|Devotion to Our Lady||
All of the appearances of Jesus which we have discussed up to this point took place in Jerusalem or its environs, that is, in Judea.
There were still others, also narrated by the Evangelists, which took place shortly afterward in Galilee; of those recorded by Paul some undoubtedly took place in Judea and some in Galilee. However the Gospels mention only those which suffice to establish the fact of the Resurrection.
The Sea of Galilee (also known as Lake Tiberias or Lake Genesareth) lies in the Jordan gorge, 682 feet below the level of the Mediterranean. An irregular oval nearly thirteen miles long, its maximum width, near the northern end, is about seven and a half miles. The lake is enclosed on the east and west by mountains.
On the east, a uniform wall 2000 feet high sloping steeply to within half a mile of the shore; ton the west side, lower and more broken, gradually approaching the water as they advance northwards till, about half way up the coast, they leave only a narrow strip of coast.
At the north-west corner the mountain inclines somewhat westward and the coastal land widens into a triangular plain of marvelous fertility which stretches eastwards for four miles — the Plain of Genesareth. The lake is fed by several torrents and by copious hot springs on the north and west, but principally by the Jordan, which enters at the north-east corner and rushes out at the south-western extremity.
The depth of the lake nowhere exceeds 150 feet. Its water is sweet and good to drink. Fish are so abundant that catches of 600 pounds are not rare, and in one exceptional season (1896) 9200 pounds of fish were hauled ashore in one huge net. Storms are alarmingly sudden and frequent and in half an hour the surface of the lake can toss furiously. Half an hour again suffices to restore the lake to a mirror-like calm.
Today the shores are barren and desolate, but in the days of Christ nature and man united to render these shores singularly attractive. The vine and the fig flourished ten months in the year, and every variety of fruit ripened in the various seasons: thick woods surrounded the lake even down to the eighth century of the present era, and the plains yielded rich harvests twice in the year. Nine, perhaps ten, cities encircled the lake with an almost unbroken front of wharves and harbors.
When the festivities of the Pasch were all ended, the Apostles returned into Galilee, in obedience to the command Jesus had given them (Matthew 26:32) and prompted besides by the fact that, in Galilee, they would be at a safe distance from the direct surveillance of the Sanhedrin, and therefore freer to wait for the risen Jesus to appear to them when and how He pleased. Jesus' promise had indeed mentioned the place, but not the time, and so there was nothing to do but wait.
Therefore, the Apostles, after the already mentioned events and apparitions of the risen Christ in Jerusalem, took themselves to Galilee. The Journey would be one of a hundred miles or more. For a fit group of men, that should not be more than a three-and-a-half or four day walk.
Perhaps the Apostles left Jerusalem a few hours after Jesus had shown himself to Thomas (which was 8 days after His resurrection), when they may have already been gathered to form the caravan for the return journey. Some days later, we find once more, on the shores of Lake Tiberias, Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael (Bartholomew), James and John, and two other unnamed Apostles, who were perhaps Andrew and Philip.
The little group probably still supported themselves from their common earnings, just as they had when Jesus was with them and the purse was kept by Judas. It may be that after Judas' disappearance with all their resources and their expenses in Jerusalem and for the journey they had little or nothing left. In any case, fishermen that they were, they could not remain idle with the lake rippling invitingly before them, and though awaiting from one day to the next the return of the risen Christ, they resumed their old occupations to earn their living in the meanwhile.
In Galilee, Jesus would appear to more numerous groups of witnesses and gave more ample and fundamental instructions concerning the kingdom of Heaven (cf. Matthew 28:16-17, and 1 Corinthians 15:6).
“And the Eleven disciples went into Galilee, unto the mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And, seeing Him, they adored: but some doubted” (Matthew 28:16-17). “Then he was seen by more than five hundred brethren at once: of whom many remain until this present, and some are fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:6).
Matthew and Mark do not relate these things explicitly so much as they imply them. Hence, to call the reader's attention to these appearances, they relate first the bidding of the angels, which directed the disciples to Galilee. But this choice on the part of the first two Synoptics does not preclude the tradition concerning Jesus' appearances in Judea, which Luke and John, to a certain extent, chose to relate instead for their particular purposes. We know by now from long experience that no one of the Evangelists pretends to exhaust his subject, and we have here still another clear confirmation of this from Luke. After recounting Jesus' appearances on the Sunday of the Resurrection (Luke 24:1-51), he proceeds immediately to the Ascension (Luke 24:50-53), so that if we read only his Gospel we should rightly conclude that the Resurrection and the Ascension occurred on the same day.
“And on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the sepulcher, bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled back from the sepulcher. And going in, they found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass, as they were astonished in their mind at this, behold, two men stood by them, in shining apparel. And as they were afraid, and bowed down their countenance towards the ground, they said unto them: “Why seek you the living with the dead? He is not here, but is risen. Remember how He spoke unto you, when He was in Galilee, saying: ‘The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’”
And they remembered his words. And going back from the sepulcher, they told all these things to the eleven, and to all the rest. 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. But Peter rising up, ran to the sepulcher, and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths laid by themselves; and went away wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.”
[St. Luke then relates the encounter Jesus had with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, which has been covered already: see below. After this, St. Luke recounts Jesus’ apparition to the Apostles in the Cenacle or Upper Room]
Jesus stood in the midst of them, and saith to them: ‘Peace be to you! It is I, fear not!’ 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 hearts? 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 showed them His hands and feet. But while they yet believed not and wondered for joy, he said: ‘Have you anything to eat?’ And they offered him a piece of a broiled fish, and a honeycomb. And when he had eaten before them, taking the remains, he gave to them.
And He said to them: ‘These are the words which I spoke to you, while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning Me.’ Then He opened their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures. And He said to them: ‘Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the dead, the third day. And that penance and remission of sins should be preached in His name, unto all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. And I send the promise of My Father upon you: but stay you in the city till you be endued with power from on high.’
And he led them out as far as Bethania: and lifting up his hands, he blessed them. And it came to pass, whilst He blessed them, He departed from them, and was carried up to Heaven. And they adoring went back into Jerusalem with great joy. And they were always in the Temple, praising and blessing God” (Luke 24:1-51).
St. John the Evangelist describes the apparition of the Lord at the Sea of Tiberias (otherwise know as the Sea of Galilee and also Lake Genesareth) to St. Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples.
One evening, St. Peter, proposed that they pass the time in fishing, as that was his trade. Simon Peter said to the others: "I am going fishing." And they answered: "We also are going with thee." For night fishing it was better to have a number of helpers, because then they could use the long drag nets. So they got into the boat and they spent the night in casting out their nets; but it was a hopelessly bad night, and by dawn they had not yet caught a single fish. Simon Peter had known similar nights in the past. So they pulled toward shore again to disembark.
When they were about two hundred cubits (or about a hundred yards) from land, they glimpsed a figure through the mist; they could not see it at all clearly, but it seemed to be a man waiting for them. Perhaps he wanted to buy their catch. It was Jesus, who stood on the shore without making Himself known. He was within shouting distance of the boat as it returned to shore and He asked them: “Have you any fish?”
After that long night of wasted toil and effort the question sounded more than a little ironic and from the boat came a quick brusque "No!" which would normally discourage any further discussion. But the man shouted again through the morning mist: "Cast the net to the right of the boat and you will find them."
