‘The Resurrection explains this life which without it would be a mere existence, without purpose, ending the grave after meaningless trials, suffering and temptations.
In the light of the Resurrection we can see that for them who love Christ all things work together for goodness – through the cross and the grave to the Resurrection. Life now has an aim or purpose – to fit us for the fuller life beyond. We are citizens of heaven on a pilgrimage; the end is certain if we remain faithful. Lest we should faint by the wayside, we are supplied for the journey with heavenly armour and protection, with healing, with God and the companionship of the saints.
When all is said and done, the whole purpose and joy of life flows from the Resurrection (the Easter Mass speaks for itself). Therefore with joy, triumph and thanksgiving and unquenchable hope we offer the sacrifice today, for we have all been given an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, that fadeth not away, renewed in heaven for us’.
Raymond Raynes CR, 1903-1958
I was the one who waited in the garden
Doubting the morning and the early light.
I watched the mist lift off its own soft burden,
Permitting not believing my own sight.
If there were sudden noises I dismissed
Them as trick of sound, a sleight of hand.
Not by a natural joy could I be blessed
Or trust a thing I could not understand.
Maybe I was a shadow thrown by one
Who, weeping, came to lift away the stone,
Or was I but the path on which the sun,
Too heavy for itself, was loosed and thrown?
I heard the voices and the recognition
And love like kisses heard behind thin walls.
Were they my tears which fell, a real contrition
Or simply April with its waterfalls?
It was by negatives I learnt my place.
The Garden went on growing and I sensed
A sudden breeze that blew across my face.
Despair returned but now it danced, it danced.
Elizabeth Jennings CBE, 1926-2001
‘It was in the spring-time in Galilee, when the flowers appeared upon the earth, that the Resurrection of our Lord took place, and it is in the spring that, to nations of the Western world, the tidings of the Resurrection always come. Just then, when all nature is chanting songs and shouting messages of life resurgent, in the midst of the young leaves, with a carpet of glad flowers, set in a scene of blossom and beauty, is given to us the vision of the Risen Christ. Later, when the promise has been fulfilled and spring has become summer, and the blue sky already holds the secret of the Ascension, comes the messages of the revelation of Pentecost and the power of the Spirit, to rouse those who believe in Him to think of the Christ of power and prevailing purpose.
It is the gospel of the rise of man that is being preached to us now. Goethe once said to a friend, “Tell me of your faith. I have doubts enough of my own”. To us, weary with the knowledge of our many falls, comes our Lord to tell us of a power to rise that may be ours. His end in coming was not to judge but to save the world, “that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”.
The Church is not just an ark from a drowning world, or a place of refuge from a merciless conflagration. It is the power-house wherein we have sacramental points of contact with the Life behind our life. The power behind life is not just force, but purposive creative Personality, and our sacramental communion is contact with the Resurrection life of Christ our Lord’.
Father Andrew SDC, 1869-1946
Grant, we beseech thee, merciful God: that thy Church, being gathered together in unity by thy Holy Ghost, may manifest thy power among all peoples to the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘They took the body down from the cross and one of the few rich men among the first Christians obtained permission to bury it in a rock tomb in his garden; the Romans setting a military guard lest there should be some riot and attempt to recover the body. There was once more a natural symbolism in these natural proceedings; it was well that the tomb should be sealed with all the secrecy of ancient eastern sepulchre and guarded by the authority of the Caesars. For in that second cavern the whole of that great and glorious humanity which we call antiquity was gathered up and covered over; and in that place it was buried. It was the end of a very great thing called human history; the history that was merely human. The mythologies and the philosophies were buried there, the gods and the heroes and the sages. In the great Roman phrase, they had lived. But as they could only live, so they could only die; and they were dead.
