Currently, Christian believers are observing the sacred days of the Easter Season. The season recalls the forty days in which the Risen Christ dwelt among his apostles, his Ascension into glory, and the nine days of prayerful waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost
If we were to break up these three portions of the Easter Season, then our attention would naturally be drawn to these first forty days. Of the Lord’s various post-Resurrection appearances, one stands out in the Christian tradition and, on this Mother’s Day, it’s particularly appropriate for us to address it and remind ourselves of its tenderness.
The Scriptures testify that the Lord Jesus was raised from the dead and sporadically visited his apostles for about six weeks. According to the written Scriptures, all of these various accounts are subordinate to the first appearance of the Lord to his disciple, Mary Magdalene. The garden encounter between the two is praised in the biblical narrative and the saint has been revered as the “apostle to the apostles” since she was the first to announce to the apostles that the Lord was risen.
While this interaction is prominent for many reasons, it does not hold a primacy of place in the broader Christian tradition. There is another appearance, one that is particularly dear and of pressing importance to believers on this Mother’s Day.
In addition to the Biblical account of the Lord appearing to Mary Magdalene, the oral tradition of the Church has always held that the Lord first appeared to his mother. While perhaps surprising to some, and while not contained in the written Scriptures, the reality of this encounter has been preserved and handed down over the centuries.
Fair enough. But can such an appearance be passively supported by the Biblical accounts? What is the importance of retaining the story of the Risen Lord meeting with his mother?
The accounts of the Risen Lord in the gospel books were never meant to be exhaustive. The Lord randomly visited with his community of disciples for forty days. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul references a visit by the Lord to five hundred disciples at one time. But the gospel narrative doesn’t tell us about this group visit. Why?
It’s argued that the post-Resurrection scenes contained in the written gospels were all purposely chosen because they were centered on the apostolic witness, meaning they were the principal appearances of the Lord to his apostles (or to people who had specific messages for the apostles).
Since the apostles were the ones who were sent forth to preach the gospel to the nations, it was fitting that the written gospels should establish a clear assertion of their credibility as eyewitnesses to the event. So, it’s argued that the other appearances (such as to the five hundred or to his mother) were not recorded since they were not directly a part of the mission of the apostles.
It’s also argued that Mary, the Lord’s mother, was oddly missing from the women who went to the tomb. How could she not have been there? Wouldn’t his mother have wanted to ensure the proper preparation of his body?
Asserting the positive, the absence of Mary is shown to be a further implicit assertion that something had already happened and Mary already knew that Jesus had been risen from the dead.
While other theological arguments can be made, the one very human argument that perhaps hits home the most and which shines out to all believers on this Mother’s Day, is that the Lord Jesus would have wanted his beloved mother to know that he was okay, that the mission had been completed and that he was no longer in pain.
We can only imagine the scene of the Risen Lord announcing his triumph over death and embracing the woman who was his mother, who had given him human life, carried him in her womb, believed all that had been spoken to her, accompanied him from a distance along his public ministry, and who suffered with him on his cross.
We can only imagine the supreme honor that Jesus gave his mother in this Resurrection appearance and the utter joy and glory that came with this powerful exchange between mother and child.
It’s this encounter, and the warmth and exuberance that comes with it, that we recall and celebrate on this Mother’s Day, in this Easter Season, as we thank our own mothers and seek to honor them.