Who was this unknown person giving them such confident advice? Was he just talking for something to say or did he know what he was talking about? Both alternatives were possible; but so many times expert fishermen can draw precious information from the faintest sign in the water, and perhaps this man had seen some good indication from the shore where he was standing. In any case, one more attempt would not cost them too much after all they had done in vain.
They decided to comply with the instruction and the net was cast where the man had said, "and now they were unable to draw it up for the great number of fishes." Their obedience was richly rewarded, for their haul was so great that they were scarcely able to draw it aboard.
We do not know exactly where this episode occurred because the Gospel does not tell us, and it is not possible to draw any conclusions from the context. We can, however, gather that the vessel was near the shore since they were able to hear and speak to their interrogator. In addition, the evangelist explicitly says that when they had filled the net they were only about 200 cubits, roughly 100 yards, from land. At this, old memories rose in the minds of those fishermen. An instant of tremulous uncertainty prevailed and then the disciple whom Jesus loved leaped to Peter's side, and pointing to the man on the shore, shouted: "It is the Lord!" Then everything was suddenly perfectly clear and natural.
Love is not only a fire that burns, it is also a light that illuminates; and purity, which spiritualizes the body, also sharpens the soul's vision.
Thus John, the beloved disciple, the virgin Apostle to whom Christ had entrusted His own Mother, saw that the stranger on the shore was none other than the Lord Himself. Once John had said the words, “It is the Lord!” Peter sprang into action! A word was enough for the chief Apostle. Then St. Peter likewise recognized Jesus, and with his characteristic impetuosity—which was at once the source of generous acts and of lamentable imprudences—he girt his tunic about him and plunged into the water, determined to be the first to greet the Master, and too impatient to wait until the boat, around 100 yards from the shore, could put in to land. The others followed slowly in their boat.
When Peter finally gained the shore, he stood for a moment with the water streaming from him, as if he were afraid to approach his Master. But seeing that Jesus looked kindly at him, he plucked up courage and drew near. What did Simon Peter say to Jesus, and what did our Lord reply? Unfortunately, we do not know the intimate conversation that took place there on the lake shore, and it will forever remain a secret.
What a contrast there was between John's serene intuition and Peter's eager haste! Both of them loved Jesus, yet how different were their reactions! But our Lord was pleased with each of them, for basically holiness is the same although it may be expressed in very diverse ways. Mary and Martha were sisters and both loved Jesus, but the one sat quietly at His feet while the other busied herself in preparing food for Him. There have always been and there will always be Marys and Marthas in the Church. By a happy combination of natural temperament and the gentle impulse of grace, there will be contemplative souls who spend their days in adoration at the foot of the altar and fiery apostles who roam the mountains and valleys in the conquest of the kingdom of God. There will be those who, like St. Jerome, do violent battle with heretics, as well as those who, like St. Francis de Sales, draw erring souls to the truth by their sweetness of character. And we shall always be charmed by the spontaneous outbursts of love in souls like that of St. Francis of Assisi and led to wonder at the indomitable, reasoned will power of men like St. Ignatius Loyola.
In a little while the others arrived, dragging the net in the water behind the boat, as the Greek text indicates. A touching surprise awaited them, for their Master had prepared a fire upon which He had placed a fish to broil, and beside the fire He had set out some bread. In His love for them as Father and Friend, He had provided a meal by His omnipotent power, for the Fathers say that the fish and bread were not products of nature but the result of a miracle.
The Two Disciples turn back from Emmaus and return to Jerusalem
Love and excitement lent wings to their feet as they rapidly retraced their steps to Jerusalem. Upon arriving there, they found the Apostles gathered together in a very safe hiding place, with all the doors carefully barred "for fear of the Jews" (John 20:19). As soon as the two dust-covered travelers entered the room, certain that they were bearing astonishing news, they were greeted with an outburst which prevented them from saying a word. All the Apostles crowded around them to announce: "The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!" Hence on that same day, after the two disciples had left Jerusalem and after He had appeared to Mary Magdalen, Jesus appeared also to Simon Peter; and the latter hastened to tell the Apostles and other disciples, winning from them the belief which Mary Magdalen had not.
None of the Evangelists relates any detail of Jesus' appearing to Simon Peter on this Sunday after His death, but it is unquestionably the same appearance which Paul sets first in his list of the resurrected Christ's appearances.
Luke, the disciple of Paul, learned of it from his master, and the latter in his turn had learned of it, among others, from Peter himself, when, still new to the faith, he had gone "to Jerusalem to see Peter" (Gaatians 1:18). The Rock of the Church had been singled out from among the other Apostles by virtue of his office; he who had denied Jesus had been abundantly forgiven because of his abundant tears of repentance, such as Judas had not shed.
When the two travelers finally got the opportunity to speak of their own experience, their words were unexpectedly received with great coldness. Whether it was a certain diffidence the Apostles felt toward the two from Emmaus, or a subconscious resentment that these obscure disciples had received the same privilege just granted to Peter, but one which was still denied to them, it is certain that, if not all, at least several of those present "even then ... did not believe" (Mark 16:12). And it is easy to imagine the discussions which arose between the two insisting they had seen the Master and those refusing to believe they had, which perhaps lasted some time.
But that day was to end with certainty, not with discussions and disbelief. The two disciples were protesting that what they said was true and were still trying to convince the doubters by appealing to the fact that Peter also had seen the Lord, when suddenly Jesus appeared in the Cenacle.
Jesus' First Apparition in the Cenacle
"Now whilst they were speaking these things [Jesus] Himself stood in their midst, and saith to them: 'Peace be to you.' But they were terrified and stricken with fear and thought that they beheld a spirit” (Luke 24:36-37). Despite the gentle salutation, they were stricken with terror because they had barred the doors for fear of the Jews and knew that no man of flesh and blood could have entered so silently. They thought, therefore, that their Visitor was a ghost (cf. Luke 24:37). His familiar features, the tones of His voice, even His customary greeting, everything precluded the possibility of mistake. But how could He have entered with no noise, though the doors were shut for fear of the Jews? Might it not be a spirit? And their terror increased.
Seeing that they were terrified by His coming, Jesus continued: “’Why are ye troubled, and wherefore do doubts arise in your hearts? See My hands and feet, that it is My very self. Feel Me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me to have.' — And saying this, he showed them His hands and His feet” (Luke 24:38-40).
Then with ineffable condescension, He showed them His hands! Even then they could not bring themselves to believe, or rather, they believed and disbelieved at the same time. A strange medley of feelings filled their hearts—overpowering joy at seeing their Master, and fear that the whole incident would turn out to be an hallucination; eagerness to believe that their vision was a reality, and unwillingness to allow themselves to be deceived by an illusion. In one short phrase St. Luke aptly describes their state of mind (Luke 24:41): “They still disbelieved for very joy and marveled.”
We must remember that this scene is described for us by a physician and psychologist; the same episode related by John (20:19-23) does not contain the practical observations that betoken the scientific mind nor the subtle notice that the Apostles "disbelieved for very joy," that is, for fear of deceiving themselves since it is so easy to believe what one is anxious to believe. Their doubts were dispelled by physical reality. In his second life Jesus has the very same body as before; He can eat just as He did before. He is not a misty shade risen from Sheol; His physical body has come to life again and rejoined His soul.