On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realised the new wonder; but even they hardly realised that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn’.
from The Everlasting Man, 1925, by G.K. Chesterton, 1874-1936
‘Living as we do in an age of reductionism, when many theologians think that the Christian faith must be secularised and made as inoffensive as possible, we may think that Paul has been somewhat reckless in making everything depend on the reality of Christ’s resurrection. Is not that one of the weakest and most vulnerable articles in the creed? In this enlightened modern age, surely everyone knows that dead men do not rise. To say that Christian faith stands or falls with the resurrection of our Lord is to offer an unbearable offence to the modern mind. Incidentally, it seems to have been an offence to the ancient mind too, for when Paul preached on the resurrection at Athens, the sophisticated people there laughed at him. They knew as well as people today that dead men do not rise.
Would it not then have been much safer and simpler if Paul had said that Christianity stands or falls by the beauty of Christ’s moral teaching or the integrity of his character or something else acceptable to the liberal secularised mind? Yes, it would have been safer, but it would not have been very exciting and it would not have made many converts to the new faith… Where everything is explained and made acceptable so that Christianity is no more than what reasonable people have always believed from the beginning of civilisation, then it is deprived of interest and is no longer something to get excited or passionate about. Resurrection may be something very difficult to believe and an offence to the rationalist, but at least one can say that it is a really stupendous idea. If Christ has risen, then something has happened that is of first-class significance for every human being, something that should stir us to the very depths’.
John Macquarrie, 1919-2007
Once more I hear the everlasting sea
Breathing beneath the mountain’s fragrant breast,
Come unto Me, come unto Me,
And I will give you rest.
We have destroyed the Temple and in three days
He hath rebuilt it – all things are made new:
And hark what wild throats pour His praise
Beneath the boundless blue.
We plucked down all His altars, cried aloud
And gashed ourselves for little gods of clay!
Yon floating cloud was but a cloud,
The May no more than May.
We plucked down all His altars, left not one
Save where, perchance (and ah, the joy was fleet),
We laid our garlands in the sun
At the white Sea-born’s feet.
We plucked down all His altars, not to make
The small praise greater, but the great praise less,
We sealed all fountains where the soul could slake
Its thirst and weariness.
‘Love’ was too small, too human to be found
In that transcendent source whence love was born:
We talked of ‘forces’: heaven was crowned
With philosophic thorn.
‘Your God is in your image’, we cried, but O,
’Twas only man's own deepest heart ye gave,
Knowing that He transcended all ye know,
While – we dug His grave.
Denied Him even the crown on our own brow,
E’en these poor symbols of His loftier reign,
Levelled His Temple with the dust, and now
He is risen, He is risen again,
Risen, like this resurrection of the year,
This grand ascension of the choral spring,
Which those harp-crowded heavens bend to hear
And meet upon the wing.
‘He is dead’, we cried, and even amid that gloom
The wintry veil was rent! The new-born day
Showed us the Angel seated in the tomb
And the stone rolled away.
It is the hour! We challenge heaven above
Now, to deny our slight ephemeral breath
Joy, anguish, and that everlasting love
Which triumphs over death.
Alfred Noyes CBE, 1880-1958
A Better Resurrection
I have no wit, no words, no tears;
My heart within me like a stone
Is numb’d too much for hopes or fears;
Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
I lift mine eyes, but dimm’d with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the falling leaf:
O Jesus, quicken me.
My life is like a faded leaf,
My harvest dwindled to a husk:
Truly my life is void and brief
And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall—the sap of Spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.
My life is like a broken bowl,
A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perish’d thing;
Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him, my King:
O Jesus, drink of me.
Christina Rossetti, 1830-1894
‘Contemplate the process of resurrection. In one sense, resurrection is an instantaneous act, as the Incarnation was an instantaneous act, and as is our regeneration. But as our Lord lived on earth many years, so we to have to rise gradually to the glory of our resurrection, as the continuous action of our will stablishes us in union with Christ. It is a process, instantaneous in its origin, but continually carried out by all the acts of the Christian life, till its perfect development at the last great day in the redemption of our bodies. As our nature takes into itself the substance of the resurrection life of Christ, we are incorporated into Christ. Christ must be incorporated into us till there remains no faculty that is not full of Christ.
