THE RESURRECTION VICTORY
HE uttered a loud cry. He had said, "No man taketh my life from Me." By His loud cry, He declares His power. By His own act, He separates body and soul and commends His spirit to the Father. To the centurion who had stood by many a crucifixion, but none like this, the words and conduct of our Lord wrought conviction. "Truly this man was the Son of God." Behold the penitents smiting their breasts and departing. Hear the loud crash with which the veil of the Temple is rent in twain. Through Christ the way is now open to the Holy of Holies. Joseph of Arimathea begged the body of Jesus. The centurion officially notified the Roman Governor that Christ is dead. With touching tenderness the Holy Body is taken from the Cross. It is placed in the empty tomb, hewn out of the rock. It is anointed with spices, and wrapped in linen, after the Eastern fashion. The stone at the entrance is officially sealed. The Roman guard is set. The shining of the paschal moon presents surprise. The terrified Apostles hide themselves. It looked as if death had conquered and Satan's triumph was complete.
But the Body and Soul of Christ, though separated from one another, were neither of them separated from His Divine Nature. His Body therefore could not see corruption. It had Divine Life in itself. Our Lord's soul, attended by that of the penitent thief, enters the place of the departed spirits. There were assembled those who had looked forward in faith to Christ's Coming. Already John the Baptist, the Forerunner, had announced Him to them. Jesus comes and preaches to "the spirits who were in prison." By His word, He communicated Himself to them. They received what we do by Sacramental Grace. They became thus the spirits of just men, justified by faith, and made perfect.
They were made ready to ascend with Him. Then our Lord brought back His soul and united it to His Holy Body. He rises through the grave clothes and the rocky tomb. The shaken earth throws down the soldiers who, terrified, flee. Jesus has triumphantly risen. But He does not come back to His old condition as when Lazarus was raised. He has passed through death and has the keys of death and hell in His hand. By His Victory, He has changed death from a punishment of sin into a gate of Eternal Life. "This is the day the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it."
O Lord, Mighty Victor over death and hell, Who didst die for our sins and rise again for our justification, grant that we may know Thee and the power of Thy Resurrection. Grant that we may be transformed by Thy indwelling, made partakers of the Divine Nature, be filled with all the fulness of God and share with Thee in Thy everlasting Glory for Thy mercies' Sake. AMEN.
Our lives and character are to be changed. We cannot be what we once were. Nature must be transformed by grace. The old Adam must be put to death. We must not cease our conflict until self-love is subdued. Our old nature must be cast out. With deep humility, we must seek after perfection. We must not place in an ambitious spirit any ideals before us. Surrendered to God's Will, we must desire to become what He would have us become. We must be spiritually content to be some little thing in the Kingdom of God. We must seek perfection with the spirit disengaged from all self-interest. We must leave ourselves in God's hands to do with us as He sees fit.
We are to be as clay in His hands Who is the potter, and can refashion us after His Will. O, to be wholly surrendered to Him, and trust His love! We must be willing to be little, to be poor, to fail, to be disliked, or to be despised. Self must die that the new self may be created in us. We must die first of all with Christ in order to rise with Him. The Resurrection of Christ is not only a fact to be believed, but must be unto us a living power. It must deliver us from dead works, works done in the power of nature, and make our works pleasing to God by being done in the power of the Spirit.
Christ did not appear to His enemies. He had done His work with them. In the days of His Resurrection, He was with His own. The Apostles were assembled together and the doors were shut. Here, as Religious, is our lesson. In the Religious life, we shut out the world. Our Holy Rule helps us to do this. We have parted from it. Its schemes and plans are no longer of any special interest to us. We must guard ourselves against curiosity concerning its affairs. The world will go on in its unbelieving way until the end comes. We are to practise the spirit of detachment. We are to mortify those affections which lead us to it. The world's pleasures, honours, delights, have, or ought to have, no attraction for us. Even true and holy affection must be controlled.
Religious often injure their spiritual progress by undue attachment to externes. Christ, having entered on His Mission, did not go back to visit His Blessed Mother. Nor did the Apostles who had left their nets seek again their father. The soul should guard itself against filling its imagination by novels with fictitious subjects of interest. The soul should be as a garden in which to commune with the Lord. It should be so detached from all forms of work as to be willing to change its work, to go anywhere, to work with anyone at the call of obedience. O the blessedness of having a free heart, one set at liberty by the power of Divine Grace.