Peace being restored within their troubled minds, Jesus reproached His own for the hardness of their hearts, because they would not believe those who had beheld Him risen from the tomb? Yet straightway He was moved to compassion for these earthly minded mortals, and only strove to strengthen their courage by comfortable promises. Showing even greater condescension to their weakness, Jesus asked: “'Have ye anything here to eat?' They handed Him part of a broiled fish; and He took and ate [it] before them" (Luke 24:36-43).
Timidly they offered Him a piece of broiled fish, which He took and ate before their very eyes, not because He had need of food, but solely to strengthen their faith. Then, having dispelled their doubts, Jesus said to them: "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was yet with you, that all things might be fulfilled that are written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me."
Repeating His salutation, “Peace be to you!” He then continues and tells them of the future, and that is what John records for us especially: "'As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.' When He had said this, He breathed upon them and said to them: 'Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained'" (John 20:21-23). The old promise made the Apostles regarding the future government of the Church was here fulfilled. Never was any higher authority conferred on man; for by these words Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Penance and gave to mortals the power of disposing of eternal treasures, the right of opening and shutting the gates of Heaven.
On the occasion of Christ's first appearance in the Cenacle, all the Apostles had been present with the exception the diffident and skeptical Thomas, who may have had a legitimate reason for his absence, or who may perhaps have been an individualist, more inclined to follow his own bent than to act as the other Apostles did.
At any rate, his later attitude showed that he was both impulsive and stubborn, yet possessed of a noble generosity.
Was his absence perhaps another manifestation of his character? Did he refuse even to discuss the assertions of Mary Magdalen and Peter and therefore avoid the company of the other Apostles? We do not know, and any answer we might try to give would be mere conjecture. However, we know for certain that when, a little later, he was with the Apostles, they excitedly told him: "We have seen the Lord!"
But instead of rejoicing with them and showing regret at not having been present, he expressed doubt as to the reality of the apparition, and may perhaps even have mocked them for being so credulous. Finally, when he saw that the others were adamant in their conviction that they had really seen Jesus, he brought the argument to a close with a formal declaration which seemed almost like a challenge to his Divine Master. He shook his head, almost as if scandalized, and vehemently declared: "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe!"
After all, they must be reasonable! How could a man rise again when he had been crucified, reduced to a mass of torn and wounded flesh, with his hands and feet pierced and a gaping hole in his side? Mary Magdalen had seen Him? Now what reason could there possibly be for believing a hysterical woman, a woman from whom "seven devils had gone forth" no less?
The other Apostles had seen Him, and had especially noticed His hands and feet? Well, those Apostles were all fine good men, but they were a little on the volatile side and too easily imagined they saw what they wanted to see! He, Thomas, was the calm, deliberate man among them, just the right man to have around in certain cases; and in cases like this, it was not enough to see — one must touch and feel, and put in one's fingers; only on this condition would he believe!
The prince of positivists and hyper-critics remained unshakable in his conviction for eight days, and no argument the Apostles might propose could budge him. Jesus took him at his word: "And after eight days, His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being closed, and stood in their midst, and said: 'Peace be to you!' Then he said to Thomas: `Bring here thy finger, and see My hands; and bring here thy hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing.’”
This loving invitation, which was, at the same time, a stern reproach, so overwhelmed the doubting Apostle that he sank to his knees before Jesus and stammered out: "My Lord and my God!"
Did Thomas stick to his intention to feel the body of the resurrected Christ? We have every reason to believe he did not. His hypercritical positivism collapsed, as it always does, not so much as the result of intellectual discussion as of a change in spiritual disposition. He no longer asked to touch the wounds of the Savior, but, prostrate at His feet, worshiped Him and implored His forgiveness.
Christ pardoned his incredulity, but did not spare him the reprimand he had deserved: "Because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed. Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed."
The day of Resurrection (Sunday) was slipping away, and, besides Peter and John, not even one of the disciples as yet believed in the Resurrection of their Master.
The Paschal solemnity did not require the pilgrims to remain in the holy city for the entire octave and on the day after the Pasch, the sixteenth Nisan, many of them were already setting out for home. And this was what two of Jesus' disciples did, one of whom was called Cleophas, taking the road leading to Emmaus, a village situated several hours walk from Jerusalem, in a westerly direction. Hopeless and dispirited over what had taken place, they set out alone for Emmaus where they lived. It must have been about nine in the morning.
The Crucifixion, the wondrous doings at the Sepulchre, these rumors noised about by the women, formed the whole theme of their earnest talk. "They were talking to each other about all these things that had happened. And it came to pass, while they were conversing and arguing together, that Jesus himself also drew near and went along with them; but their eyes were held, that they should not recognize him. They became silent, thinking they had to do with a stranger.
And he said to them: 'What words are these that you are exchanging as you walk [along]?'" Who was this strange wayfarer who thus questioned them, putting his finger as it were on the wound in their hearts? Their surprise interrupted their journey for a moment. And they stood still, looking very sad.
"But one of them, named Cleophas, answered and said to Him: 'Art Thou the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened in these days?' — And He said to them: 'What things?'
"And they said to Him: 'Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet, mighty in work and word before God and all the people; and how our chief priests and rulers delivered Him up to be sentenced to death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who should redeem Israel.' " What "redemption" is Cleophas thinking of? It is difficult to exclude the nationalist-messianic meaning, namely, that Jesus would deliver—though with the miraculous help of the God of Israel—the holy people from all foreign domination. But at Jesus' death, the hope had vanished, and so Cleophas continues:
"Yes, and besides all this, today is the third day since these things came to pass. And moreover, certain women of our company, who were at the tomb before it was light, astounded us, and not finding His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels, who said that He is alive. So some of our company went to the tomb, and found it even as the women had said, but Him they did not see."
These last words show that the two left Jerusalem before Mary Magdalen's announcement that she had seen Jesus, otherwise they would have mentioned this too, if only to cast the same doubt on it. But when Cleophas had finished, the unknown traveler's manner suddenly changed; rather than ignorant of all these things, He now seemed extraordinarily well informed.
"But He said to them: 'O foolish ones and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things before entering into His glory?' And beginning then with Moses and with all the Prophets"— or with the first two parts of the Hebrew Bible — "He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things referring to Himself." Hence the care taken by all the Evangelists in general, but especially by Matthew and John, to demonstrate the fulfillment of the ancient biblical prophecies, in the things pertaining to Jesus, is, in reality, nothing but a continuation of what Jesus Himself did in this lesson.
The lesson lasted to the end of the journey, but to the disciples both seemed much too short. The narrative continues: "And they drew near to the village to which they were going, and He acted as though He were going on. And they urged Him, saying: 'Stay with us, for it is getting towards evening, and the day is now far spent.' And He went in [to stay] with them."
It is not necessary to suppose that it was already nightfall. The expression "toward evening" could apply any time from noontime on (cf. Judges 19:9 with 14), and so if the two disciples had left Jerusalem about nine o'clock in the morning and traveled approximately twenty miles, it must have been by now toward two or three in the afternoon.
"And it came to pass that when He reclined at table with them, that He took the bread and blessed and broke and began handing it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. And they said to each other: 'Was not our heart burning within us while He was speaking on the road and explaining to us the Scriptures?'"