The resurrection of Christ is no mere pledge of a future resurrection. It is the principle of resurrection now going on within us, and in which we must act, moment by moment. The world would have no power over us if we would but realise that we indeed bear within ourselves him who is himself all that future glory’.
Richard Meux Benson SSJE, 1824-1915
‘“No man ever saw God and lived”. And yet, I shall not live till I see God; and when I have seen him I shall never die. What have I ever seen in this world, that hath been truly the same thing that it seemed to me? I have seen marble buildings, and a chip, a crust, a plaster, a face of marble hath pulled off, and I see brick-bowels within, I have seen beauty, and a strong breath from another tells me that that complexion is from without, not from a sound constitution within. I have seen the state of princes, and all that is but ceremony. As he that fears God, fears nothing else, so he that sees God, sees everything else: when we shall see God, we shall see all things as they are. We shall be no more deluded with outward appearances: for, when this sight, which we intend here comes, there will be no delusory thing to be seen. All that we have made as though we saw in this world, will be vanished, and I shall see nothing but God, and what is in him; and him I shall see in the flesh.
Our flesh, even in the resurrection, cannot be spectacles, a telescope to the soul. We shall see the humanity of Christ with our bodily eyes, then glorified; but that flesh, though glorified, cannot make us see God better nor clearer than the soul alone hath done all the time from our death to our resurrection. But as an indulgent father, or as a tender mother, when they go to see the king in any solemnity, delight to carry their child, which is flesh of their flesh and bone of their bone, with them, and though the child cannot comprehend it as well as they, they are as glad that the child sees it, as that they see it themselves; such a gladness shall my soul have that this flesh (which she will no longer call her prison nor her tempter but her friend, her companion, her wife) that this flesh, that is, I, in the re-union and reintegration of both parts, shall see God; for then one principal clause in her rejoicing and acclamation shall be, that this flesh is her flesh, In my flesh I shall see God’.
from a sermon, 1620, by John Donne, 1572-1631
‘[I]f the dead bodies of Christians are honourable, so doubtless are the living; because they have had their blessedness when living, therefore have they in their sleep. He who does not honour his own body as something holy unto the Lord, may indeed revere the dead, but it is then a mere superstition, not an act of piety. To reverence holy places (right as it is) will not profit a man unless he reverences himself. Consider what it is to be partaker of the Body and Blood of Christ. We pray God, in our Church’s language, that “our sinful bodies may become clean through His body”; and we are promised in Scripture, that our bodies shall be temples of the Holy Ghost. How should we study, then, to cleanse them from all sin, that they may be true members of Christ! We are told that the peril of disease and death attends the unworthy partaking of the Lord’s Supper. Is this wonderful, considering the strange sin of receiving it into a body disgraced by wilful disobedience? All that defiles it, intemperance or other vice, all that is unbecoming, all that is disrespectful to Him who has bought our bodies with a price, must be put aside Hear St Paul’s words, “Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more… likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin… let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof”. (Rom. vi.9-12). “If the Spirit of Him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His indwelling Spirit… If ye, through the Spirit, do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live”. (Rom. viii.11).
Work together with God, therefore, my brethren, in this work of your redemption. While He feeds you, prepare for the heavenly feast; “discern the Lord’s body” when it is placed before you, and suitably treasure it afterwards. Lay up year by year this seed of life within you, believing it will one day bear fruit. “Believe that ye receive it, and ye shall have it”. (Mark xi.24). Glorious, indeed, will be the spring time of the Resurrection, when all that seemed dry and withered will bud forth and blossom’.
from Sermon XXI, ‘The Resurrection of the Body’, by Blessed John Henry Newman, 1801-1890
Seven Stanzas at Easter
Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.
It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.
The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that-pierced-died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.
The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.
And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.
