Life Of Christ:
Jesus Is Taken Down From The Cross
Resurrection Of Jesus
Jesus Appears Repeatedly To His Disciples
Ascension Of Jesus, And The Descent Of The Holy Ghost
Read More Articles About: Life Of Christ
Resurrection Of Jesus
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
THE chief priests and Pharisees were not content, though they saw Jesus in the tomb. They remembered what He had said about rising again on the third day; and although they did not believe the prediction themselves, yet they were afraid it might make some impression upon others. They pretended to suspect some design in the disciples of stealing away their Master's body, and of spreading a report of His being risen from the dead. "And the next day, which followed the day of preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees came together to Pilate, saying: Sir, we have remembered that that seducer said, while He was yet alive: After three days I shall rise again. Command therefore the sepulchre to be guarded until the third day; lest perhaps His disciples come, and steal Him away, and say to the people: He is risen from the dead: and the last error shall be worse than the first. Pilate said to them : You have a guard : go, guard it as you know. And they departing, made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting guards." (Matt. xxviii. 62-65.)
The soul of the crucified Saviour, having, from the time it left His body, remained in Limbo among the souls of the just, returned soon after midnight to its sacred body resting in the tomb. The interpreters of Scripture tell us that Christ brought with Him the souls of these holy persons to witness His resurrection. The angels, too, who were in the train of the redeemed spirits, took up their anthems of joy, and sang with sympathizing gladness: "Alleluia! Let us rejoice and be glad, for this is the day the Lord hath made. Alleluia!"
"And in the end of the Sabbath, when it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalen and the other Mary, to see the sepulchre. And behold, there was a great earthquake. For an angel of the -Lord descended from heaven, and coming, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. And his countenance was as lightning, and his raiment as snow. And for fear of him, the guards were struck with terror, and became as dead men. And the angel answering, said to the women: Fear not you: for I know that you seek Jesus crucified. He is not here: for He is risen, as He said." (Matt. xxviii. 1- 6.)
Although the evangelists do not tell us that Our Lord, after His resurrection, appeared first to His beloved Mother, yet reason would teach us, and the devout and learned doctors of the Church inform us, and revelations from heaven to favored souls on earth assure us, that Christ's first visit, after His triumph over sin and death, was to the Blessed Virgin Mary. An old tradition has it that the sorrowing Mother of Jesus, having passed the whole Easter night in meditation and prayer, was in a state of tranquil expectation of the resurrection of her divine Son, when suddenly the archangel Gabriel, at-tended by legions of heavenly spirits, stood before her and repeated the familiar salutation : " Hail, full of grace!" He then added: "Queen of heaven, rejoice: for He whom thou didst deserve to bear is risen from the dead. Alleluia!" Hardly were these glad tidings delivered, when the Virgin's humble apartment was illuminated by a flood of brilliant light, and her own beloved Son Himself appeared before her, and in gladsome ac-cents addressed her: "Rejoice and be comforted, Mother of sorrows; I return to thee in triumph and honor." The pure soul of our blessed Mother was so overpowered with joy that she sank into an ecstasy. Then, in silent reverence and ardent love, she kneels before the Lord, and kisses His sacred feet. Jesus, bending down, raises her venerable form, presses it to His glorified bosom, and speaks words of cheer and filial affection.
"And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalen, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought sweet spices, that coming they might anoint Jesus. And very early in the morning, the first day of the week, they came to the sepulchre, the sun being now risen. And they said one to another: Who shall roll us back the stone from the door of the sepulchre? And looking, they saw the stone rolled back. For it was very great. And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed with a white robe : and they were astonished. Who saith to them : Be not affrighted: you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen, He is not here. Behold the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples, and Peter, that He goeth before you into Galilee: there you shall see Him, as He told you." (Mark xvi. 1-7.)
If it appears strange to you that Christ made known His resurrection to women, even before revealing it to His apostles, remember that these devoted women had merited this preference by their fervent and heroic love. While the apostles, in gloomy fear and sad despondency, were in concealment, these women hastened to the grave of Jesus, resolved, if no longer able to salute their living Redeemer, at least to show their respect to His lifeless remains. St. Gregory the Great alleges a second and very cogent reason why Our Saviour revealed the mystery of His resurrection first to women, and commissioned them to announce it to His apostles. He says: "In the beginning of the old dispensation, in paradise, it was woman who, by giving the forbidden fruit to man, brought the message of death into the world. So, in the opening of the new dispensation, it was right and proper for woman to be the bearer to man of regained life, for the same sex who had thrown him into despair by the deceiving words of the serpent now to raise him up with the true and inspiring words of the angel."
" Peter therefore went out, and that other disciple, and they came to the sepulchre, And they both ran together, and that other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And when he stooped down, he saw the linen cloths lying, but yet he went not in. Then tomtit Simon Peter, following him, and went into the sepulchre and saw the linen cloths lying. And the napkin, that had been about His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but apart, wrapt up into one place. Then that other disciple also went in, who came first to the sepulchre : and he saw and believed. For as yet they knew not the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. The disciples therefore departed again to their home. But Mary stood at the sepulchre without, weeping. Now 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 say to her: Woman, why weepest thou? She says to them: Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him. When she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing: and she knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith to her: Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou? She, thinking that it was the gardener, saith to Him: Sir, if thou hast taken Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him: and I will take Him away. Jesus saith to her: Mary. She turning, saith to Him: Rabboni (which is to say, Master). Jesus saith 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 to your God. Mary Magdalen cometh and telleth the, disciples : I have seen the Lord, and these things He hath said to me." (John xx. 3-18.)
