For more reflections on the Basilica Hymns of each season, purchase Perpetual Jubilee: Meditations on the Chaldean Liturgical Year on Amazon.com.
The “bare fact” of the rising of Christ and the evidence that supports it such as the empty tomb was stated and reflected upon by means of this hymn three weeks ago on Easter Sunday, as the second section of the Basilica Hymn for that greatest Feast of the year. The same hymn is repeated here, presented for our reflection a second time. A similar thing happened during Lent, when the same hymn was used during the first and last week, and we saw that the purpose there was to allow us to look at the same words with different, changed eyes, with eyes that had endured the battle and look back to its beginning matured and tempered from the fight.
The repetition here is of a different nature, I think. Here it is not so much a poem that is re-read at a different point in life and understood differently as a picture so marvelous that once seen, the viewer is forced by his own amazement to turn back and look at it again. He cannot take it all in by a single viewing. This is what we are doing during this Easter season: Christ is risen from the dead. The fact is so astounding that we must keep returning to it as a fact, not even as a source of poetic imagery or moral teaching, if we are to absorb its meaning as it deserves.
Imagine having been there at the beginning, having witnessed Christ in his risen body, having received the Holy Spirit at that first Pentecost. Much more ordinary experiences call for reflection – a couple will watch their wedding video many times in their life, or visit the place where they first met, etc. But this earth-shattering event was so much more remarkable! How likely it is, then, that Mary Magdalene, who first visited the tomb and saw it empty, would have returned there many times to bring it all back to her memory afresh. And so, three weeks later, we return again to the empty tomb.
After your glorious Resurrection, an evil and deceitful people made centurions stand to guard your tomb. Woe to that unbelieving people! If they killed and buried, why were they standing guard? And if they were terrified of you, how did they dare crucify you? Indeed, your Resurrection on the third day has shamed your crucifiers, and gladdened your Church. Glory to you!