During the home stretch of our St. Dominic’s pilgrimage last year, as we left St. Matthew’s Cathedral in DC, a heavy rainstorm began. Our group numbered about twenty friars. After a few moments of hiding ineffectually under a tree and with no sign of the rain letting up, we realized that the only way home was walking for an hour in the rain.
Our holy father St. Dominic, who spent his life as a poor, wandering preacher, often got caught in the rain. He was known to exclaim as he slipped on sharp rocks and cut his feet, “now this is penance!” This is an aspect of our founder more to be revered than imitated. But he was also known “to speak with God or about God.” And on his journeys, he loved singing the Church’s hymns especially the Marian hymn, “Ave maris stella…” (Hail, Star of the sea), which would fill him and his companions with devotion and joy. We, ourselves, were nearing the end of the Easter season, and so the chant that came first to my mind, was another Marian hymn, the Regina coeli.
The Regina coeli celebrates the mystery of the first appearance of Jesus Christ to His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, after the Resurrection. “Queen of heaven, rejoice! alleluia; for He whom you merited to bear, alleluia, has risen as He said, alleluia! Pray for us to God, alleluia!”
As we began to sing—and despite the rain—I could feel its joy spread through the brethren.
St. Thomas Aquinas helps us to see the meaning of the Resurrection and its connection to our joy. Christ endured many evils in His passion in order to deliver us from evil. But, St. Thomas reasons, Christ “was glorified in rising again in order to advance us towards good things.” This is the meaning of St. Paul, who says that Christ “was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Rom 4:25). The Resurrection, in which Christ rises to glory, takes us with Him and establishes us in goodness, holiness, and truth. By sharing in this, we become joyful.
The Regina coeli captures something of the joy of the Easter season by letting us contemplate the joy of the Blessed Virgin Mary in encountering her risen Son. Commenting on this, Fr. Romanus Cessario, O.P. says, “Mary’s unspeakable joy at the Resurrection of her Son catches on contagiously, and like the Easter fire spreads rapidly throughout the whole Church.” It is a fire that no downpour can dampen.
The Church’s joy at the Resurrection of Christ is so great that it cannot be limited to one day or even several days but must be celebrated for an entire season, “when the time comes for paschal joys, the abundance of which overflows to occupy fifty days” (Roman Missal).
Image: Nicolae Darascu, Elisabeth Avenue After Rain