John Updike, 1932-2009
Almighty Father, who hast given thine only Son to die for our sins, and to rise again for our justification: grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness; that we may always serve thee in pureness of living and truth; through the merits of the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Low Sunday, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘When Easter comes, the Church delights to remind herself of that newness which is in the risen Christ. On Holy Saturday morning, a new spark must be struck from the flint, to light a new set of candles and lamps; new holy water must be blessed, and a new font; fresh cloths are spread on the altars, and the tabernacle itself, on Easter morning, is full of freshly consecrated Hosts. We are beginning all over again, making all things new. And we have a right to do so, for in the order of grace there is perpetual novelty. In the order of nature there is perpetual affectation of novelty, which never comes to anything; there is nothing new, the wise man reminds us, under the sun, however much, at the moment, things look different. Whereas in the order of grace there is no change apparent, but in truth it is a perpetual spring, inexhaustible in its fecundity.
…[I]n the life of grace, ah, if we could only see it, there is a perpetual burgeoning of new life, nor merely from one Easter to another, from one retreat to another, but with every worthy reception of the sacraments. Perpetual spring, perpetual renovation of our natures, if we could only catch the hour of grace, utilise it, make it our own. Whatever you are, and at whatever time of life you are, that possibility of spiritual renewal is with you no less surely than if you were a boy at school again, or just leaving school to make your way in life. Christ is risen; those tidings can never lose their force with age, nor be staled by repetition; Christ is risen, and life, for the Christian, is always new’.
from an Easter meditation, 1939, by Mgr Ronald Knox, 1888-1957
We thank thee, heavenly Father, for that thou hast delivered as from the dominion of sin and death and hast brought us unto the kingdom of thy Son: and we pray thee that, as by his death he hath recalled us to life, so by his love he may raise us to joys eternal; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Saturday in the Easter Octave, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘Conquering death by death. It is here that we must start in thinking about Christ as Lord. As St John saw in his vision, Jesus holds the keys of hell because he has died and yet is alive. And in the gospels it is the risen Christ who says, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me”. The earliest Christians thought of the resurrection as the event in which God invested Jesus, the carpenter of Nazareth, with authority, brought him to sit on his right hand in heaven to share his, God’s, kingship. Why? First and foremost, because Jesus raised from the dead “dies no more”, as Paul says. The reason Jesus is set free from all the constraints and limits which keep men and women at a distance from God and from each other - from the principalities and powers of the new Testament. The resurrection is not a resuscitation; it is the gift of the new kind of life, the life that exists on the far side of death and hell, of destruction and disintegration. He will not die again, “death has no more dominion over him”. He is no longer the prisoner of the past; he is not an historical memory, whose life is neatly tied up and put away. No, from now on he belongs to all people and all times, he is available to all. He is free’.
Rowan Williams, Lord Williams of Oystermouth (Archbishop of Canterbury, 2002-2012)
Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal Mystery hast established the new covenant reconciliation: grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Thursday in the Easter Octave, Divine Worship: The Missal.
Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more,
Till he became
O let me rise
As larks, harmoniously,
And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.
My tender age in sorrow did beginne
And still with sicknesses and shame.
Thou didst so punish sinne,
That I became
Let me combine,
And feel thy victorie:
For, if I imp my wing on thine,
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.
George Herbert, 1593-1633
‘Man, nature and history have their solution not within themselves but within a divine kingdom that transcends them. This divine kingdom cannot be realised as a climax of human progress upon the plane of history, nor yet as a movement of mankind to an immortality that belongs to it by right. It will be realised by God’s act in “raising up” mankind and delivering it from the contradictions which neither history nor immortality can solve. Yet this divine kingdom will not be far removed from nature and history; for in it both nature and history will be “clothed upon” and fulfilled.
“Non eripit mortalia,
Qui regna dat caelestia”.
It is thus in the Resurrection of the dead that the goal of the individual and the goal of the redeemed society find their perfect coincidence. The individual cannot reach his goal except in union with those who shall share with Him in the love of God and in the Body of Christ. The traditional picture of a final Resurrection and of spirits waiting (though in a conscious and growing activity) for their bodies at the last day, tells of the truth that the perfecting of the individual is reached only in the perfecting of all. Thus the thought of my resurrection is inseparable from the thought of the resurrection of all the members of Christ’.
from The Resurrection of Christ, 1945
by A.M. Ramsey, 1904-1988 (Archbishop of Canterbury 1961-1974)
O God, who dost gladden us with the yearly solemnity of the Resurrection of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord: mercifully grant that we may so observe this temporal feast; that we may be found worthy to attain to everlasting felicity; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Wednesday in the Octave of Easter, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘There is a wonderful economy about the grace of God, and though he never fails us, yet he combines his gift of grace with a complete respect for our own freedom and responsibility.
