Project Canterbury

From The Works of the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton (Volume 8),
edited by B. Talbot Rogers, New York: Longmans, Green, 1914, pp. 434-448



EASTER, 1905

Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said.      St. Matt, xxviii, 5, 6.

THE resurrection of Christ is the hard adamantine fact upon which Christianity rests. It is the great credential of Christ's mission. It is the foundation of our Christian hope, "for if Christ be not risen we are yet in our sins." The difference between Christ's death and His resurrection is this: by the sacrifice of Himself, Christ made an atonement for mankind, by His resurrection He became the source of our justification. "He died for our sins," we read, "He rose again for our justification." As crucified He is our propitiation, as the conqueror of death He is the source of our new life.

One of the many, certainly one of the dearest, proofs to the Christian of His resurrection is our Lord's own prophecy that He would rise. "He is not here," said the angel, "for He is risen, as He said." "As He said!" How the loving heart trusts itself to, and rests on, our Lord's promises. Believing in Him she knows all He said must be true. He made many prophecies, all of which came to pass. He prophesied as no philosopher or religious teacher ever did, that His word should go throughout the world, and so it has come to pass. He prophesied that ere that generation should pass away Jerusalem would be destroyed, and it came to pass. He prophesied that the simple act of a loving soul, breaking a box of alabaster over His feet should be told in all the world as a memorial of her. We know that this prophecy also has been fulfilled. He prophesied that St. Peter would deny Him; that one of the Apostles should betray Him; that all of them would desert Him. He prophesied that He would be delivered into the hands of wicked men and crucified. It all came to pass, "as He said." He declared how that on the third day after His crucifixion He would rise. The prophecy was made known both to His friends and His enemies. And so it came to pass "as He said." The loving heart that believes in Jesus believes in His power, and trusts His word. The body of the crucified Jesus, that very body which was taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb, rose from out it. "I know," said the angel, "that ye seek Jesus which was crucified. He is not here, for He is risen, as He said."

To understand this act of our Lord we must remember that His death, or the separation of His human soul from His body, was accomplished by His own act. "I have power," he said, "to lay down my life, and I have power to take it again." It was not the pain of the crucifixion that brought about the separation, but His own act, by which the spirit was loosed from His body. To certify it to us He uttered the loud cry, and by His own word commended His spirit to the Father. But though the soul and body were thus temporarily separated, neither was parted from His divine nature. To use an old patristic illustration, they were like the warrior's sheath and sword, separated from each other as the soldier draws the latter from its scabbard. He holds the sword in his hand while the sheath hangs by his side. Neither are separated from his person. So it was with the body and soul of Christ. Though separated from each other, neither was parted from His divine nature. Consequently His body could not, like our bodies, die. His body could not see corruption. Our bodies being disjoined from the soul, their life principle comes under the disintegrating forces of nature. This is necessary in our case, in order that in our new spiritual body derived from Christ we may rise. But our Lord's body being connected with His divine nature, which was the further and supreme source of its life, was indestructible. As it lay in the tomb it was not only guarded by angels, but, as connected with His divine nature and person, an object of their adoration.

Our Lord's soul being separated from His body, went, as we know, into Hades, and there "preached," as St. Peter tells us, "to the spirits in prison." All departed souls up to that time were detained, for as yet, no one, as we read, "had ascended into heaven." Heaven, or the soul's union with God in the beatific vision, could not be attained until the Incarnation. It was attained first of all by the humanity of Christ, through union with the divine nature, and mankind can only attain this proffered end through union with the humanity of Christ. Until our Lord came this end could not be reached by man. He has provided the means for our attainment of it through His church and sacraments. He provided for those who had preceded Him by going into the place of departed spirits, and there communicating to them that same life He communicates to us in the sacramental system. The holy souls who were detained had received from the forerunner, John the Baptist, knowledge of His advent. When our Lord came to them, by communicating Himself through His loving utterances, those good and holy patriarchs and prophets became "the spirits of just men," or men justified by faith, "made perfect." When our Lord had completed this work in the under world, His soul reunited itself to His body, and then He rose. It was not, however, like a coming back to His former condition. It was not like the resurrection of Jairus' daughter, or that of Lazarus. They returned to their former natural life. They would still have to die, but by the reunion of Christ's body and soul, human nature in His person passed through death. Death could have no more dominion over Him. Creation passed on in His person to a new stage of development. He became the completed new head of a new race;  a new race of human beings, who by their union with His nature could pass on to a higher stage of existence. Man is by nature immortal, but eternal life or resurrection to glory is only secured through union with the risen God-man, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the head of this new race, made capable of attaining to future union with God in glory. In Jesus Christ, those who are one with Him are elevated to a permanently divinized condition with its vouchsafed security of eternal bliss. Consequently we can see why Christ did not appear to Pilate, and Caiaphas or His other enemies. One reason was He had done His work with and for them. The works of God in the spiritual order proceed as in the natural order, from stage to stage, with ordered and fixed regularity. One geological period succeeds another and never returns to a past condition, so too, Christ had in His public life done His work for humanity. He had completed one portion of His work. His work for the world was now over and done. "I pray not," He now said, "for the world, but for those Thou hast given me out of it." So in this new stage of creation into which humanity had passed, Christ gathered about Him those and those only who were His, and who were becoming participants of His nature. Imperfect as yet, weak as they had been, nevertheless they were those God had given Him. They were His sheep, the lambs of His own fold, the sinners of His own redeeming. He appeared thus to them and to them only. They were His dear children. He called them by the most endearing terms. He comforted, restored, reestablished them in Himself. The work of the new or developed creation thus advanced a stage to its completion. It is founded in union with Himself and His risen person.

