Thursday, 27 March 2008

NOLI ME TANGERE

Everyday this week, from last Sunday to this coming Sunday, the masses we celebrate take on an ambience more festive than any other week of the year. We celebrate the Easter Octave, a whole week when at mass we sing the Gloria, reminding us that each day takes the rank of a feast. We likewise append alleluias to the dismissal and its response: “Go in the peace of Christ. Alleluia, alleluia. Thanks be to God. Alleluia, alleluia.”

Despite the stress-filled yearend decisions, information and activities, the celebration of Easter this year remains pleasantly memorable to me. I hold it as a beautiful privilege to hold aloft the Paschal Candle in the night of the vigil and sing “Christ our Light!” and also to sing the Easter Proclamation, the Exsultet. I have done it before—in Tuloy sa Don Bosco (2000), St. John Bosco Parish in Tondo (2001), Don Bosco Batulao (2005) and Don Bosco Canlubang (last year)—but I was still trembling this time.

Easter Sunday came and the beautiful feeling of new life continues these days. One memorable gospel passage this week was the one read on Tuesday (Jn 20:11-18). It is one of the famous resurrection scenes, that of the encounter between Mary Magdalene and our Resurrected Lord. One famous phrase that is often quoted from this passage (that even Rizal used as the title of his novel) is the Latin expression “Noli me tangere” (the original of which, of course, is in koine Greek) which we readily translate to “Touch me not.” However, that translation is misleading, for it seems to be a command that is forbidding.

Other translations yield the beauty of the situation that was there in the encounter between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, as in the following: “Stop holding on to me” or “Stop clinging to me…” It tells us of Mary’s joy in seeing the Lord. So excited was she that she couldn’t help but hold onto Jesus.

It is this same kind of joy that we feel when we encounter Jesus after realizing the love he has for us, after a long time of suffering, or after a long dry spell of being away from him on account of our sinfulness. We cling to him and gently and smilingly would tell us, “Noli me tangere.” For how we see and touch him today is not the end, but merely a foretaste of what is to come, when we, like him, would ascend to the Father. May this season be full of God’s experience for all of us.

Happy Easter, alleluia!

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