That means that we must expect to find the proof of the powers of his grace not in easy effortless victories because all our difficulties and temptations melt away, but in strength for the conflict. What is asked of us is not the limp surrender of ourselves to some blind force which will work in us without our knowledge or consent, but the active vigorous response of our whole being to the grace that is given us.
We shan’t drift into living the new life of the man who has been buried and raised again with Christ. God’s grace isn’t given to us to save us trouble or to enable us to do without effort what in fact requires all the effort which our wills can muster; but it does ensure that his power is always available for us, and we can always rely on it.
But remember that if we’re to share his triumph, we must also share the method by which it was achieved. We are committed to the victory of the Cross. And that means not only that we must follow the example of his patience before we can be partakers of his resurrection, but also that God’s power is a power which is only made perfect in weakness and therefore it always involves for us, as it did for the apostles, a real trial of our faith. We can’t separate Easter from all that has gone before. The continuation of Christ’s victory in us means the continuation of Christ’s struggle in us. But never fear. “God giveth us the victory through Our Lord Jesus Christ”. We are actors in the Easter drama, and the crucified risen Lord still continues his Easter triumph in countless human souls. For “we are more than conquerors through him that loved us”’.
from The Easter Drama, 1958, by Hugh Bishop
(Superior of the Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield, 1965-1974)
O God, who by the glorious Resurrection of thy Son Jesus Christ destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light: grant that we, who have been raised with him, may abide in his presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for Tuesday in the Easter Octave, Divine Worship: The Missal.
See the dust on the path lamely dragging:
No, let her be, Mary moves towards her peace,
Deep calls unto deep, a grave for a grave,
A carcass drawing towards a carcass in that unhappy morning;
Three days was this one in a grave, in a world that died
In the cry in the afternoon. It is finished,
The cry that drew blood from her like the barb of a sword.
See her, Christ’s Niobe, drawing with her towards the hill
The rock of her pain from the leaden Easter
Through the dark dawn, through the cold dew, through the heavy dust,
To the place where there is a stone that is heavier than her torn heart;
Uneasily the awkward feet find their way over thorns
With the annoyance of tears doubling the mist before her,
And her hands reaching out to him in barren grief.
Her moan is as monotonous as a dove’s,
Like Orpheus mourning Eurydice
She stands amongst the roses and cries without mourning
‘They have taken away my Lord, taken him away’,
To disciple and angel the same cry
‘And I know not where they have laid him’.
And to the gardener the same frenzy.
Made wild. Broken. She sank within herself in her grief.
The understanding reels and reason’s out of joint, until
He comes and snatches her out of the body to crown her -
Quickly like an Alpine eagle falling on its prey -
With the love that moves the stars, the power that is a Word
To raise up and make alive: ‘and he said unto her, Mary,
She turned herself and said unto him, Rabboni’.
Saunders Lewis, 1893-1985
‘Jesus has decisively “made space” for God in the world of men, so that from now on God is found in the world definitively in the history of Jesus. This is what God's mercy is: an unconditional gift of incalculable cost. It can only be embodied in history in human shape, in the shape of a life and a death seen and accepted as something entirely defined as God’s gift to men; a life which is a total offering both to God and to men, so total that human limitation becomes irrelevant. A human life is not just a matter of history, it is the abiding sign of God’s presence in the world. The empty grave, that strange and ambivalent sign, stands as our reminder that the life of Jesus is not “over”, not limited and defined and tidied up. He is “with us”. In every extremity, every horror and pain, Jesus is accessible as the one who continued to make God’s loving presence wholly present in the depth of his own anguish and abandonment. There is place for God now in all suffering, at the heart of suffering and even of death, because we have seen the glory of God abiding in the squalor and humiliation of Jesus’ execution. Jesus has “authority” in that he had the right to be there and to be called on in suffering and death. He holds the keys of hell, because he has dwelt there and still lives.