The fact that the two disciples recognized Jesus at the breaking of the bread has often been linked with the phrase "to break bread," which in the early Church designated the Eucharist, and so it was concluded that Jesus renewed this rite at Emmaus. But the conclusion is not necessarily justified, historically speaking, for we do not know whether these two disciples knew that Jesus had instituted the Eucharist three days before, or whether Jesus spoke to them of it along the way, or whether He would be likely to perform the rite for anyone who had no idea of it.
It may have been the Eucharist or it may not. If the two disciples had been at the Last Supper, then obviously, by performing the same rite (which nobody else would be aware of) would indicate to them that this was Jesus.
In any case, Jesus disappears as quickly as He had appeared. He vanishes before their eyes. Their emotion and wonder was so great that they immediately set out again: "And rising up that very hour, they returned to Jerusalem, where they found the Eleven gathered together and those who were with them, saying: 'The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon.' And they themselves began to relate what had happened on the journey, and how they recognized Him in the breaking of the bread" (Luke 24:14 35). If they had left Emmaus again between four or five in the afternoon and taken the shortest route, perhaps on horseback, they could have been in Jerusalem by ten or eleven in the evening.
Peter and John
Meanwhile, Mary Magdalen's announcement had made a much greater impression on Peter and John. As soon as they heard her excited and breathless story, Peter and John had heard Mary Magdalen's strange tale, and had set out in haste for the tomb.
Spurred on by the unlooked-for development, they both ran as fast as they could, but John, being younger and more agile, reached the sepulchre first. However, out of respect for Peter he did not enter, but, bending down to look inside, saw the linen cloths lying there. "Peter . . . went out, and the other disciple, and they went to the tomb. The two were running together, and the other disciple ran on before, faster than Peter, and came first to the tomb. And stooping down he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief which had been about His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded in a place by itself. Then the other disciple also went in, who had come first to the tomb, and he saw.... The disciples therefore went away again to their home" (John 20:3-10).
Peter Enters the Tomb
When Peter came up, he did not hesitate, but went straight in, followed by John, and they saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief which had been about his head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded in a place by itself. What they saw was enough to convince them that the body had not been stolen, as Mary Magdalen supposed. If it had been, there would have been no purpose in unwinding the linen cloths or carefully folding up the handkerchief and setting it by itself.
Christ's body was certainly no longer in the tomb, but it was no less certain that it had not been stolen. No thief would have taken the time to remove the linen cloths, especially in view of the fact that the spices would have caused them to adhere to the corpse. Then, too, it would have been much easier to carry off the body just as it was, wrapped in its shroud. And it would have been an unusual thief who would have removed the handkerchief separately, folded it neatly and laid it aside by itself.
Therefore when St. John saw the empty tomb and the linen cloths lying loose, he believed that his Master had risen: "And he saw and believed" (John 20:8). He himself tells us that he believed because of what he saw and not on account of the prophecies, "for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead."
Was Peter also convinced? It is probable that he was: the body was gone and there had been no robbery, hence the conclusion was inescapable. However, the Gospel does not explicitly state that Peter did believe, although St. Luke (24:12) tells us that "Peter . . . went away wondering to himself at what had come to pass," that is, turning over in his mind what he had just seen. There was nothing more to be done there, however, and so reflecting on what they had seen, the two hurried back to the city, anxious to consult with the other disciples.
The Two Apostles Leave, Magdalen Remains
The two Apostles left the sepulcher and returned to the Cenacle, but Mary Magdalen did not leave with them. She had followed Peter and John back to the tomb for her second visit—after relaying her message about the disappearance of the Lord—in the hope of finding out what had happened to her beloved Master and "was standing outside weeping at the tomb" (John 20:11). When her hopes were disappointed, she could not restrain her tears as she stood desolate beside the empty sepulcher.
The Angels and the Gardener
After a little while, she decided to look once more through the low narrow door of the vestibule at the niche in the burial chamber, for, in her desolate love, she still hoped against hope. Still weeping, she entered the vestibule of the tomb and stooped down to gaze once more at the place where Jesus' body had lain. But the burial chamber was not empty as she had expected it to be, for there were two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Christ had been laid. The heavenly visitors addressed her: "Woman, why art thou weeping?"
Where is He?
She answered: "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have put Him!" Her Lord did not leave her long in mourning, for He willed to reward her persevering love by allowing her to see Him. Perhaps because she was anxious and distraught, or because she heard a light footfall behind her, she looked around and saw a man standing there, but she hardly glanced at Him, for absorbed as she was in her own grief-filled thoughts, she mistook Him for the gardener.
But the man said to her: "Woman, why art thou weeping? Whom dost thou seek?" Because the tomb stood in a garden, which perhaps belonged to Joseph of Arimathea, Mary Magdalen mistook the newcomer for the gardener and, absorbed as she was in the thought of Jesus and her desire to recover His body, she answered: "Sir, if thou hast removed Him, tell me where thou hast laid Him and I will take Him away."
But how could she, a weak woman, have hoped to carry away the heavy body of her Master? Yet love knows no impossibility. The Stranger did not answer her as she expected; instead, in the sweet tone of voice, which she knew so well, He called her by name: "Mary!"
Magdalen's Heart Resurrects!
Immediately the cloud of sorrow was lifted from her soul, and with a heart bursting with joy, she fell at Christ's feet with the ecstatic cry: "Rabboni, Master!" Her dead Master had risen from the dead, much like her brother Lazarus had been raised from the dead by Him not long before! How truly does the author of the Imitation of Christ say: "If Jesus speaks but one word, we feel great consolation. . . . Happy hour, when Jesus calls us from tears to joy of spirit!" (Book 2, chapter 8).
It was the first time that the risen Christ had been seen and recognized by any human being, unless He had already appeared to His mother, which Tradition holds to have been the case, although the Evangelists say nothing about this.
Magdalen at His Feet Once Again
In her desire never to be separated from her Lord again, Mary clung to His feet, but He admonished her gently: "Do not touch Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father, but go to My brethren and say to them: `I ascend to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God'" (John 20:17).
Christ did not forbid her to touch Him, for why would He have restrained her spontaneous gesture of devotion? Instead, He told her not to continue clasping His feet, to cease bestowing on Him this mark of affection; first, because He had not yet ascended to the Father but was still on earth, and therefore she would have further opportunities of seeing Him and rejoicing in His presence; and second, because she was to carry a message immediately to the Apostles, telling them that their Master was going to ascend to the Father.
This message was indeed a strange one. The Ascension was not to take place for forty days more; why, then, was there such need for haste? Jesus knew that He was about to appear to the Apostles that very day: could He not have waited until then to tell them of this as yet far-off event?
The difficulty is a very real one, and perhaps cannot be solved satisfactorily." The most likely explanation seems to be that this meeting with Mary Magdalen was Our Lord's first public appearance after His Resurrection. It would seem appropriate, then, that His first message to His Apostles should have been the annunciation of His Resurrection, the fact that concerned them most at the time. Yet He did not speak of His Resurrection, but solely of His future Ascension. How, then, explain this apparent anomaly? We find the answer in verse 17 itself, where Jesus said to Mary Magdalen: "I have not yet ascended to my Father." By speaking of His Ascension, He was announcing, indirectly but clearly, His Resurrection, which had, of course, to come first.