Our Lord in the days of His Resurrection opened the minds of His followers to the meaning of Holy Scripture. "He opened to us the Scripture." He began from Moses and all the Prophets, and interpreted to them the things concerning Himself." A Religious should be familiar with the Word of God. In your Community, dear Sisters, it is read every day at Terce. You want so to study it as to have a general knowledge of the separate books. You should be able to meet some of the common objections, as for instance to the miracles or some moral teachings in the Old Testament. Miracles are the natural laws of the spiritual kingdom. The standard of morality revealed by God to man is a progressive one. Above all you should know well the Gospels and their characteristics. Thus in St. Matthew we have the King and the Kingdom set forth. In St. Luke, the Priesthood of Christ more particularly. In St. John, we have His Divinity, Incarnate Life, and Sacraments. St. Mark teaches us of Christ as the Prophet and Man. Thus the symbols of the Gospels are the lion, symbolizing Christ's Kingship, the eagle His Divinity, the ox His Priesthood and sacrificial aspect. St. Mark brings Him before us under the type of a Man and Prophet. Learn texts of Holy Scripture in relation to different subjects, the prophecies concerning Christ in the Old Testament, His promises in the New. Treasure them in your heart. Oft repeat them to yourself. Dear to me are Thy words as one that findeth great spoil.
A Religious must be devoted to the Blessed Sacrament. In the Day of His Resurrection we find our Lord standing on the shore preparing the miraculously obtained food. There is the fire, symbolizing the Holy Ghost; the broiled fish, the Crucified Lord; the honey, typical of His reconciliation and sweetness; the water through which the net of the Church enclosing the fish are brought to Christ symbolizes baptism. All the baptized are in that net, and Christ bids them draw near to the Heavenly feast and come and dine. In a most significant way He reveals the mystery of His Presence in the Holy Eucharist to the disciples at Emmaus. They were wanderers from Jerusalem, but Christ revealed Himself to them. First their hearts were warmed by His teaching, then He took bread and blessed and brake it, and as if it represented Himself, He vanished from bodily sight. It was not the Eucharist but the teaching concerning it. Our Blessed Lord, under the forms of bread and wine, remains in His Church. His presence with us is a source of our strength, our life and joy. How should not the Religious rejoice in His presence, worship Him and love Him with an increasing love? Here he repeats His life when visible amongst us. Here in the Sacrament of the Altar He leads a hidden life. Here He gives us a lesson of humility. Here He extends His visible life, going about doing good. Here He compassionately comes to feed us with Himself, the Bread from Heaven. Here He comes to heal us like the good Samaritan, binding up our wounds and pouring in the oil and wine of His own nature. Here He is the Good Shepherd Who seeks after us, and bears us back in His embrace to the fold. Here He is repeating His sorrowful life, neglected, disbelieved, rejected, often insulted by those He came to save. Blessed is the part of a Religious, who by her worship and love can make some reparation to Him. Blessed their portion who can sit at His feet, and be blessed by His Presence. The Holy Eucharist is the joy of the Christian heart, the very gate to Heaven.
Confession is the strength and comfort of the Religious. Our Lord in His Love established it. He knows well our frailty, our weakness, how often we are taken by surprise, how hard sometimes the monotony of the life is, what are our struggles and needed endurance. In His great Love He has provided for us. Note the fulness and freeness with which He gives us absolution. The fulness; there is no sin to which it does not extend. The freeness; it may be had for the seeking. The Absolution so dear and blessing cost Christ His dread Passion. He loves to exercise His right. Go to Confession knowing that our Lord loves to absolve. The gift He bestows is both preventitive and purifying. He loves to adorn the soul, as a mother loves to adorn her child. We go to Him and it gives Him delight. Why go, we may sometimes say, when so little is to be confessed? Because the Sacrament imparts beyond forgiveness special grace. It strengthens and invigorates the soul. It increases sanctifying or habitual grace. The custom helps to watchfulness, and to the keeping of abiding sorrow. The preparation by careful examen sometimes shows us new faults. We must not be afraid to see them. It's a token of God's love when He shows them to us. Make an act of penitence before you approach the tribunal. Make acts of thanksgiving or reparation afterwards. Add something to the penance given. If you have offended another, seek her out, apologize, make an act of true charity. Every good confession prepares for a happy death.
Our Lord in the Resurrection visited the Disciples. He saluted them with the Benediction, "Peace be unto you." He uttered no reproaches for their desertion. He took them back into His own companionship. He called them by the endearing term "Friend." With what love and tenderness does He not restore Peter to his forfeited Apostleship?
How He condescends to Thomas' rationalizing infirmity, and converts him to the Faith. He first of all seeks the wanderers, sends a message to brokenhearted Peter, makes the Magdalene an apostle to the Apostles. He comes to be our companion in the way of life. We are wayfarers, and He walks beside us. His words develop faith and love in our hearts. How must every Religious grow in love and ever pray "Abide with us, for the day is far spent."