Death and the hells of dereliction and abandonment eat up men and women, exhaust them, scrape them out and bring them to nothing. Jesus is already empty, already poor, already nothing, for God is everything in him; and so the inexhaustible life of God meets death and eats it up and exhausts it. “Death and life have contended” says the Easter hymn. And Jesus by death, the death of obedience, of self-emptying, of gift and grace and mercy, has trampled death underfoot, and shown us the way to life by union with the pattern of his death - his mercy, his self-emptying, his self-offering. By this we can, with him, pass from death to life and die for the life of all the world. By service and gift of our whole being to God and to his suffering world, we may stand with Jesus and live the life of God and share the lordly freedom of God’.
Rowan Williams, Lord Williams of Oystermouth (Archbishop of Canterbury, 2002-2012)
‘Easter is concerned with something unimaginable. Initially, the event of Easter comes to us solely through the word, not through the senses. So it is all the more important for us to be won over by the immensity of this word. Because, however, we can think only by employing sense images, the faith of the Church has always translated the Easter message into symbols that point to things the word cannot express. The symbol of light (including the fire) plays a special part; the praise of the Paschal candle - a symbol of life in the midst of the darkened church - is actually praise of him who proved victor over death. Thus the event of long ago is translated into our present time: where light conquers darkness, something of the Resurrection takes place. The blessing of water focuses on another element of creation, used as a symbol of the Resurrection: water can be a threat, a weapon of death. But living spring water means fruitfulness, building oases of life in the middle of the desert. Then there is a third symbol of a very different kind: the sung Alleluia, the solemn singing of the Paschal liturgy, shows that the human voice, as well as crying, groaning, lamenting, speaking, can also sing. Moreover, the fact that man is able to summon the voices of creation and transform them into harmony - does this not give us a marvellous intimation of the transformation that we, too, with creation, can undergo?’
Pope Benedict XVI
‘Today the Crucified tells us: “I am he that liveth and was dead and behold I am alive for ever more. And I hold the keys of death and of hell”. By the free will of his great love, he laid down his life for us, and now he takes it again for ever. It is not indeed as though that life is just a cancelling or reversing of the death. He lives because he died. He lives, not in spite of death but because of it; for the death is love’s extremest measure. For ever he bears the scars of wounds wherewith he was wounded in the house of his friends. Our great High Priest is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. As he was God from everlasting, so he is Man for evermore. But by his death he hath destroyed the power of death and drawn its sting; and by his rising again has restored us to everlasting life.
Life, not death, is now written as the end of human history. But is that all? Must we wait till the end to know that our salvation is made sure? Is he alone in his great deliverance and victory? Is he as one who has escaped by night from a besieged city and got away in safety, leaving his companions unhelped by his escape, most closely beset, maybe, since he has broken through and left them? Are all the gains here on earth as transitory and insecure as ever? Must we wait until we leave this world before we know anything of the power of his endless life?
No so. Because Christ is risen, sin and death can make no final claim to rule this world. Men may yield themselves to the great false gods of pride and greed and hate. They may seek to enthrone themselves above God and to despise his love and justice and mercy and trample the common life of his children beneath the tyranny of self-idolising power; but in very truth the kingdoms that they thus construct are transient and unsubstantial. They are under doom, for the God who rules the earth is the Father who raised up Jesus Christ from the dead - Jesus in whom love has gained the victory over all the powers of death and hell. There is a life here which cannot be touched by death and decay and in each of us there is that which escapes the doom of transiency and sin’s triumph. For consider the Church. Christ has pledged that it shall not fail or die. It is the Body of the risen Christ. Whether men attack it from without or betray it from within, the Church, in its inner life, its essential being, is the endless Life of Christ, perpetuated upon earth. It cannot die, whatever else passes and disappears; for it lives, not by the contrivance or the pathetic aspirations of men, but by the power of him who raised up Jesus Christ from the dead. For within, from the hidden treasury of our glorious Lord, there are dispensed the grace and truth which by his death and resurrection he has unlocked to be not only the reward of high heaven, but the power to enlighten, strengthen, cleanse, renew, and feed our poor human nature while still we are pilgrims to the City of God’.