It was urgent for His disciples, whom He calls his "brethren," to know that He was soon to ascend to His Father and God and theirs, and hence her natural expression of affection was not to delay the message. (John's account is paralleled in Matthew (28:9-10), where, however, the incident seems to have taken place at the women's visit to the sepulcher (cf. 28:1, "Mary Magdalen and the other Mary"); in reality, verse nine marks the beginning of a separate episode, that of Mary Magdalen alone at the tomb)
I Have Seen the Lord!
She did immediately as she was bid: "Mary Magdalen came, and announced to the disciples: 'I have seen the Lord, and these things He said to me"' (John 20:18). But her jubilant announcement met an utterly humiliating response: "And they, hearing that He was alive and had been seen by her, did not believe it" (Mark 16:11).
In fact, the first Christians consistently accorded the women witnesses of the Resurrection a very cold reception. When the pious women returned from the sepulcher and said they had found it empty and repeated the message of the angels, they were told they were talking "nonsense". Here, when Mary Magdalen reports that she has seen and spoken to Jesus, she fares no better. But even later, when the Apostles and the whole Church were unshakably and officially convinced of Jesus' resurrection, there still persisted a certain unwillingness to appeal to the testimony of the women.
In fact, not one woman is mentioned in the famous passage in which Paul lists, not all certainly, but many of the witnesses of Christ's resurrection: "He rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures, and .. . appeared to Cephas, and after that to the Eleven. Then He was seen by more than five hundred brethren at one time, many of whom are with us still, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the Apostles. And last of all, as by one born out of due time, He was seen also by me" (1 Corinthians 15:4-8). All these witnesses were men. Probably the official attitude of the Church was prompted by alert prudence, so that Jews and idolaters might not be able to accuse it of being too quick to accept the tales of over imaginative women.
It is certain in any case that the immediate disciples of Jesus, as we shall see presently, were anything but ready to believe anyone—man or woman—who said that he had seen Jesus alive again.
Our Lord's Apparition to
His Holy Mother
The Gospel tells us nothing of this apparition, but Christian tradition takes it for granted: the Doctors in general and the body of the faithful have always believed that after His Resurrection our Lord appeared first to His Mother.
And indeed, was it not just that she who had shared most in His Passion should have been the first to participate in His glory? Would He who was so generous to Mary Magdalen have been less so to His own Mother?
As the great theologian Suarez says, we should believe without any shadow of doubt that after His Resurrection Christ appeared first to His Mother, for such is the almost unanimous opinion of all the faithful and the Doctors of the Church, as well as the teaching of every Catholic writer who dealt with the subject. The same "Doctor Eximius" then goes on to quote some verses from the Easter Hymn of the fifth-century poet, Sedulius, in confirmation of his thesis.
Our Lord, then, did appear to His holy Mother. What joy she must have felt at embracing once more her Son, who, a short while before, had been placed lifeless and disfigured in her arms, but who now returned to her glorious and triumphant! "What a torrent of joy must have flooded the Mother's soul when the Risen Son offered to her kiss the wounds in His flesh, that flesh which she had conceived and borne in her own body!"
The Apparitions to the Holy Women
(Matt. 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-10; John 20:1-10)
The sepulcher did not remain alone very long, for a group of pious women was already on its way from the city. They were the women who, on Friday evening, had prepared the spices in order to give the beloved body of Jesus a more fitting burial, as soon as the legal repose of the Sabbath was over from one or another of the Evangelists we learn the names of Mary Magdalen, the other Mary mother of James, Salome, Joanna, and "the other women who were with them" (Luke 24:10).
The holy women spent the Sabbath in the repose demanded by the Law, waiting impatiently for the moment when they could hasten back to the sepulcher in which their beloved Master lay. Dawn had scarcely come on the first day of the week, our Sunday, when Mary Magdalen, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other holy women braved the wrath of the Jews and courageously set out for the tomb, laden with spices.
The time at which they arrived at the sepulcher is indicated in a very curious fashion by Mark (16:2): "And very early in the morning, on the first day of the week [Sunday], they come to the tomb, the sun being now risen." At first glance it is difficult to reconcile "very early" with "the sun being now risen," since the former would mean the very first light of dawn or about four o'clock in the morning while the latter phrase would seem to refer to a much later time, no earlier than six.
It is another instance of Mark's rough unpolished style, which here is a little too condensed. It all becomes clear if we read between the lines: "Very early in the morning they come to the tomb [and reach it] the sun being now risen."
Certainly they did not have to go a great distance to get to the tomb, but the reason why they took so long is given by Mark himself (16:1), who has just said, "when the Sabbath was past," that is, on that same morning, they "bought spices, that they might go and anoint Him." Their devotion was not satisfied with the spices some of them had prepared two evenings before, and the rest wanted to make their own contribution of ointments, which it took some time to buy.
Early Arrivals and Late Arrivals
These feminine delays were too much for the most ardent and whole-souled among them, Mary of Magdala, the only one whom John mentions and the first one named by all three Synoptics (Matthew, Mark, Luke). At a certain point she left her busy and slow-moving companions and, sped by her great love, she ran on alone to the tomb. She reached it, as John says in complete agreement with Mark, "early ... while it was still dark" (John 20:1).
Meanwhile, the other holy women, some way behind Mary Magdalen, had finished their purchases and were on their way to the tomb. They then remembered a difficulty which, in their desire to do honor to their Master's body, had not occurred to them before. They recalled that the tomb was closed with a large stone disk which they would not be able to roll back, and they realized that at such an early hour they would not be likely to find anyone in the lonely garden to help them. They probably knew nothing about the guards who had been placed there by the Jewish leaders. Nevertheless, they did not abandon their purpose, but continued on their way.
Feeling of Emptiness
Mary Magdalen, was already at the tomb and was astonished and dismayed to the tomb laid open! She knew nothing about the soldiers placed there on the Sabbath, so she was not surprised by their absence; but she did see that the round stone had been rolled to one side and the entrance stood wide open. Impetuous and ardent, upon seeing the open tomb, she needed no more evidence to convince her that her Master's tomb had been rifled and His body stolen. The thought that He might have arisen never even entered her head! Perhaps her eagerness carried her as far as the entrance of the tomb, but a glance inside was enough to tell her that the tomb was empty.
What had happened? Who could tell her? Certainly not her slow-limbed companions scattered about the city in search of spices which would now be useless. She must go to the disciples; perhaps they knew, especially Peter and John, how the tomb had been opened and the body carried away.
"She ran therefore and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them: 'They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him' " (John 20:2).
The plural "we" kept by John is an excellent link between his account and the Synoptics. They speak of several women at the sepulcher whereas he speaks only of Mary Magdalen, but he has her use the plural "we" which implicitly confirms what the Synoptics tell us. Mary was speaking also for her tardy companions.
Clothed in White
Meanwhile, however, the other holy women had arrived at the tomb without encountering Mary Magadalen running back from it to report what she had discovered. As soon as they reached the sepulcher, however, and looked about them, "they saw that the stone had been rolled back, for it was very large" (Mark 16:4).
No less startled than Mary Magdalen had been, but less impulsive than she, they made their way in, and "on entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were amazed" (Mark 16:5). Luke says more accurately that there were "two men . . . in dazzling raiment" (Luke 24:4).