Let us consider now some lessons from His various appearances to those He loved. He first appears in the garden to Blessed Mary Magdalene. As the Holy Virgin is a type of the Church in its purity, so Mary Magdalene is a type of the Church pardoned and restored. As in the garden, man, tempted by woman, fell, so in the garden is woman made the apostle to the Apostles, and brings the knowledge of the resurrection. There in the garden God had withdrawn the superadded manifestation of His presence with its gift of grace, here by the manifestation of Himself He gives knowledge of its restoration. There he had punished woman's inconstancy, here He rewards her fidelity and devotion. At the cross our Lord spoke not to her as she heroically waited beside Him; now He makes up for that silence which she so humbly accepted, by speaking first to her.

His resurrection is not only an object lesson and proof of the future to all those who are re-created in Him, but also a pledge of our future recognition and union with those we love. Natural ties and relationships have only a natural endurance, but ties formed in grace have on them the seal of eternity. The love of the Magdalene for her Lord was to be permanent, and her recognition of Him and His word to her were to be a pledge to us. "Touch me not," He said, "for I have not yet ascended." It was not to forbid her loving embrace, but to spiritualize and elevate it. She must come to realize the higher and more spiritual union between them. "Touch me not," He says not now in the old human way, for I am not yet ascended. His word contained, however, the promise that when He had ascended He would not be separated from her. He said the same, indeed, to His disciples. Not only would the Holy Spirit be with them, but "I will come unto you." Abiding in His Church He would provide the means by which those who loved Him might not only kiss His holy feet, but receive Him into themselves. He would make Himself known unto them in the breaking of bread. He would feed them with the spiritual food of His most precious body and blood. He would gather their hearts and wills, their bodies and souls, into union with His own. His life would flow into their life; His virtues into them, transforming them, as they corresponded by faith and hope and love with His gift of grace. This transformation and future elevation into glory and secured condition of sinless-ness and bliss no other system so fully as that of the Catholic Church and its faith and sacraments secures and makes known.

Again, consider how our Lord sought out the two wandering disciples, on the Emmaus Road. If He first appeared to the great, generous, courageous, intensely loving penitent, He next would shepherdlike seek for the straying sheep. These two disciples were in their depression wandering away from Jerusalem. They, in great distress of mind, were losing their faith. They had received a great shock. Like unto persons in our own time, they had set before them the work Christ was to accomplish.

They had conceived the kind of Kingdom He was to establish. It was to revive the ancient splendor of David and Solomon. The Roman yoke was to be broken, and in all their magnificence the ancient prophecies of a temporal kingdom would be fulfilled. So too, now, many are looking for some outward triumph of Christianity, when the world will acknowledge its supremacy, and submit itself to its rule. But as the world rose up against Christ, so finally it will rise against His representative, the Church. "When the Son of Man cometh will He find faith on the earth?"