from The Easter Message, broadcast on Easter Day, 1939, by Edward Keble Talbot CR, 1877-1949
(Superior of the Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield, 1922-1940)
Most glorious Lord of Lyfe! that, on this day,
Didst make Thy triumph over death and sin;
And, having harrowd hell, didst bring away
Captivity thence captive, us to win:
This joyous day, deare Lord, with joy begin;
And grant that we, for whom thou diddest dye,
Being with Thy deare blood clene washt from sin,
May live for ever in felicity!
And that Thy love we weighing worthily,
May likewise love Thee for the same againe;
And for Thy sake, that all lyke deare didst buy,
With love may one another entertayne!
So let us love, deare Love, lyke as we ought,
— Love is the lesson which the Lord us taught.
Edmund Spenser, 1552-1599
‘I want to raise the question whether... it really matters whether Jesus literally rose from the dead or not? What difference can it make to me or anyone else if the story of the resurrection is just a haunting story of something that never in fact occurred, expressing a nostalgic and tragic sense of the inevitable frustration of the noblest human ideals and aspirations. Or even if it witnesses to the survival and triumph of Jesus in a purely spiritual form, while his body was left to decay in the grave as rubbish of no further importance? The answer is that it matters enormously, for the following reasons.
First, that the incarnation - God becoming man - is not just an idea, a pleasant way for us to think about things, but was an actual intervention by God into the process of the universe, and this had its climax in the resurrection.
Secondly, in the incarnation God assumed human nature in its wholeness, body no less than soul, in order to restore it and regenerate it in its wholeness. Therefore Jesus’ body, no less than his soul, was brought back to life, and not discarded, in his resurrection.
But, thirdly, in his resurrection Jesus’ body is not just reanimated as a kind of zombie but is transformed and glorified, raised to a new level of being... it was the same body which was crucified and laid in the grave, but it was in a totally new condition which overcame the normal limitations of material objects. This casts a great deal of light upon the essential nature and the ultimate destiny of the physical universe; it has long been an accepted principle of Catholic theology that grace does not destroy nature but perfects it; we can expand this in the form that grace neither destroys nor rejects nor ignores nature, but welcomes, needs, perfects and transforms it... [and] we can see the transformation and glorification of the human nature of Jesus in his resurrection as the supreme honour and privilege conferred by God on human nature as such and on the human race.
For the human body of Jesus is the place at which the eternal Son of God has, so to speak, keyed himself into the human race and so into the material universe. The resurrection and transformation of the human nature of Jesus in its totality, which the accounts of the Gospel describe, are the initiation of the transformation of the whole created world in him, the setting loose of the re-creative energy which was encapsulated in the human race when the Word became flesh in the womb of Mary’.
Eric Mascall OGS, 1905-1993
V. Let us bless the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost;
R. Let us praise and exalt him for ever.
BLESSING and honour and glory and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne
and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty;
Just and true are thy ways, thou King of Saints;
All glorious thy gifts, thou Spirit of life.
Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might
be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
O GIVE thanks unto the Lord, for he is gracious; And his mercy endureth for ever.
Who hath loved us from all eternity; For his mercy endureth for ever.
And remembered us when we were in trouble; For his mercy endureth for ever.
Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven; For his mercy endureth for ever.
And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; For his mercy endureth for ever.
Who by his cross and passion hath redeemed the world; For his mercy endureth for ever.
And hath washed us from our sins in his own blood; For his mercy endureth for ever.
Who on the third day rose from the dead; For his mercy endureth for ever.
And hath given us the victory; For his mercy endureth for ever.
Who ascended up on high; For his mercy endureth for ever.
