Si consurrexistis cum Christo (1)

From Christ in His Mysteries (1919)

The whole of the mystery of Christ during the days of His Passion can be summed up in those words of St Paul: Humiliavit semetipsum, factus obediens usque ad mortem — “He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death.” (Phil 2:8) We have seen Christ’s self-abasement; He touched the lowest depths of humiliation; He chose the death of one accursed, as it was written: “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” (Deut 21:23, Gal 3:13)

But these abysses of ignominies and suffering into which Our Saviour willed to descend were likewise abysses of love; and this love has merited for us the mercy of His Father, and all graces of salvation and sanctification.

If the word “humiliation” sums up the mystery of the Passion, there is another word of St Paul which recapitulates the mystery of Christ in His Resurrection: Vivit Deo — “He liveth unto God.” (Rom 6:10) Vivit: there is henceforth in Him only perfect and glorious life without infirmity or perspective of death: “He dieth now no more, death shall no more have dominion over him”(Rom 6:9); life wholly for God, more than ever consecrated to His Father and to His glory.

In her litanies, the Church applies certain qualifying titles to some of the mysteries of Jesus. She says of His Resurrection that it is “holy” — Per sanctam resurrectionem tuam. What does that mean? Are not all the mysteries of Jesus holy? Certainly they are. He Himself is the Saint of saints — Tu solus sanctus, we sing at Mass in the Gloria. And all His mysteries are holy. His birth is holy — Quod nascetur ex te sanctum; all His life is holy; He does “always the things that please” His Father (Jn 8:29) and none can convince Him of sin. (Cf. Jn 8:46) His Passion is holy; true it is that He dies for the sins of men, but yet the Victim is sinless, He is the spotless Lamb. The High Priest Who immolates Himself is “holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners.” (Heb 7:26) 

Why is the Resurrection, in preference to all the other mysteries of Jesus, called “holy” by the Church?

Because it is in this mystery that Christ particularly fulfils the conditions of holiness; because this mystery principally places in relief the elements that formally constitute human holiness whereof the model and source are found in Christ; because if, by all His life, He is the Way (Jn 14:6) and the Light (Jn 8:12), if He gives the example of every virtue compatible with His Divinity, in His Resurrection, Christ is above all the example of holiness.

What, then, are the elements that constitute holiness? Holiness can be summed up for us in two elements: separation from all sin, detachment from every creature; and the belonging totally and steadfastly to God. Now, in Christ’s Resurrection, these two characters are found in a degree not manifested before His coming forth from the tomb. Although the Word Incarnate had been during His entire existence, the “Holy One” like to none other, it is with effulgent brightness that He especially reveals Himself to us under this aspect in His Resurrection and it is therefore that the Church sings, Per sanctam resurrectionem tuam.

Let us contemplate this mystery of Jesus coming forth living and glorious from the sepulchre; we shall see how the Resurrection is the mystery of the triumph of life over death, of the heavenly over the earthly, of the divine over the human, and that it eminently realises the ideal of all holiness.

What was Christ Jesus before His Resurrection?

He was God and Man. The Eternal Word had espoused a nature belonging to a sinful race; without any doubt, this Humanity has not contracted sin, but it has been subject to such corporal infirmities as are compatible with the Divinity, infirmities which, in us, are often the consequences of sin; “Surely he hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows.” (Is 53:4)

See Our Lord during His mortal life. In the manger, He is a feeble little Infant Who needs His Mother’s milk to sustain His life; later, He feels real fatigue: “Jesus therefore being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well”; sleep — real and unfeigned sleep — closes His eyelids, the apostles have to awaken Him when the ship in which He sleeps is tossed about by the tempest (Mt 8:24–25; Mk 4:35; Lk 8 23–24); He knows hunger (Mk 4:2; Lk 4:2) ; He knows thirst (Jn 19:30); He knows suffering. He also feels interior desolation; in the Garden of Olives, fear, weariness, anguish and sadness sweep over His soul: “he began to grow sorrowful and to be sad. Then he saith to them: My soul is sorrowful even unto death: stay you here, and watch with me.” (Mt 26:37–38; Mk 14:33–34). Finally, He endures death: “And Jesus again crying with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.” (Jn 19:30)

It is thus He shares our weakness, our infirmities, our sorrows; sin alone, and all that is the source or moral consequence of sin, is unknown to Him: “it behoved him in all things to be made like unto his brethren” (Heb 2:17); “we have not a high priest, who can not have compassion on our infirmities: but one tempted in all things like as we are, without sin.” (Heb 4:15)

But after the Resurrection, all these infirmities have disappeared. There is in Him no longer any weariness, nor any need of sleep, neither has He any infirmity whatsoever. Our Lord no longer experiences anything of the kind: it is a total separation from all that is weakness. Is His Body no longer real? Certainly it is. It is truly the Body which He received from the Virgin Mary, the Body which suffered death upon the Cross.