The young man in Mark’s Gospel said to the women: "Do not be terrified. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, He is not here. Behold the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter that He goes before you into Galilee; there you shall see Him, as He told you" (Mark 16:6-7; Matthew 28:5-7). The two apparitions in Luke say very much the same thing, but they develop the last thought more fully and their words produce a different result.
Flee in Fright
Upon receiving the angel's message, the holy women, filled with fear yet joyful, fled from the tomb, but for the moment said nothing to anyone of what they had seen and heard. Later, however, when they had recovered from the shock of the vision, they delivered the message they had received (Matthew 28:8), but it was taken to be so much nonsense and no one believed them (Luke 24:11).
According to Mark, the women "fled from the tomb, for trembling and fear had entered into them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid." Here Mark's narrative ends abruptly and so does his Gospel except for a brief appendix which does not follow directly from what has gone before. According to Luke, on the other hand, the women, "having returned from the tomb ... reported all these things to the Eleven, and to all the rest"; and this is what Matthew (28:8) says also.
Mark's account probably refers only to the women's first impression; they were in the beginning so stunned with fear and bewilderment that they said nothing. If, however, his narrative had not ended here, it would probably have told something of how the women, recovered from that first fright, did what the other two Synoptics (Matthew and Luke) relate.
In any case, the news they were about to communicate was certainly not such as to win them a very cordial welcome, and that is perhaps another reason for the reluctance indicated by Mark. When they returned to the city, they "were telling these things to the Apostles. But this tale seemed to them to be nonsense, and they did not believe the women" (Luke 24:11).
So You Think You've Won, Do You?
The triumph of the Sanhedrists was complete. The spurious Prophet of Nazareth was dead and buried, His handful of disciples scattered, and in a short time all that would remain of Him and His work would be a fast-fading memory. Not for years had the leaders of the Jews celebrated the Passover with such self-satisfaction and joy.
It was in this frame of mind that the chief priests, the Scribes and the Pharisees passed Friday night and the whole of the Sabbath. But at dawn on the third day, their peaceful sense of security and their self-congratulation were changed into bewildered agitation and frightened uncertainty: "Now late in the night of the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn . . . there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from Heaven, and drawing near rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment like snow. And for fear of him the guards were terrified, and became like dead men."
No Witnesses of the Actual Resurrection
All four Evangelists agree that the sepulcher was discovered to be empty very early Sunday morning. No one saw Jesus in the act of rising from the dead. None of the Evangelists says how He emerged from the sepulcher; one of them implies that He did so without disturbing the stone rolled against the entrance, although His resurrection was accompanied by extraordinary signs: “a great earthquake … an angel came down from Heaven … rolled back the stone, and sat upon it" (Matthew 28:2-3).
Hence it was the angel who rolled away the stone, but the tomb was already empty, and that was why the stone was removed, because it no longer served any purpose.
Christ's soul was again united with His most holy body, imparting to it new qualities—impassibility, "brightness," "agility," and "subtility." And that body, which had been killed, wounded and disfigured, and had lain in the funereal darkness of the tomb, now rose resplendent and beautiful, retaining only the five wounds, shining like five suns, to be presented to the Father to plead for the very men who had inflicted them.
Thus was death conquered, the devil vanquished, and the world freed from its toils. The weeping on Calvary gave way to the thunderous acclamations of a host of souls who, released from the shadows of Limbo, formed an escort around the Conqueror of Death.
Sleeping Sentries Awake Terrified
The guards had good cause to be terror-stricken. These soldiers, sent by the Sanhedrists, had been on guard there since the day before, and certainly, at that early hour of the morning, they were still stretched out upon the ground sleeping.
What they had wintessed was Christ's triumph over death, even though they had not seen Him rise from the dead, and the fulfillment of His prophecy: "For even as Jonas was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:40).
The tomb had been closed with a huge stone upon which a seal had been placed; within the burial chamber there had been a cold corpse; and all around silence and solitude had reigned since the eve of the Sabbath. But in the twinkling of an eye everything had changed! The very earth had shaken, and a shining supernatural being had appeared and rolled back the ponderous stone as if it had been a pebble. No wonder, then, that as soon as the guards recovered the power of their limbs they fled from that awesome place and ran to tell the chief priests who had posted them there.
The tremor of the earthquake and the appearance of the angel and the wide open tomb, so terrified them that they fled immediately, making for safety through the near-by city gate. Once surrounded by houses, and recovered somewhat from their panic, they remembered that their flight was a formal desertion of their post of duty and subject to heavy penalties according to Roman military discipline (cf. Wars of the Jews, V, 482). They had to find some remedy and shrewdly perceived that their best hope lay with the Sanhedrists who had the greatest interest in the matter. So they went straight to them to make a bargain.
Stupidly Clever Sanhedrinists
What was the attitude of the Sanhedrists when confronted with the news of the supernatural occurrences at the tomb? Instead of opening their eyes and recognizing so well-attested and obvious a miracle, they took refuge in evasion, bribery and lies. Hurriedly, the chief priests and elders decided that the best thing they could do would be to pay the guards handsomely to say that Jesus’ disciples stole the body as they, the guards, slept!
When the chief priests "had assembled with the elders, and had consulted together they gave much money to the soldiers, telling them: 'Say, "His disciples came by night and stole Him while we were sleeping." And if the procurator hears of this, we will persuade him and keep you out of trouble.' And they took the money, and did as they were instructed; and this story has been spread abroad among the Jews even to the present day" (Matthew 28:12-15).
The coaching the runaway soldiers received from the Sanhedrists "they stole him while we were sleeping" — was hardly a miracle of shrewdness; and St. Augustine's answer is still the final one, when he figuratively addresses the Sanhedrin to ask wittily: "How is this? Do you call on witnesses who were asleep?"
Much more effective was their money, from the same treasury which had supplied Judas. In any case, the lie took hold and when Matthew was writing his Gospel, it had become the official Jewish explanation for the empty tomb. In fact, we can see in it the seed of that whole crop of calumnies which in succeeding centuries furnished official Judaism with its material for a biography of Jesus.
St. Augustine's comment on their action is very apposite: "You bring forward witnesses who had been asleep! O wretched Synagogue, it was really you who were sleeping when you gave such advice!"
In reality, the evidence for the Resurrection is so convincing that only those who are blindly prejudiced will reject it. The denials of hostile critics, their arbitrary manipulation of, and absolute contempt for, the Gospel texts,' and their forced and often grotesque explanations only serve to throw into sharper relief the authenticity of the miracle.
Therefore, with St. Paul we can triumphantly cry: "Christ has risen from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also comes resurrection from the dead. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made to live. . . . 'Death is swallowed up in victory! O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?'" (1 Corinthians 15:20-23,54-55).
VENERABLE MARY OF AGREDA
from The Mystical City of God
The divine soul of Christ our Redeemer remained in Limbo from half past three of Friday afternoon, until after three of the Sunday morning following.
During this hour He returned to the Sepulcher as the victorious Prince of the angels and of the saints, whom He had delivered from those nether prisons as spoils of His victory and as an earnest of His glorious triumph over the chastised and prostrate rebels of Hell.