We can derive much comfort from the fact that our risen Lord, next to His beloved Mother, chose a penitent soul as the first living witness of His resurrection. Penance and contrition are precious in the sight of Him who came into the world for the sake of sinners.
Our Lord, having gladdened the heart of Mary Magdalen by His apparition, vanished from her sight. She hastened to follow the other women, who were already on their way back to Jerusalem, to tell them the happy tidings. " And behold Jesus met them, saying: All hail ! But they came up and took hold of His feet, and adored Him. Then Jesus said to them : Fear not. Go, tell My brethren that they go into Galilee, there they shall see Me." (Matt. xxviii. 9, 10.) "And it was Mary Magdalen, and Joanna, and Mary of James, and the other women that were with them, who told these things to the apostles. And these words seemed to them as idle tales : and they did not believe them." (Luke xxiv. 10, 11.)
It seems incomprehensible that the apostles should be so difficult to convince, so slow to believe the resurrection of Jesus. But after considering the four reasons assigned by the holy Fathers in explanation of this circumstance, we shall be inclined to judge the apostles less severely. In the first place, they were mostly very simple and illiterate persons, men of very limited comprehension, of little experience, and hardly able to rise from the perceptions of the senses to supernatural revelations. In the second place, the apparent helplessness with which Christ had surrendered to the enemy in the Garden of Gethsemani, and the harrowing account given to them by St. John of the disgraceful death of Christ on the cross, of His agony and desolation, and of His burial, had made so deep and painful an impression on their souls that they became impervious to any sentiment of comfort. In the third place, in their agitated condition of mind they supposed that little or no credit could be given to the words of credulous and excitable women, especially as Christ, if He were really risen from the dead, would doubtless have shown Himself immediately in the midst of the apostles, instead of giving the preference to women. Finally, Our Lord permitted this uncertainty to exist in the minds of the apostles in order that by afterward allaying their doubts and confirming their faith in His resurrection, He would more indubitably prove to all mankind that He had really and truly risen from the dead.
When the women" were departed, behold some of the guards came into the city, and told the chief priests all things that had been done. And they being assembled together with the ancients, taking counsel, gave a great sum of money to the soldiers, saying: Say you, His disciples came by night, and stole Him away when we were asleep. And if the governor shall hear of this, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they, taking the money, did as they were taught; and this word was spread among them even to this day." (Matt. xxviii. 11-15.)
It is thus that passion always renders men blind, stupid, and unscrupulous. Did not these chief priests and elders know that it was absurd to talk of sleeping witnesses, and that even the most credulous persons could not believe such a paltry excuse on the part of drowsy sentinels? Did not these Jewish priests perceive that these very sentinels, when mocked by their companions, or questioned by their superior officers regarding this disgraceful neglect of duty, namely, of falling asleep on their posts, would, sooner or later, in order to save them-selves and their reputation, reveal the whole truth, and that thus the plotters would be unmasked and exposed to the ridicule of the whole world? Did they not see that this very Christ, of whose wonderful resurrection they had been so positively informed and assured by the sentinels, must be powerful enough to convict them of false-hood, by appearing before the whole world as the risen and immortal Messias? Puny and pitiable subterfuge!
There cannot be the least doubt of the truth of the resurrection of Christ. Nature proclaimed it in the midst of an earthquake; heaven declared it by the voice of the angels; heathen sentinels and the action of the Jewish priests testified to it; faith confirmed it in Peter and his companions; unbelieving doubt recognized it in Thomas; and, finally, the apostles and countless-disciples substantiated it by their sufferings and death.
Indeed, the Church has a clear and well-grounded right to sing on Easter Day: "This is the day which the Lord bath made; let us rejoice and be glad. Alleluia!" Even nature seems busy putting on her gayest attire to do honor to the resurrection of her Lord and Master. The sympathy shown by inanimate creation for the gladness of man and the glory of Christ on the morning of the resurrection is thus described : The sun, that had been so gloomy and dull on Good Friday, arose in glorious brightness and cast a warmer and more genial glow upon the earth. The thin, light clouds floated gracefully; the air was sweet and balmy. The little birds flitted with nimbler wing from tree to tree, and filled the air with sweeter melody. The wild animals of the forest, as well as the cattle in the field and farm-yard, leaped and frisked with new life and gladness. Grass and shrub, tree and vine, garden and field, whose verdant vesture seemed to have blanched in death, arrayed them-selves in cheerful garb of vivid hues, and burdened the bright, fresh morning air with fragrant incense. Brook and rivulet, torrent and river, so long locked up in icy bondage, had thrown away their fetters, and went bounding forth in noisy, prattling glee over the shining landscape. The fishes in the sparkling waters seemed to wriggle with delight, and darted hither and thither in the very height of joyousness. In short, all the elements, heaven and earth, were full of life and beauty and gladness. Every created thing bounded, and sprang, and leapt aloft, and sang and laughed on this joyous and happy day of Easter. And it is to this universal gladness that the Church alludes, when she sings : " In Thy triumphant resurrection, O Lord, heaven and earth rejoice. Alleluia!"
On this glorious festival every Christian should unite with the Church in her glorious triumph. Let us rejoice, and from the bottom of our hearts be thankful to that divine Saviour who has deprived death of its sting nad victory, and stripped the grave of its terrors. Mindful of the words of St. Paul: "If you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God" (Coloss. iii. 1), let us forsake sin, die to ourselves, and pass through the world regardless of its sinful attractions.
O my divine and adorable Lord, my sins were the cause of Thy bitter sufferings and death. But Thou hast triumphed over sin, death, and hell. Thy glorious resurrection proclaims Thy divinity and announces Thee to be truly the Son of God. Let me now also arise from the sepulchre of sin, and lead a new life of grace, purging out the old leaven.