Easter: Thomas Aquinas with Commentary
He must rise again from the dead. — S. John xx. 9.
IN these words five things are to be noted. Firstly, the infinite goodness of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Secondly, His delightful beauty. Thirdly, His wonderful love. Fourthly, the joyful solemnity of God. Fifthly, the fervent charity of the women.
God’s goodness is shown to us in that He subdues, conquers, overcomes, and crucifies all malignant and demonic spirits that threaten the flow of goodness from God to man. His goodness then removes those obstacles to man’s reconciliation with the Creator and the created. His goodness opens the way for man’s return to God.
(2) Because today He saved us from death, which He vanquished today: Hath overcome death," &c. (Collect). 1 Cor. xv. 54, Death is swallowed up in victory." For today Christ victoriously rose, having conquered death.
Not only has Christ conquered the makers and molders of the sin that threatens man with idolatry and idiolatry, but He conquers their natural fulfillment, which is death. Christ conquers death, and in so doing He destroys that termination of life, which is alienated from the life of God.
(3) Because He saved us from hell, which he unchained today: Ps. cvii. 16, He hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder.
Christ has saved us from ultimate and permanent separation from our Heavenly Father. He has broken the chains and cords of Hell. Now He invites us to see and behold the Hell we have made for others, ourselves, and thus for Him. We are privileged with a vision of Hell beginning here and now. As with sin and death, He makes Hell also a present state to be contemplated as that condition which we should treat as destroyed and dead to our Saviour, and thus destroyed and dead to us if we would live in the life of the Risen Christ.
But there were in Christ three kinds of flowers — (1) red flowers, (2) black, (3) white. The red flowers are drops of blood; the black, the stripes of the wounds; the white, the splendours of the glorified Body. Of the third and first, Cant. v. 10, My Beloved is white and ruddy.
Christ is beautiful and His Beauty is revealed in three flowers. He is a red flower because He wears a robe of blood. The blood in poured out because the Saviour empties Himself for us on the Tree. The blood is shed because He will surrender His life for us, that in and through the nothingness that He becomes, God in Him might remake and remold us. He blossoms as blood because the poured out Blood does not mean death but the new life that God is already making for us in His Death.
He is a black flower, because He dies and His wounds signify the darkness of death. He endures death that we might find life. His death is our death, for in His death, He brings to death our old Adam, old man, or old fallen Human Nature. His death is beautiful because in it He abnegates His very being for us.
He is a white flower because He rises a gloirifed body that now wears the color of purity, holiness, righteousness, and perfection. This beautiful white reveals the love that conquers sin and death, and yet, more importantly, desires the salvation of all men through His victorious Resurrection.
Of the second, 1 S. Pet. ii. 24, By Whose stripes ye were healed. Jesus was altogether blooming, because girt with roses — that is, with drops of blood; adorned with violets that is, with the stripes of wounds; entrenched with lilies — that is, with the splendours of the glorified Body: Cant. ii. 12, The flowers appear on the earth.
The Beautiful Saviour never ceases to bloom with the Father’s desire for our salvation. Never once in the whole of His suffering and Death does He cease to express, reveal, and manifest the Father’s passion for our salvation. Even when He utters the words, ‘My God, My God, why hast thou forsake me’, He is the desire for God and for man’s salvation at the point of their most extreme separation and division. But His Desire never fails. The Love never ceases. Christ always blossoms and blooms with that Love that gives until it hurts, to the point of death, death upon the Cross.
III. On the third head it is to be noted, the charity of Him rising again from the dead S. Matt, xxviii. 5, Jesus Who was crucified. The death of Christ was such an inestimable love of charity as no mere man was able to conceive of: Eph. iii. 18, The Love of Christ which passeth knowledge. S. John xv. 13, Greater love hath no man than this.
Can we imagine such love? This is the love that forgives His enemies and desires their salvation. This is the love that is still making life in the process of unjust, undeserved, and unmerited death. This is the love that draws all men into Himself to carry them into a death that they cannot die. And yet as this love carries them into His death, He who alone can die this death shares the merits of it all with those who will open to His love. And He loves them all unto the end.