In the sepulcher were many angels as its guard, venerating the sacred body united to the Divinity. Some of them, obeying the command of their Queen and Mistress, had gathered the relics of the sacred blood shed by her divine Son, the particles of flesh scattered about, the hair torn from His divine face and head, and all else that belonged to the perfection and integrity of His most sacred humanity. On these the Mother of prudence lavished her solicitous care. The angels took charge of these relics, each one filled with joy at being privileged to hold the particles, which he was able to secure. Before any change was made, the body of the Redeemer was shown to the holy Fathers, in the same wounded, lacerated and disfigured state in which it was left by the cruelty of the Jews.
Beholding Him thus disfigured in death, the Patriarchs and Prophets and other saints adored Him and again confessed Him as the incarnate Word, who had truly taken upon Himself our infirmities and sorrows (Isaias 53, 4) and paid abundantly our debts, satisfying in His innocence and guiltlessness for what we ourselves owed to the justice of the eternal Father. There did our first parents Adam and Eve see the havoc wrought by their disobedience, the priceless remedy it necessitated, the immense goodness and mercy of the Redeemer. As they felt the effects of His copious Redemption in the glory of their souls, they praised anew the Omnipotent and Saint of saints, who had with such marvelous wisdom wrought such a salvation.
Then, in the presence of all those saints, through the ministry of those angels, were united to the sacred body all the relics, which they had gathered, restoring it to its natural perfection and integrity. In the same moment the most holy soul reunited with the body, giving it immortal life and glory. Instead of the winding-sheets and the ointments, in which it had been buried, it was clothed with the four gifts of glory, namely: with clearness, impassibility, agility and subtility (John 19, 40). These gifts overflowed from the immense glory of the soul of Christ into the sacred body.
The excellence of these gifts in the Resurrection were far beyond the glory of His Transfiguration or that manifested on other occasions of the kind mentioned in this history. For on these occasions He received it transitorily and for special purposes, while now He received it in plenitude and forever. Through impassibility His body became invincible to all created power, since no power can ever move or change Him. By subtility the gross and earthly matter was so purified, that it could now penetrate other matter like a pure spirit. Accordingly He penetrated through the rocks of the sepulcher without removing or displacing them, just as He had issued forth from the womb of His most blessed Mother. Agility so freed Him from the weight and slowness of matter, that it exceeded the agility of the immaterial angels, while He Himself could move about more quickly than they, as shown in His apparitions to the Apostles and on other occasions. The sacred wounds, which had disfigured His body, now shone forth from His hands and feet and side so refulgent and brilliant, that they added a most entrancing beauty and charm. In all this glory and heavenly adornment the Savior now arose from the grave; and in the presence of the saints and Patriarchs He promised universal resurrection in their own flesh and body to all men, and that they moreover, as an effect of His own Resurrection, should be similarly glorified.
In the same instant in which the most holy soul of Christ entered and gave life to His body the joy of her immaculate soul, which I mentioned in the foregoing chapter as being restrained and, as it were, withheld, overflowed into her immaculate body. And this overflow was so exquisite in its effects, that she was transformed from sorrow to joy, from pain to delight. From grief to ineffable jubilation and rest. It happened that just at this time the Evangelist John, as he had done on the previous morning, stepped in to visit her and console her in her bitter solitude, and thus unexpectedly, in the midst of splendor and glory, met her, whom he had before scarcely recognized on account of her overwhelming sorrow. The Apostle now beheld her with wonder and deepest reverence and concluded that the Lord had risen, since His blessed Mother was thus transfigured with joy.
In this new joy and under the divine influences of her supernatural vision the great Lady began to prepare herself for the visit of the Lord, which was near at hand. While eliciting acts of praise, and in her canticles and prayers, she immediately felt within her a new kind of jubilation and celestial delight, reaching far beyond the first joy, and corresponding in a wonderful manner to the sorrows and tribulations she had undergone in the Passion; and this new favor was different and much more exalted than the joys overflowing naturally from her soul into her body. Moreover she perceived within herself another, third and still more different effect, implying new divine favors. Namely she felt infused into her being the heavenly light heralding the advent of beatific vision, which I will not here explain, since I have descanted on it in the first part (Part I, No. 620). I merely add here, that the Queen, on this occasion, received these divine influences more abundantly and in a more exalted degree; for now the Passion of Christ had gone before and she had acquired the merits of this Passion. Hence the consolations from the hands of her divine Son corresponded to the multitude of her sorrows.
The blessed Mary being thus prepared, Christ our Savior, arisen and glorious, in the company of all the Saints and Patriarchs, made His appearance. The ever humble Queen prostrated herself upon the ground and adored her divine Son; and the Lord raised her up and drew her to Himself. In this contact, which was more intimate than the contact with the humanity and the wounds of the Savior sought by Magdalen, the Virgin Mother participated in an extraordinary favor, which she alone, as exempt from sin, could merit. Although it was not the greatest of the favors she attained on this occasion, yet she could not have received it without failing of her faculties, if she had not been previously strengthened by the angels and by the Lord Himself.
This favor was, that the glorious body of the Son so closely united itself to that of His purest Mother, that He penetrated into it or she into His, as when, for instance, a crystal globe takes up within itself the light of the sun and is saturated with the splendor and beauty of its light. In the same way the body of the most holy Mary entered into that of her divine Son by this heavenly embrace; it was, as it were, the portal of her intimate knowledge concerning the glory of the most holy soul and body of her Lord.
As a consequence of these favors, constituting higher and higher degrees of ineffable gifts, the spirit of the Virgin Mother rose to the knowledge of the most hidden sacraments. In the midst of them she heard a voice saying to her: “My beloved, ascend higher!” (Luke 18, 10). By the power of these words she was entirely transformed and saw the Divinity clearly and intuitively, wherein she found complete, though only temporary, rest and reward for all her sorrows and labors. Silence alone here is proper, since reason and language are entirely inadequate to comprehend or express what passed in the blessed Mary during this beatific vision, the highest she had until then enjoyed. Let us celebrate this day in wonder and praise, with congratulations and loving and humble thanks for what she then merited for us, and for her exaltation and joy.
For some hours the heavenly Princess continued to enjoy the essence of God with her divine Son, participating now in His triumph as she had in His torments. Then by similar degrees she again descended from this vision and found herself in the end reclining on the right arm of the most sacred humanity and regaled in other ways by the right hand of His Divinity. She held sweetest converse with her Son concerning the mysteries of His Passion and of His glory. In these conferences she was again inebriated with the wine of love and charity, which now she drank unmeasured from the original fount.
All that a mere creature can receive was conferred upon the blessed Mary on this occasion; for, according to our way of conceiving such things, the divine equity wished to compensate the injury (thus I must call it, because I cannot find a more proper word), which a Creature so pure and immaculate had undergone in suffering the sorrows and torments of the Passion. For, as I have mentioned many times before, she suffered the same pains as her Son, and now in this mystery she was inundated with a proportionate joy and delight.
Then, still remaining in her exalted state, the great Lady turned to the holy Patriarchs and all the just, recognizing them and speaking to each in succession, praising the Almighty in His generous mercy to each one of them. She was filled with an especial delight in speaking to her parents, St. Joachim and Anne, with her spouse, St. Joseph, with St. John the Baptist, and with them she conversed more particularly than with the Patriarchs and Prophets and with the first parents, Adam and Eve. All of them prostrated themselves before the heavenly Lady, acknowledging her as the Mother of the Redeemer of the world, as the cause of their rescue and the Coadjutrix of their Redemption.
