“The Day the Lord Has Made”

The Easter antiphon reads: “This is the Day the Lord has made.” It adds: “Let us rejoice and be glad.” On hearing such exalted words, the exclamation, “Alleluia,” echoes through our churches and our hearts. “What happened on this ‘Day’?” we ask. “Resurrexit, sicut dixit.” “He has risen, as He said.” In the acclamation, we remain astonished. The telling is true.

What is said here? A particular event happened. “He is risen; He is not here.” It is not a “symbol,” not a mirage, not an illusion. We “saw” and we “believed.” Not “we believe that we saw.” We do not doubt our senses. We believe because of what witnesses saw. All believing is based on someone seeing. All belief reflects light. Lux aeterna. Lux mundi.

This “Day” is not made by us. That itself is a cause of rejoicing. By our own powers, we could not make this “Day.” It is not a product of our own enterprise. It is a gift to us, not the result of our own fabrication. Rather, it is the “Day” the Lord has made. How did He make it to be this “Day”? He made it by Himself rising from the dead on the third day. This “Day” is to become the “Eighth Day” of the created days, the “Day” in which we now live. He dwelt amongst us. He was “sent.” Otherwise, we would never know.

This “Day” does not change. There is nothing further to change into. This “Day” ends the passingness of our finitude, glorious and troubled as it is in this world. Indeed, we too await the resurrection of our own bodies. We do await it. That is what we are intended to be in our initial creation. We are persons, body and soul, now and forever. “And death shall have no dominion.”

We respond when we know what this “Day” is. No longer are we commanded, “Thou shalt or shalt not.” We are invited, “Let us.” Let us do what? “Let us rejoice and be glad.” What does it mean to “rejoice?” The word comes from the French, by way of the Latin, gaudium. This is why joy and gladness are usually joined together. The words have the connotation of something that has first happened. We are to “re”-spond, “re”-joice, and be “gladdened.”

What we seek is there, present — This Day. We do not cause it to be. We expected it, not knowing what to expect. We do not fully comprehend what we want, that for which we exist. We could not anticipate such a “Day,” since we are given more than we are or could expect. “Homo non naturale sed supernaturale est.” What we are given in fact happens, exists, transcends what we imagined.

The word “joy” means not only the possession of what we want, of what we delight in, but the possession of what we would want if we could have it, even if we did not know that we could want it. What is it that we want, each of us? We want everlasting life. We already have a passing life. “Our years are seventy, eighty if we are strong,” as the Psalmist says. We know mortality belongs to us. Still, we are not satisfied with our mortal lot. None of our kind ever has been, ever is.

The Incarnation of the Son, “Verbum caro factum est,” is the most difficult, the most comforting, and most opposed of all the doctrines about the Father. He sends His Son into the world so that we could be redeemed. With our choosing, we thereby achieve the end for which we are made out of nothingness. We return to the Father, to the Trinitarian life, as the kind of beings we are created to be. This is, for us, the teaching of the Resurrection.

The words in the Easter antiphon are from Psalm 117: “Haec dies quam fecit Dominus; exsultemus et laetemur in ea.” “This is the Day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” The Latin verb, “exsultemus,” is stronger. “Let us exult.” The word means: “Let us leap or jump for joy; let us rejoice in gladness.” Once understood, nothing is passive about it. We respond with our whole being.

The final refrain, “Alleluia,” is repeated not once but thrice. It is fitting. The triple rejoicing, the triple “being glad,” is a voice from eternity sounding among us. On this “Day,” we catch hints of what we are intended to be, of what we shall be, of what we want to be. We remain the beings we are. We are not “natural” beings, but “supernatural” beings. We remain what we are from the beginning — the beings who live for this “Day.”

James V. Schall, S.J. (1928-2019), who served as a professor at Georgetown University for thirty-five years, was one of the most prolific Catholic writers in America. Among his many books are The Mind That Is Catholic, The Modern Age, Political Philosophy and Revelation: A Catholic Reading, Reasonable Pleasures, Docilitas: On Teaching and Being Taught, Catholicism and Intelligence, and, most recently, On Islam: A Chronological Record, 2002-2018.

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