ’s resurrection. The following points can help you as guide to share with your community the experience of the lectio divina on this text.
- What have I discovered about God and about myself in this moment of prayer?
- How can I apply this text of Scripture at this moment of my life? What light does it give me? What challenges does it put before me?
- What concrete commitment does this text of Scripture ask of me in my spiritual life, in my community life?
- What has been my dominant sentiment during this moment of prayer?
G. Final prayer of St. Augustine.
Turning towards the Lord: Lord God, Father Almighty, with pure heart, as far as our feebleness permits, allow us to give you our most devoted and sincere thanks, begging with all our strength from your particular goodness, that you deign to hear our petitions according to your good will, that by your power you may drive away the enemy from all our thoughts and actions; that you increase our faith, govern our mind, and give us spiritual thoughts and bring us to your happiness, through your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who with you lives and reigns, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen (en. Ps. 150:8).
“Mary, however, was standing by the tomb, outside, weeping. Indeed, after the men have departed, a strong affection kept the weaker sex in the same place” (Io. eu. tr. 121,1).