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From Dom Guéranger's The Liturgical Year.

℣. In resurrectione tua, Christe, alleluia.
℟. Cœli et terra laetentur, alleluia.
℣. In thy resurrection, O Christ, alleluia.
℟. Let heaven and earth rejoice, alleluia.

THE Apostles and holy women are not the only ones to enjoy the presence of our Risen Jesus: a countless people of the just made perfect claim and have the happiness of seeing and reverencing the sacred humanity of their beloved King. The magnificence of the Resurrection has caused us somewhat to forget those venerable captives of Limbo, with whom the soul of our Redeemer spent the hours that elapsed between his Death and Resurrection. They were the friends of God, and were awaiting in Abraham's bosom (as the Scripture expresses it) the dawning of light eternal. From the hour of None (three o'clock) of the great Friday till the daybreak of Sunday, the soul of our Emmanuel abode with these holy prisoners, who were thus put in possession of infinite happiness. But when the hour of his triumph came, how was the Conqueror of Death to leave behind him these souls whom he had enfranchised by his Death and Resurrection? At the moment fixed by the eternal decree, Jesus' Soul passes from Limbo to the sepulchre, and is reunited to his Body; but he is accompanied by a jubilant choir of other souls—the souls of the long-imprisoned Saints.

On the day of the Ascension, they will form his court, and rise together with him; but Heaven’s gate is not yet open, and they must needs wait for these forty days to pass, during which our Redeemer will organize his Church. They are invisible to the eyes of men, but they dwell in the space above this lowly earth, where once they passed their days, and merited an eternal recompense. Adam again sees the land which he had tilled in the sweat of his brow; Abel is in admiration at the power of the divine Blood, which has sued for mercy, whereas his prayed but for vengeance;[1] Noe looks upon this globe, and finds it covered with an immense multitude of men, all of whom are descendants of his three sons; Abraham, the father of believers, Isaac also, and Jacob, hail the happy moment when is to be fulfilled the promise which was made to them, that all generations should be blessed in him who was to be bom of their race; Moses recognizes his people, in whose midst the Messias (whom he had announced,[2] and who is greater than he),[3] has found so few followers and so many enemies; Job, who represents the elect among the Gentiles, is filled with joy at seeing his Redeemer living,[4] in whom he had hoped in all his trials; David, fired with holy enthusiasm, is preparing canticles for heaven, grander far than those he has left us, to be sung in praise of the Incarnate God, who has espoused our human nature; Isaias and the other Prophets behold the literal fulfilment of all they had foretold; in a word, this countless army of saints, formed from the elect of all times and countries, is grieved at finding the earth a slave to the worship of false gods; they beseech our Lord, with all the earnestness of prayer, that he would hasten the time for the preaching of the Gospel, which is to rouse from their sleep them that are seated in the shadow of death.

As the elect, when they rise from their graves on the last day, will ascend through the air to meet Christ[5] as eagles who gather together wheresoever the body may be;[6] so now these holy souls cluster around their divine Deliverer. He is their attraction; seeing him, speaking with him, is truly a heaven on earth to them. Jesus indulges these Blessed of his Father, who are soon to possess the Kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world;[7] he allows them to follow and accompany him; and thus does he pass the days which are to be spent before that glorious one of his triumphant Ascension.

What must not have been the happiness of the faithful and chaste Joseph in being thus near his adopted Son—his Creator? with what affection must he not have looked upon his virginal Spouse, who has been made, at the foot of the Cross, the Mother of men! Who could describe the delight wherewith Anne and Joachim gaze upon their daughter, the august Mother whom all generations shall call ‘blessed’?[8] And John, the Precursor—how must he not have exulted at seeing her, at whose voice he was sanctified in his Mother’s womb, and who has given to the world the Lamb that taketh all sin away! How affectionately must not these ransomed souls have looked upon the Apostles, those future conquerors of the world, who are now being prepared for the combat by their divine Master! It is through them that the earth once brought to the knowledge of the true God will be ever sending up elect ones to heaven until time shall give place to eternity.

Let us to-day honour these hidden but august witnesses of what God's mercy is preparing for the world’s salvation. We shall soon see them ascending to heaven, of which they will take possession in the name of mankind, that has been redeemed by Christ. Let us not forget how, on their way from Limbo to Heaven, they rested with Jesus for forty days on this earth of ours, where they themselves had once lived and merited an eternal crown. Their visit brought a blessing with it; and their departure was the signal for us to follow them—it opened the way to the blissful home, which is one day to be ours!

The following sequence, taken from the Cluny Missal of 1523, is appropriate to the reflections we have just been making:


Prome casta
Concio cantica,
Organa subnectens

Regi claustra
Deo tartarea
Rumpenti, decanta
Nunc symphonia.

Morte qui victa
Resurgens, gaudia
Mundo gestat colenda.

Hanc insolita
Mirantes perdita
Cocyti confinia,

Spectant fortia
Intrante illo
Vita beata.

Terrore perculsa,
Tremescit daemonum
Plebs valida.

Dant suspiria
Fletuum alta:
Quis sic audax fregerit,
Mirantur nunc fortia.

Sic ad supera
Redit cum turma
Et timida
Refovet discipulorum corda.

Hujus trophæa
Flagitamus nunc
Voce decliva.

Virginum inter agmina,
Mereamur pretiosa
Colere ut pascha:

In qua sacrata
Prae fulgore contueri
Lucis exordia.

Sing the mourning hymns,
O holy choir,
but full of hope.

Sing now thy canticles
to the divine King,
who has broken down
the gates of hell.

He conquers death,
and rising from the tomb,
brings festive joy to the world.

The cursed regions of hell
at the strange event.

They gaze on him who enters;
he is Eternal Life,
and they see his power.

The mighty host
of demons
tremble with fear,

And howl
and weep,
asking each other,
who this may be that dares to break
the massive bolts.

‘Tis thus
our Lord returns to earth,
surrounded by a glorious troop;
and hastens to console
the timid hearts of his disciples.

Let us
who celebrate
his noble victory,
beseech him
in humble prayer,

That we may be found worthy
to celebrate the great Pasch,
in the choir of Virgins.

And in that Galilee above,
sanctified by light,
to see
the Source of Light.


[1] Heb. xii 24.
[2] St John i 45.
[3] Heb. iii 3.
[4] Job xix 25.
[5] 1 Thess. iv 16.
[6] St Matt. xxiv 28.
[7] St Matt. xxv 34.
[8] St Luke i 48.