To the wandering disciples the glory that once surrounded Christ had faded away. They were disconsolate and sad at heart, and the light of faith was flickering in its socket. Then Christ puts Himself beside them. He lovingly stoops to their condition. His object is to aid them in the recovery of their faith. Little by little He opens their minds to the inner and true meaning of the Scriptures. The Messiah they looked for was not to come in the pomp and glory of an earthly King, He was to conquer by suffering. He was to be afflicted for His brethren's sake. By his stripes we were to be healed. He was to be the priest and victim, the Lamb of God, and of His atoning death, the law, the prophets, and the psalms bore concurring witness. And as He spoke, their hearts burned within them and their faith revived and finally their eyes were opened and they knew Him, as He made Himself known in the breaking of bread.

How common is that experience of the soul's recovery of faith. It is the work of Christ and the Holy Ghost. Restored faith is the result of an acceptance of the Church's traditional interpretation of the Scriptures, and our cooperation with the grace. For we Christians live in two worlds: in the natural and material world, and that new order or world Christ has established. The natural world is upheld by God, Who is imminent in it. All its activities, and we ourselves, are upheld by the Divine power. In this world we see and know by our natural powers of reason and conscience. But the other or spiritual world, the new spiritual organism, is upheld by the God-man, Jesus Christ. What Almighty God is to the natural world, that the incarnate God is to the new spiritual world. The first is sustained by God's power, for all power comes from God; the second is sustained by grace, and grace comes forth from the humanity of Christ. In the first or natural order we walk by reason, experiment, and sight; in the other we walk by our natural powers illuminated by faith. We are in a new environment. We have the Holy Spirit in us. We have also the gift of illuminating grace, so we walk by the light, not of mere reason, but of faith.

This explains to you, beloved, why not many mighty or wise in their own conceits are Christian believers. In our time we find many intellectual persons, some of whom call themselves higher critics, who disbelieving in the supernatural, or minimizing it, are denying the miracles of the Old and New Testament, and such fundamental facts of the Christian faith as our Lord's birth of the Blessed Virgin, and the resurrection of His crucified body. They are either persons like most of the German critics, who are yet in the natural order, and not being members of the Holy Catholic Church, are not in the reception of all the sacramental means of grace Christ has left, and so are living without the sphere of the divine illumination. They are mostly moral persons, leading good useful lives, for it is in the interest of the great enemy of souls to leave such without special temptations. There are others, some in our own communion, who not corresponding with that environment as members of the divine organism of the Catholic Church, and walking chiefly by the light of natural reason, have fallen into like errors. It is impossible to convert such by argument. It can only be done by the grace of God, leading them to give up their own opinions, and to submit like little children to the decisions of the Catholic Church, in which Christ and the Holy Spirit dwell, and through whose united voice They speak. Faith, dearly beloved, is the gift of God, and real faith, as Dr. Pusey wrote, is entire. It accepts all that Christ says because He says it, and it listens to the teachings of the Holy Church as to a spiritual mother.

Again, take our Lord's appearance to Blessed Peter. Christ first seeks the wanderers, then sends His word of welcome to the broken-hearted Apostle. He had prayed for Peter especially. He did not pray that Peter should not deny the faith, for he did so. He made no prayer or promise of his infallibility. We know this by the result, for Peter who confessed our Lord to be the Son of God denied the faith when he implied He was but a man. But Christ prayed that denying the dogmatic faith, Peter's faith in Himself should not fail. And though he did thus fall, nevertheless our Lord by His look won Peter to true though bitter repentance. And now we behold our Lord in the day of His resurrection restoring Peter to the Apostleship and the place in it he had forfeited. He was the first of the Apostolic College; he was the foundation layer of the new kingdom; to him were given the keys to open it to Jew and Gentile; he was to guide the sheep and feed the lambs; he was to bring in the sheep of the old dispensation and feed the lambs of the new. This duty did not involve his having any authority over other shepherds or imply that there were other shepherds to be under him. Such an idea is rendered impossible by our Lord's saying, when St. Peter asked what his brother Apostle John should do, "What is that to thee?"

