Si Consurrexistis Cum Christo (2)

From Christ in His Mysteries (1919)

It is from our baptism that we share in this grace of the Resurrection. St Paul affirms this: “We are buried together with Him by baptism unto death; that as Christ is risen from the dead by the power of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life.” (Rom 6:4)

The holy water into which we are plunged at baptism is, according to the apostle, the figure of the sepulchre; upon coming forth from it, the soul is purified from all sin, from all stain, set free from all spiritual death, and clad with grace, the principle of divine life: in the same way as upon coming forth from the tomb, Christ freed Himself from all infirmity so as to live henceforth a perfect life. This is why, in the early Church, baptism was administered only on the Paschal night, and at Pentecost, which closes the Paschal season. We shall understand scarcely anything of the liturgy of Easter week, if we do not keep before our eyes the thought of baptism which was then solemnly conferred upon the catechumens.

We are therefore risen with Christ, by Christ, for He infinitely longs to communicate to us His glorious life. And what is necessary in order to respond to this divine longing and become like unto the risen Jesus? It is that we should live in the spirit of our baptism. That, renouncing all that sin has vitiated in our lives, we should die more and more to “the old man” (Rom 6:6); that all in us should be dominated and governed by grace. All holiness for us lies in this: to keep away from all sin, all occasion of sin, to be detached from creatures and all that is earthly, so as to live in God, unto God, with the greatest plenitude and steadfastness possible.

This work, begun at baptism, continues during our whole earthly existence. Christ, it is true, dies but once; He has given us thereby to die like Him to all that is sin. But we must “die” daily, for we have remaining in us the roots of sin, and the old enemy labours unceasingly to make them spring up. To destroy these roots in us, to keep ourselves from all infidelity, from loving any creature for itself, to remove from our actions not only every culpable motive but even every motive that is merely natural; to keep our hearts free, with a spiritual freedom, from all that is created and earthly: such is the first element of our holiness which Christ shows us realised in Him by this supreme and admirable independence wherein His Risen Humanity lives.

This is indeed one of the most marked aspects of the Paschal grace. St Paul puts it in bold relief. “Purge out the old leaven that you may be a new paste,” he says. For since Christ our Paschal Lamb, has been immolated for you, you have become unleavened bread. Therefore let us share in the feast, “not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (Cor 5:7–8)

This pressing exhortation of the apostle forms the epistle for the Mass on Easter Sunday. It must appear obscure to more than one Christian of our days, and yet it is this passage that the Church has chosen out of all others to sum up what our conduct ought to be when we celebrate the mystery of the Resurrection. Why this choice?

Because it so distinctly, although at the same time so profoundly, denotes the fruit that the soul should gather from this mystery. What, then, do these words signify?

We know that at the approach of the festival of the Pasch which recalled to the Hebrews the famous anniversary of the “passage” (Ex 12:26–27) of the destroying angel — they had to see that no trace of leaven was left in their houses; then, on the day of the feast, after having sacrificed the paschal lamb, they ate it with unleavened bread, that is to say, bread made without yeast. (Ex 12:8–5)

All this was only a figure, a symbol (1 Cor 10:6,11) of the true Pasch, the Christian Pasch. “Purge out the old leaven”; “put off the old man” (Eph 4:22), born in sin, with his evil desires which you have renounced by baptism; at that moment of baptismal regeneration, you participated in the death of Christ, Who caused sin to die in you (Col 3:9); you have become, and you must remain, through grace, a new paste, that is to say a “new creature” (2 Cor 5:17), “a new man” (Eph 4:24) after the example of Christ come forth glorious from the sepulchre.

Therefore, like the Jews, who, the Pasch having come, abstained from all leaven in order to eat the Paschal lamb, we, Christians, who would be partakers of the mystery of the Resurrection, who would unite ourselves to Christ, the Lamb Who was slain and rose again for us, we must henceforward live no longer in sin; we must keep ourselves from those evil desires which are like a leaven of malice and perversity: Non ergo regnet peccatum in vestro mortali corpore (Rom 6:12); we must preserve within us the grace which will enable us to live in the truth and sincerity of the divine law. Such is St Paul’s doctrine that the Church reads to us on the very day of Easter, and that especially points out the first element of holiness to us: to renounce sin, and all human springs of action which can, like old leaven, corrupt our deeds; to live, in regard to all sin and all created things, in that spiritual liberty which appeared so vividly in the Risen Christ.

We ask this grace of Jesus Himself, in this strophe repeated in each of the paschal hymns. 

Quaesumus auctor omnium
In hoc paschali gaudio,
Ab omni mortis impetu,
Tuum defende populum

“We beseech Thee, the Author of all things, 
in these days full of Easter gladness,
from all attacks of death,
to defend Thy people.” 

Hymn at Vespers, Matins and Lauds

We ask Christ to preserve His people — this people “purchased with His own Blood”, says St Paul (Acts 20:28), that it may be pleasing to Himself: populum acceptabilem (Tit 2:14). To preserve it from what? From all the attacks of spiritual death, that is to say from all sin, from all that leads to sin, from all that tends to destroy or weaken within us the life of grace. It is then that we shall make part of that society that Christ wills to be without “spot or wrinkle”, but “holy and without blemish” — Sine ruga, sine macula. (Eph 5:27)

The second element of holiness, which, moreover, gives its motive and value to the first, is the belonging to God, devotedness to God, which St Paul calls living unto God — Viventes Deo. (Rom 6:11)

This life for God comprises an infinity of degrees. To begin with, it supposes that one is totally separated from all mortal sin; between mortal sin and the divine life, there is absolute incompatibility. Next there is separation from venial sin, from all natural springs of action, and detachment from all that is created. The more complete the separation is, the more we are spiritually free, and the more also the divine life develops and expands within us: in the measure that the soul is freed from what is earthly, she opens to what is divine, she savours heavenly things, she lives unto God.

