Do you know who saw Jesus for the first time after He rose from the dead? According to the gospel of St. John, it appears as though it was Mary Magdalene, one of the women who was standing at the foot of the cross when our Lord died. (“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.” John 19:25)
St. John also revealed to us the details of Mary’s encounter with Jesus on the morning of His resurrection:
“But Mary stood outside the sepulchre, weeping. As she was weeping, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, and she saw two angels in white, sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been laid. They said to her: Woman, why are you weeping? She said to them: Because they have taken away my Lord; and I don’t know where they have laid him. When she said this, she turned and saw Jesus standing; and she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her: Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek? She, thinking it was the gardener, said to him: Sir, if you have taken him, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus said to her: Mary. She, turning, said to him: Rabboni (which is to say, Master). Jesus said to her: Do not touch me, for I am not yet ascended to my Father. But go to my brethren, and say to them: I ascend to my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God.” John 20:11-17
I have a question for you: We know when Mary Magdalene saw Jesus, but when was it that Mary, the mother of Jesus, first saw her Son after He rose from the dead?
At a General Audience that Pope John Paul II gave on May 21, 1997, he reflected on the question of whether Jesus appeared to His mother after His Resurrection. Here, in part, is what the Pope said:
Indeed, it is legitimate to think that the Mother was probably the first person to whom the risen Jesus appeared. Could not Mary’s absence from the group of women who went to the tomb at dawn (cf. Mk 16: 1; Mt 28: 1) indicate that she had already met Jesus? This inference would also be confirmed by the fact that the first witnesses of the Resurrection, by Jesus’ will, were the women who had remained faithful at the foot of the Cross and therefore were more steadfast in faith.
Indeed, the Risen One entrusts to one of them, Mary Magdalene, the message to be passed on to the Apostles (cf. Jn 20:17-18). Perhaps this fact too allows us to think that Jesus showed himself first to his Mother, who had been the most faithful and had kept her faith intact when put to the test.
A fifth-century author, Sedulius, maintains that in the splendour of his risen life Christ first showed himself to his mother. In fact, she, who at the Annunciation was the way he entered the world, was called to spread the marvellous news of the Resurrection in order to become the herald of his glorious coming. Thus bathed in the glory of the Risen One, she anticipates the Church’s splendour (cf. Sedulius, Paschale carmen, 5, 357-364, CSEL 10, 140f).
It would make sense that the first person our Lord appeared to after His resurrection would have been His mother. In the Papal bull, Ineffabilis Deus (“Ineffable God”), Pope Pius IX defined ex cathedra (an infallible statement) the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The decree was promulgated on December 8, 1854, and proclaimed that the Mother of Jesus was conceived without sin. Ninety-six years later, on November 2, 1950, Pope Pius XII issued Munificentissimus Deus (“The most bountiful God”), which defined ex cathedra the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven immediately after her death.
In addition to being conceived without sin (at the beginning of her life), and being assumed directly into heaven (at the end of her life), our Lady had great influence over her Son during His lifetime. We know from the gospel of St. Luke that although Jesus wasn’t ready to start His public ministry, He did so anyway at a wedding at Cana when, at the request of His mother, he changed water into wine. Matt 1:26-38
In his Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, a book that I have read from cover-to-cover on three separate occasions, St. Louis de Montfort, stated:
It is true that on our way we have hard battles to fight and serious obstacles to overcome, but Mary, our Mother and Queen, stays close to her faithful servants. She is always at hand to brighten their darkness, clear away their doubts, strengthen them in their fears, sustain them in their combats and trials. Truly, in comparison with other ways, this virgin road to Jesus is a path of roses and sweet delights.
There have been some saints, not very many, such as St. Ephrem, St. John Damascene, St. Bernard, St. Bernardine, St. Bonaventure, and St. Francis de Sales, who have taken this smooth path to Jesus Christ, because the Holy Spirit, the faithful Spouse of Mary, made it known to them by a special grace. The other saints, who are the greater number, while having a devotion to Mary, either did not enter or did not go very far along this path. That is why they had to undergo harder and more dangerous trials.
I’m not a saint, but I can tell you that since I started following the blueprint that was laid out by St. Louis de Montfort in his book, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, although I have continued to experience trials and hardships, our Lady has consistently protected me from misfortune. More importantly, she has helped me achieve a much greater love and understanding of her son, Jesus.
Because of His great love for us, the risen Savior left us with a perfect mother who is always available and eager to protect and guide us. But there is one condition that must be met before she can give us the full protection we need. We must diligently work at developing the same love and devotion that her Son had for her while he was on this earth.
When I first read St. Louis de Montfort’s book, it was easy for me to understand, accept, and follow his blueprint for true devotion to Mary, because I grew up around devout Catholics who prayed the daily rosary and had a strong devotion to the Mother of God. If you didn’t grow up around people who were devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, I’m asking you to trust St. Louis de Montfort and accept and embrace his teaching that in addition to helping you carry your cross, she will lead you to a greater love and understanding of her risen Son.