We joy in St. Peter's restoration and find in it also a promise and pledge of our own; no matter how far we have gone astray, or however we may have lost our gifts of grace, Christ can restore them to us. Man says the past cannot be recalled. God says it can. "I can blot out thy iniquities." He can re-create the soul, He can give back all the graces we have wasted. He can restore the soul to the fullness of its lost heritage. And we see how, in the days of His resurrection, He established the means for this rehabilitation. It was at this time He established the sacrament of Baptism, and also gave to His Apostles the power of absolution. The order, we perceive, of the administration of the sacraments is different from the order of their institution. For we find Baptism and Absolution instituted after that of the Blessed Sacrament. Why is this? Because it belongs to our Lord's kingship, to make subjects of His kingdom by Baptism, or restore them by His royal power of pardon. The sacraments of Baptism and formal Reconciliation were therefore established in the days of His resurrection. He breathed on the Apostles and said, "Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted," and thus left in His Church the power of restoration to penitents. It is a wonderful gift, for by the sacerdotal absolution not only is forgiveness sealed, but the stains of sin are removed and a gift of grace is given to fortify the soul against future temptation. Do not, however, suppose that our public absolutions, in our public prayer or communion office, are the exercise of this sacerdotal power. They may avail for the removal of the dust of infirmities which settle upon our souls, but they are not the exercise or communication of that gift of absolution. For that is a judicial act, and so necessitates the confession of sin to God made in the presence of the priest. In the early church confession was public, and penances were severe. So severe was the penitential discipline that it led many, in the third and fourth centuries, who believed in Christianity, nevertheless to refuse to be baptized. So the church under her spiritual guidance wisely altered her discipline. What a blessing this is to humble and loving souls. Ask any who use this means of grace what are its results. The largely concurrent opinion and the lives of the saints bear witness to its efficacy and power.

Lastly, let us consider the appearance of our Lord in the upper chamber. The terrified disciples have closed and barred the doors for fear of the Jews, when suddenly the thin air seems to yield before them and our Lord appears in the midst. He comes not only to forgive and restore, but to be in the midst of His Church, its abiding strength. Thus the true church of Christ has within it a resurrection power. Nothing can destroy it. The Roman Empire plotted its destruction and sought by persecution to stamp it out. The great flood of barbaric invasions swept over Europe, but failed to sweep it away. The rise of Mohammedan fanaticism which once seemed to threaten its destruction, met finally its own defeat. Heresy after heresy rose within the church, but the Holy Spirit speaking through the church's ecumenical councils, preserved, by new definitions, the faith which had been received from the beginning. The worldliness and sensuality, which invaded the church from within and presented so ghastly a spectacle at Rome in the tenth and other centuries, passed away conquered by religious orders and the lives of the saints.

The modern spirit of rationalism can no more overthrow the Catholic faith than that of former attacks. As the discoveries of Copernicus and Galileo only made more clear the faith they seemed at first to contradict, so the discoveries of modern science are only strengthening the Catholic position respecting God and Christ. The disintegrations of Protestantism are showing to thoughtful men the necessity of having some more solid basis of belief than that of "the Bible and the Bible only." Attacked again and again as the Church has been by the winds and waves which have seemed almost to engulf her, nevertheless the earnest cry of the ship-men has caused Christ to rise and at His rebuke there has been a great calm.

Of all portions of Christianity perhaps none have gone through greater trials than that of the Anglican Church. For more than a century she was struggling with Protestantism on the one hand, and Papalism on the other. She was almost crushed out of existence under the iron heel of Cromwell. The secession of the non-Jurors drained her episcopate of its learning and its spiritual life. The Erastianism of the eighteenth century and its cold legality scarce left her alive. The bitter and ignorant opposition of the nineteenth century to the revival of the Church's life, drove many of her devoted sons to Rome. Yet in spite of all opposition, the validity of her orders and efficacy of her sacraments have demonstrated themselves by their results. The body that was thought to be dead has arisen. The Church has vindicated her Apostolic descent and catholicity.

The Religious life for men and women has been revived. The Holy Sacrifice is being offered daily on many altars. The ceremonial and ornaments that mark the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist are being restored. The Church, filled with a fresh love for her Lord and zeal for humanity, is going forth to a world-wide mission. Angels are guarding her. The saints are interceding for her. The Holy Ghost is inspiring her. Her sons and daughters are being found in every part of the world among the heathen, and the worse heathen in our great city slums; yielding up their lives in the Master's service. It is a glorious and blessed cause.

What part have we in this work? How do we stand towards it. Are we letting it pass by unheeding the call for help? Are we too absorbed in pleasure, or gain, or the world's interests to recognize it? Are we missing the day of our visitation and its eternal reward? Are we doing what we can and all we can for the great cause? There is none greater on earth; none dearer to God, none more profitable for our own and other souls. Upon the Catholization of the Anglican Church hangs the destiny of Christendom. What shall we personally do toward it? What reply shall we make to Christ's call? One thing is there, and one thing only, in this world entirely worth knowing, and that is God's will in our regard.

One thing is there in this world, and one thing only, entirely worth the doing, and that is conformation to His will.

Project Canterbury