For three reasons especially He wished to die the death of the Cross — (1) That He might show manifestly to all that He both truly died, and from this death truly rose again. For it was patent to all that He was really dead when the Cross raised on high showed Him, on it, dead: Acts x. 39, And we are witnesses of all things which He did ...... Whom they slew and hanged on a tree.
Christ died on the Cross to reveal to us what He actually has done for all men that would follow Him into their intended future and destiny. He died truly because if He did not, then we have no chance of salvation and deliverance to the Kingdom.
(2) That as the Tree had produced the fruit of death, so the Tree having produced the fruit of this life might quicken all: Who by the wood of the Cross wrought salvation for the human race (S. Greg. Mag.) (3) That as the Devil had overcome man by the Tree, so He might similarly, by the Tree, triumph.
He died on the Cross that the Tree of Life might once again bear the fruit of man’s unbreakable union and communion with God. One tree has produced the fruit of death for man. The tree was not the culprit, Man was. The tree is now cut down, lifted up, and becomes the throne of the King who brings new life to the world. The Devil had overcome man through a tree, and now the Saviour conquers the Devil and his sin through the same tree. The tree is planted in the Garden of New Life. The Garden of New Life is fertilized, cultivated, and harvested because of the Blood of the Lamb of God that drops down from this Tree. The Garden of New Life is procreant, fecund, uberous, and fertile because its soil is enriched with the Blood from that Death that all must die in and through the Crucifixion of God’s Son.
Three events have made this day to be solemn — (1) The sending of an Angel from Heaven: S. Matt, xxviii. 2, The Angel of the Lord by descending from Heaven.(2) The earth, by leaping for joy: S. Matt, xxviii. 2, There was a great earthquake. (3) Hell, by restoring the Saints: S. Matt, xxvii. 52, 53, Many bodies of the Saints which slept arose and came out of the graves. So that the heavens, the earth, and Hades all finished their testimony to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This day is solemn because the angels descend from Heaven to take their part in the communication of the truth of Christ’s Resurrection. The angels, to this point, have not understood the Death. But with the Resurrection they learn of the reconciliation of flesh to the Spirit through the triumph of God’s Word. Now they take their part to celebrate the final victory over they old enemy Satan. They rejoice to see this day, and they lend their praise and adoration to God by visiting the empty tomb with their glad tidings of great joy which shall be to all people, that unto them is born again as Saviour who is Christ the Lord, Who has risen from the dead and will incorporate all believers into the new life which He has won for them.
Nature rejoices. The enemy that has violated nature and enslaved her to his designs for man’s destruction is now defeated on the ground of his own kingdom. The earth and nature are freed once again to become cooperators with man in the pursuit of salvation. Nature has groaned for this day, and now shakes in joy with the news of Satan’s defeat and the possibility of new friendship with man through the Word made flesh. This is Word that has made her, preserves her, informs and defines her vocation in relation to man, and now she can hope that man will be born again to respect and honor her.
The bodies of saints rise up from their graves. Those who died in faith, with hope, and loving God are now raised up so that they may become part of this new Resurrection life. The saints are on their way home to God as new members of the Body of Christ whom they can now see, perceive, and follow. They are welcomed into Christ’s Risen Life, and so they move closer and closer to the Kingdom of His love.
Jesus is to be sought for in a threefold manner — firstly, in faith; secondly, in hope; thirdly, in charity. (
(1) Reasonably he seeks Him by faith, who seeks the light of His truth.
In faith we seek to find, discover, know, comprehend, and understand Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life. (St. John xiv. 6) In faith we seek to see and follow Jesus. Faith seeks to hold on to Him and to be transformed by the virtue that issues forth from His being, knowing, and loving.
(2) Earnestly he seeks Him in hope, who looks for the glory of His Majesty.
In hope, we seek Jesus’ glory and so set our affection on high and not on the things of the earth. In hope we stretch forward in eager expectation not only of what we shall be then, but in zeal and passion for what He can make of us beginning here and now.
(3) Fervently they seek Him in charity, who long for the sweetness of His goodness.
With deepest yearning, longing, groaning, hungering, thirsting, passion, appetite, and affection let us long to be with Jesus, that where He is, we might be also. (St. John xvii. 24)These are the three Marys who came to the sepulchre. O Lord Jesus! make us to seek Thee and to find Thee. Amen.
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