The divine wisdom impelled them thus to venerate and honor her. But the Queen of all virtues and the Mistress of Humility prostrated herself on the ground and reverenced the saints according to their due. This the Lord permitted because the saints, although they were inferior in grace, were superior in their state of blessedness, endowed with imperishable and eternal glory, while the Mother of grace was yet in mortal life and a pilgrim and had not as yet assumed the state of fruition. The presence of Christ our Savior continued during all the conference of Mary with the holy Fathers. The most blessed Mary invited all the angels and saints there present to praise the Victor over death, sin and Hell.
BLESSED ANNE CATHERINE EMMERICH
from The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ
The Night of Resurrection
I soon after beheld the tomb of Our Lord. All was calm and silent around it. There were six soldiers on guard, who were either seated or standing before the door, and Cassius was among them. His appearance was that of a person immersed in meditation and in the expectation of some great event. The sacred body of our Blessed Redeemer was wrapped in the winding-sheet, and surrounded with light, while two angels sat in an attitude of adoration, the one at the head, and the other at the feet. I had seen them in the same posture ever since He was first put into the tomb.
These angels were clothed as priests. Their position, and the manner in which they crossed their arms over their breasts, reminded me of the cherubim who surrounded the Ark of the Covenant, only they were without wings; at least I did not see any.
The whole of the sepulcher reminded me of the Ark of the Covenant at different periods of its history. It is possible that Cassius was sensible of the presence of the angels, and of the bright light which filled the sepulcher, for his attitude was like that of a person in deep contemplation before the Blessed Sacrament.
I next saw the soul of Our Lord accompanied by those among the patriarchs whom He had liberated enter into the tomb through the rock. He showed them the wounds with which His sacred body was covered; and it seemed to me that the winding-sheet which previously enveloped it was removed, and that Jesus wished to show the souls the excess of suffering He had endured to redeem them.
The body appeared to me to be quite transparent, so that the whole depth of the wounds could be seen; and this sight filled the holy souls with admiration, although deep feelings of compassion likewise drew tears from their eyes.
My next vision was so mysterious that I cannot explain or even relate it in a clear manner. It appeared to me that the soul and body of Jesus were taken together out of the sepulcher, without, however, the former being completely reunited to the latter, which still remained inanimate.
I thought I saw two angels who were kneeling and adoring at the head and feet of the sacred body, raise it—keeping it in the exact position in which it was lying in the tomb—and carry it uncovered and disfigured with wounds across the rock, which trembled as they passed. It then appeared to me that Jesus presented His body, marked with the stigmas of the Passion, to His Heavenly Father, who, seated on a throne, was surrounded by innumerable choirs of angels, blissfully occupied in pouring forth hymns of adoration and jubilee.
The case was probably the same when, at the death of Our Lord, so many holy souls re-entered their bodies, and appeared in the Temple and in different parts of Jerusalem; for it is not likely that the bodies which they animated were really alive, as in that case they would have been obliged to die a second time, whereas they returned to their original state without apparent difficulty; but it is to be supposed that their appearance in human form was similar to that of Our Lord, when He (if we may thus express it) accompanied His body to the throne of His Heavenly Father.
At this moment the rock was so violently shaken, from the very summit to the base, that three of the guards fell down and became almost insensible. The other four were away at the time, being gone to the town to fetch something. The guards who were thus thrown prostrate attributed the sudden shock to an earthquake; but Cassius, who, although uncertain as to what all this might portend, yet felt an inward presentiment that it was the prelude to some stupendous event, stood transfixed in anxious expectation, waiting to see what would follow next. The soldiers who were gone to Jerusalem soon returned.
I again beheld the holy women: they had finished preparing the spices, and were resting in their private cells; not stretched out on the couches, but leaning against the bedclothes, which were rolled up. They wished to go to the sepulcher before the break of day, because they feared meeting the enemies of Jesus but the Blessed Virgin, who was perfectly renovated and filled with fresh courage since she had seen her Son, consoled and recommended them to sleep for a time, and then go fearlessly to the tomb, as no harm would come to them; where upon they immediately followed her advice, and endeavored to sleep.
It was towards eleven o’clock at night when the Blessed Virgin, incited by irrepressible feelings of love, wrapped a grey cloak around her, and left the house quite alone. When I saw her do this, I could not help feeling anxious, and saying to myself, ‘How is it possible for this holy Mother, who is so exhausted from anguish and terror, to venture to walk all alone through the streets at such an hour?’
I saw her go first to the house of Caiphas, and then to the palace of Pilate, which was at a great distance off; I watched her through the whole of her solitary journey along that part which had been trodden by her Son, loaded with His heavy Cross; she stopped at every place where our Savior had suffered particularly, or had received any fresh outrage from His barbarous enemies.
Her appearance, as she walked slowly along, was that of a person seeking something; she often bent down to the ground, touched the stones with her hands, and then inundated them with kisses, if the precious blood of her beloved Son was upon them. God granted her at this time particular lights and graces, and she was able without the slightest degree of difficulty to distinguish every place sanctified by His sufferings. I accompanied her through the whole of her pious pilgrimage, and I endeavored to imitate her to the best of my power, as far as my weakness would permit.
Mary then went to Calvary; but when she had almost reached it, she stopped suddenly, and I saw the sacred body and soul of our Savior standing before her. An angel walked in front; the two angels whom I had seen in the tomb were by His side, and the souls whom He had redeemed followed Him by hundreds.
The body of Jesus was brilliant and beautiful, but its appearance was not that of a living body, although a voice issued from it; and I heard Him describe to the Blessed Virgin all He had done in Limbo, and then assure her that be should rise again with His glorified body; that He would then show Himself to her, and that she must wait near the rock of Mount Calvary, and that part where she saw Him fall down, until He appeared.
Our Savior then went towards Jerusalem, and the Blessed Virgin, having again wrapped her veil about her, prostrated on the spot which He had pointed out. It was then, I think, past midnight, for the pilgrimage of Mary over the Way of the Cross had taken up at least an hour; and I next saw the holy souls who had been redeemed by our Savior traverse in their turn the sorrowful Way of the Cross, and contemplate the different places where He had endured such fearful sufferings for their sakes.
The angels who accompanied them gathered up and preserved the smallest fragments of Our Lord’s sacred flesh which had been torn off by the frequent blows He received, as also the blood with which the ground was sprinkled on those spots where He had fallen.
I once more saw the sacred body of Our Lord stretched out as I first beheld it in the sepulcher; the angels were occupied in replacing the fragments they had gathered up of His flesh, and they received supernatural assistance in doing this. When next I contemplated Him it was in His winding-sheet, surrounded with a bright light and with two adoring angels by His side.
I cannot explain how all these things came to pass, for they are far beyond our human comprehension; and even if I understand them perfectly myself when I see them, they appear dark and mysterious when I endeavor to explain them to others.
As soon as a faint glimmering of dawn appeared in the east, I saw Magdalen, Mary the daughter of Cleophas, Johanna Chusa, and Salome, leave the Cenaculum, closely wrapped up in their mantles. They carried bundles of spices; and one of their number had a lighted candle in her hand, which she endeavored to conceal under her cloak. I saw them direct their trembling steps towards the small door at the house of Nicodemus.