See how Christ Himself shows this. On the evening of His Resurrection, He appears to the Apostles. 

“But they being troubled and frightened, supposed that they saw a spirit. And He said to them: Why are you troubled, and why do thoughts arise in your heart? See My hands and feet, that it is I myself; handle and see: for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as you see me to have. And when He had said this, He shewed them His hands and feet.” 

Luke 24:37–40

Thomas was then absent. “We have seen the Lord”, the other Apostles say to him on his return. Thomas will not believe; he remains incredulous. “Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into His side, I will not believe.”

Eight days later, Jesus again appears to them; and after having wished them peace, He says to Thomas: “Put in thy finger hither, and see my hands; and bring hither thy hand, and put it into my side; and be not faithless but believing.” (Jn 20:24–27)

Thus, Jesus Himself proves to His apostles the reality of His Risen Body; but it is a body henceforward exempt from earthly infirmities; this Body is agile; matter forms no barrier to it ; Jesus rises from the sepulchre hewn out of the rock and whereof the entrance is closed by a heavy stone; He appears in the midst of His disciples januis clausis — the doors of the place where they were gathered together being shut (Jn 20:27). If He takes food with His disciples, it is not because He hungers, but because He wills, by this merciful condescension, to confirm the reality of His Resurrection.

This Risen Body is henceforth immortal. Christ “died once” (Rom 6:4); but, says St Paul, “Christ rising again from the dead, dieth now no more, death shall no more have dominion over Him” — mors illi ultra non dominabitur — the Body of the Risen Jesus is no longer subject to death nor to the conditions of time: it is free from all servitude, from all infirmities; it is impassible, spiritual, living in a sovereign independence.

Herein is represented in Christ the first element of holiness: separation from all that is dead, from all that is earthly, from all that is creature: freedom from all weakness, all infirmity, all suffering. On the day of His Resurrection, Christ Jesus left in the tomb the linen cloths, which are the symbol of our infirmities, of our weaknesses, of our imperfections; He comes forth triumphant from the sepulchre; His liberty is entire, He is animated with intense, perfect life with which all the fibres of His being vibrate. In Him, all that is mortal is absorbed by Life.

Doubtless, we shall see the Risen Christ still touching earth. Out of love for His disciples, and condescension for the weakness of their faith, He vouchsafes to appear to them, to converse with them, to share their repasts; but His life is before all things heavenly — Vivit Deo.

We know scarcely anything of this heavenly life of Jesus after He had risen from the tomb; but can we doubt that it was wonderful?

He had proved to His Father how much He loved Him by giving His life for men; now, all the price is paid, all is expiated; satisfied justice demands from Him no more expiation; friendship is restored between men and God; the work of Redemption is accomplished. But the worship rendered by Jesus towards His Father continues, more living, more entire, than ever. The Gospel tells us nothing of this constant homage of adoration, of love, of thanksgiving, that Christ then rendered to His Father; but St Paul sums up all in saying, Vivit Deo — “He liveth unto God.”

This is the second element of holiness: the adhering, the belonging, the consecration to God. We shall only know in heaven with what plenitude Jesus lived for His Father during those blessed days; it was certainly with a perfection that ravished the angels. Now that His Sacred Humanity is set free from all the necessities, from all the infirmities of our earthly condition, it yields itself more than ever before to the glory of the Father. The life of the Risen Christ becomes an infinite source of glory for His Father; there is no longer any weakness in Him; all is light, strength, beauty, life; all in Him sings an uninterrupted canticle of praise.

If man gathers up into his being all the kingdoms of creation in order therein to sum up the song of praise of every creature, what shall we say of the unceasing canticle that the humanity of the glorious Christ, the supreme High Priest, triumphant over death, sings to the Trinity? This canticle, the perfect expression of the divine life that henceforward envelops and penetrates with all its power and splendour the human nature of Jesus, is ineffable…

Such is the life of the Risen Christ. It is the model of ours, and Christ has merited for us the grace of living for God as He did, the grace of being associated with His risen life. True, it was not by His Resurrection that Christ actually merited this grace. All that He acquired for us was won by His sacrifice, which was inaugurated at His Incarnation and consummated by His death upon the Cross. In drawing His last breath, Christ reached the term of His mortal existence: He can hence no longer merit.

But His merits remain to us after His glorious coming forth from the tomb. See how Christ Jesus has willed to keep the marks of His wounds: He shows them to His Father in all their beauty, as titles to the communication of His grace, “always living to make intercession for us”. (Heb 7:25)

This series will continue next week with “Si Consurrexistis Cum Christi (2)”.