In this happy state, the soul is not only free from all sin, but she no longer acts save under the inspiration of grace, and for a supernatural motive. And when this supernatural motive extends to all her actions, when the soul by a movement of love, habitual and steadfast, refers all to God, to the glory of Christ and that of His Father, then there is within her the plenitude of life, that is holiness: Vivit Deo.

You will notice that during Paschal time, the Church frequently speaks to us of life, not only because Christ, by His Resurrection, has vanquished death, but above all because He has reopened to souls the fountains of eternal life. It is in Christ that we find this life: Ego sum vita (Jn 14:6). This is why, likewise frequently, the Church makes us read over again on these blessed days the parable of the Vine: “I am the Vine,” says Jesus, “you are the branches; abide in Me and I in you, for without Me you can do nothing.” (Jn 15:4–5) We must abide in Christ and He in us, in order that we may bear much fruit.

How is this accomplished?

By His grace, by the faith that we have in Him, and by the virtues whereof He is the Exemplar and which we imitate. When, having renounced sin, we die to ourselves, as the grain of wheat dies in the earth before producing fruitful ears (Jn 12:25), when we no longer act save under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and in conformity with the precepts and maxims of the Gospel of Jesus, then it is Christ’s divine life that blossoms forth in our souls, it is Christ Who lives in us: Vivo ego, jam non ego, vivit vero in me Christus. (Gal 2:20)

Such is the ideal of perfection: Viventes Deo in Christo Jesu. We cannot attain it in a day; holiness, ingrafted in us at baptism, is only developed little by little, by successive stages. Let us try to act in such a way that each Easter, each day of this blessed season which extends from the Resurrection to Pentecost, may produce within us a more complete death to sin, to the creature, and a more vigorous and more abundant increase of the life of Christ.

Christ must reign in our hearts, and all within us must be subject to Him. Since the day of Christ’s triumph, He gloriously lives and reigns in God, in the bosom of the Father: Vivit et regnat Deus. Christ only lives where He reigns, and He lives in us in the same degree as He reigns in our soul. He is King as He is High Priest. When Pilate asked Him if He was a King, Our Lord answered Him: Tu dicis quia rex sum ego (Jn 18:37); “I am, but My kingdom is not of this world.” “The kingdom of God is within you” — Regnum Dei intra vos est. (Lk 17:21) This dominion of Christ must, day by day, be extended in our souls; it is this that we ask of God: Adveniat regnum tuum! Oh, may it come, Lord, that day when, truly, Thou wilt reign in us by Thy Christ!

And why has not that day already come? Because so many things in us — self-will, self-love, our natural activity — are not yet subject to Christ, because we have not yet done what the Father desires: Omnia subjecisti sub pedibus ejus (Ps 8:8), we have not yet put all things beneath the feet of Christ. That is a part of the glory which the Father wills henceforth to give to His Son Jesus: Exultavit illum et donavit illi nomen … ut in nomine Jesu omne genu flectatur. (Phil 2:9–10) The Father wills to glorify Christ, because Christ is His Son, because He humbled Himself; the Father wills that every knee should bend at the name of Jesus; all in creation is to be subject to Jesus; in heaven, upon earth, in hell; all, too, in each one of us: will, intelligence, imagination, energies.

Jesus came in us as King on the day of our baptism, but sin disputes this dominion with Him. When we destroy sin, infidelities, attachment to the creature; when we live by faith in Him, in His word, in His merits; when we seek to please Him in all things, then Christ is Master, then He reigns within us; as He reigns in the bosom of the Father, so He lives in us. He can say of us to the Father: “Behold this soul: I live and reign in her, O Father, that Thy name may be hallowed.”

Such are the most profound aspects of the Paschal grace: detachment from all that is human, earthly, created; the full donation of ourselves to God, through Christ. The Resurrection of the Word Incarnate becomes for us a mystery of life and of holiness. Christ being our Head, “God hath raised us up together” with Him —conresuscitavit nos. (Eph 2:6) We ought then to seek to reproduce within ourselves the features that marked His Risen life.

St Paul exhorts us to this with much insistency during these days. “If”, says he, “you be risen with Christ”, that is to say, if you wish that Christ should make you partakers of the mystery of His Resurrection, you should enter into the dispositions of His Sacred Heart, if you wish to “eat the Pasch” with Him, and one day share His triumphant glory, “mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth,” love heavenly things that abide, detach yourself from things of earth which pass away: honours, pleasures, riches; Si consurrexistis cum Christo, quae sursum sunt quaerite … non quae super terram. (Col 3:1–2) “For you are dead; and your life is hid with Christ in God.” And as “Christ rising again from the dead, dieth now no more” but lives for ever for His Father, so do you die to sin and live for God through the grace of Christ: Ita et vos existimate, vos mortuos quidem esse peccato, viventes autem Deo in Christo Jesu. (Rom 6:9–11)

This series will conclude next week with “Si Consurrexistis Cum Christo (3)”.