And opened wide for us the everlasting doors; For his mercy endureth for ever.
Who sitteth on the right hand of God; For his mercy endureth for ever.
And ever liveth to make intercession for us; For his mercy endureth for ever.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
For the gift of his Spirit; Blessed be Christ.
For the Catholic Church; Blessed be Christ.
For the means of grace; Blessed be Christ.
For the hope of glory; Blessed be Christ.
For the triumphs of his gospel; Blessed be Christ.
For the lives of his saints; Blessed be Christ.
In joy and in sorrow; Blessed be Christ.
In life and in death; Blessed be Christ.
Now and unto the end of the ages; Blessed be Christ.
(Here may be added thanksgivings for particular mercies,
and at their end all shall say together the General Thanksgiving)
BLESSING and honour and thanksgiving and praise more than we can utter,
more than we can conceive, be unto thee, O most adorable Trinity,
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, by all angels, all men, all creatures, for ever and ever.
Amen and Amen.
from Cambridge Offices and Orisons, 1949
arranged by Eric Milner-White and BTD Smith
Side by side, their faces blurred,
The earl and countess lie in stone,
Their proper habits vaguely shown
As jointed armour, stiffened pleat,
And that faint hint of the absurd—
The little dogs under their feet.
Such plainness of the pre-baroque
Hardly involves the eye, until
It meets his left-hand gauntlet, still
Clasped empty in the other; and
One sees, with a sharp tender shock,
His hand withdrawn, holding her hand.
They would not think to lie so long.
Such faithfulness in effigy
Was just a detail friends would see:
A sculptor’s sweet commissioned grace
Thrown off in helping to prolong
The Latin names around the base.
They would not guess how early in
Their supine stationary voyage
The air would change to soundless damage,
Turn the old tenantry away;
How soon succeeding eyes begin
To look, not read. Rigidly they
Persisted, linked, through lengths and breadths
Of time. Snow fell, undated. Light
Each summer thronged the glass. A bright
Litter of birdcalls strewed the same
Bone-riddled ground. And up the paths
The endless altered people came,
Washing at their identity.
Now, helpless in the hollow of
An unarmorial age, a trough
Of smoke in slow suspended skeins
Above their scrap of history,
Only an attitude remains:
Time has transfigured them into
Untruth. The stone fidelity
They hardly meant has come to be
Their final blazon, and to prove
Our almost-instinct almost true:
What will survive of us is love.
Philip Larkin CH CBE, 1922-1985
‘To see the resurrection as no more than a spiritual experience is to abandon the biblical understanding and to pronounce a decree absolute between spirit and matter. Such an attitude conflicts both with the biblical teaching and, being based on an outdated positivism, with the modern scientific understanding of man as a psychosomatic unity.
St Paul says, “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain and your faith is also vain”. The resurrection is at the heart of the apostolic preaching, and our faith in the gospel which it proclaims calls us not to examine it in the light of the idea of this or any subsequent century but to allow it to judge us that we may see creation and ourselves in the light of God’s revelation.
In a sense, we experience two lives between our baptism and our death, two lives, the one in Christ, the other in Adam. We experience both bodily in terms of our existence as human beings, not one spiritual or mental and the other physical. The one is given by physical birth - that in Adam. The other is given by sacramental birth - that in Christ. The one fulfils and transcends the other. In our physical death we experience the natural end of our life in Adam, but our sacramental life in Christ continues. Our physical body is returned to the created universe from which it came and of which it has always been part. But it returns to a created universe which has been redeemed in Christ in his resurrection, of which by virtue of our sacramental life we shall partake.
The challenge of the resurrection is not new. Men and women have, throughout the ages, found it difficult and too demanding to live truly as human beings, and have been tempted to lapse into either an angelism which sees the spiritual as an escape from the material or into a materialism which in the long run has no better message than “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die”. The resurrection of Christ calls us to accept the challenge so to live that we may be fulfilled in the whole of our human nature in and for God’.
Mgr Graham Leonard, 1921-2010
Fr Lee Kenyon