Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not.
Mary Magdalene, because she loved much and gave divers good proofs of it, had this morning divers favours vouchsafed her; to see Him before any other, first of all. He spake to her, 'Mary;' she spake to Him, Rabboni. Hitherto all was well. Now here, after all this love, after all these favours, even in the neck of them as it were, comes an unkind word or two, a noli Me tangere, and mars all; turns all out and in. Make the best of it, a repulse it is; but a cold salutation for an Easter-day morning.
A little before He asked why she wept. This is enough to set her on weeping afresh. For if she wept for sustulerunt Dominum, that others had taken away her Lord; much more now, when her Lord takes away Himself from her, that she may not so much as touch Him.
We observed that this morning Christ came in two shapes, and at either of them spake a speech. At first He came unknown, taken for a gardener; the latter, He spoke in His own voice, and became known to her. I know not how, but unknown Christ proves better to her than when He came to [23/24] be known; better for her, He had kept Himself unknown still, for then unknown He asked her kindly why she wept, as much to say as, Weep not, noli me tangere, noli me plangere--there is some comfort in that. But known, He grows somewhat strange on the sudden, and asks her what she means to come so near Him, or offer to touch Him; which must needs be much to her discomfort, to be forbidden once to come near or touch her Saviour, and to be forbidden by His own mouth.
But there is good use of noli me plangere, and noli me tangere, both. One we have touched already; of the other, now. One would little think it, but they sort well, Quid ploras? and noli me tangere. Quid ploras? To rejoice at His rising; noli me tangere, to do it with reverence. They amount to exultate in tremore.
The verse of itself, falls into two parts. We may divide it, as the Jews so the Law, into Do not, and Do; somewhat forbidden there is, and somewhat bidden. Forbidden--do not, not touch me; bidden--but do. 'go your ways and tell.' The forbidding part stands of two points; 1. a restraint, and 2. a reason. I. The restraint in these; noli me tangere, &c. II. The reason in these; nondum enim, &c. 'for I am not yet ascended,'&c.
The bidding part, of three. 1. A mission or commission, to go do a message, vade et dic. 2. The parties to whom; 'to My brethren,' that is, to His Disciples. 3. the message itself, 'I ascend to My Father,' &c. And this latter is as it were an amends for the former; that the text is like the time of the year--the morning somewhat fresh, but a fair day after. Noli me tangere, the repulse, is the sharp morning; vade et dic, the welcome message, the fair day we spoke of, that makes all well again.
Either of these will serve for a sermon; the former noli me tangere, &c. it is so full of difficulties, but withal, of good and needful caution. The latter of the message, it is so fraught with high mysteries, and beside, with much heavenly comfort. they call it Mary Magdalene's Gospel, for glad tidings it contains; and what is the Gospel else? The first Gospel or glad tidings after Christ's resurrection. The very Gospel of the Gospel itself, and a compendium of all the four. Of [24/25] which, if God will, at some other time. Now I will trouble you no farther but with, 'Touch Me not, for I am not yet ascended to the Father.'
No sooner had Christ's voice sounded in her ears, but she knew straight--Rabboni, it was He; and withal, as it may be gathered by this noli Me, &c, she did that which amounted to a volo te tangere; that is, she made towards Him, stretched forth her hand, and offered, would have touched Him, but for this 'Touch Me not.' 'Touch not;' why 'not?' What harm had there been if He had suffered her to touch him? The speech is strange to be spoken either by Him or to her; the reason, the 'for,' yet more strange; many difficulties in both: God send us well through them! There be but three words. 1. Noli, 2. Me, and 3. tangere 'touch' at which of these three you will--tangere the thing; noli and Me, the two parties; Me, Him, Christ; noli, her, Mary Magdalene; you will find somewhat strange this speech of His.
Tangere, the thing, 'Not touch?' Why, it is nothing to touch, and because it is nothing, might have yielded to. And yet to touch Christ, is not nothing. Many desired, yet, strove, to touch Him; there went virtue from Him, even while He was mortal; but now He is immortal, by all likelihood much more. That was not her case, to draw aught from Him; it was pure love, and nothing else, she desired it. To love, it is not enough to hear or see; it is carried further, to touch and take hold; it is affectus unionis, and the nearest union is per contactum.
Secondly, the parties. Me, not Me, not Christ. Why not Him? Christ was not wont to be so dainty of it. Divers times, and in divers places, He suffered the rude multitude to throng and to thrust Him. What speak we of that, when not three days since He suffered other manner of touches and twitches both? Then, noli Me tangere would have come in good time; would have done well on Good-Friday. Why suffered He them then? why suffered He not her now? She, I dare say for her, would have done Him no hurt, she. Noli, is to her; not she, not Mary Magdalene. She had touched Him before now; touched His head, touched His feet, anointed them both; what was done she might not now? She hath even now, this morning, brought odours in her [25/26] hand to embalm Him; and with these, and with no other hands doth she offer to touch Him at this time:--she might have been borne with. It was early; as early as it was, she had this morning given many good proofs of her love. 1. That she was so early up; 2. came to the grave first; 3. stayed there last; 4. had been at such cost; 5. had taken such pains; 6. had wept so many tears; 7. would not be comforted, no not by Angels, till she had touched Him; and now she has found Him, not to touch Him? All these might have pleaded for as much as this comes to. For all these, one poor touch had been but an easy recompense. Of all other this prohibition lay not against her; of all times, not at this.
But if we go further, and look the reason, we shall find it yet more strange; it will increase the doubt. 'Touch Me not, for I am not yet ascended.' What a reason is this? As who should say; when He was ascended, she should then. But then when He was ascended, one would think she should be farther off than now. Si stans in terrâ tam prope non tangitur, receptus in cælum quomodo tangitur? 'If standing on earth by her, He is not touched when He is taken up into heaven, no arm will then reach Him.'--past touching then. That if not till then, never. The reason makes it yet farther from reason. No remedy, but we must pray a consultation, as they call it, upon this prohibition.
It cannot be denied, but for noli me, there is a time and place. It is worth the noting; the world began with a noli me tangere--both the worlds. The old world; the first words in a manner God spake then, were a kind of noli me tangere; Touch not the forbidden fruit. And as in the old, so here at the beginning this new, for with Christ's rising began the new creature, it is Christ's first speech we see. Christ rising, it is His first precept, His first law is negative; it is the first thing He forbiddeth us, the first He thought good to warn us of. Of His first words we shall have special care, I trust. The rule is, things that will hurt us, best not touch. Best not touch? no sound and good was Arsenius the Hermit's advice touching those: Impera Evæ et cave serpentem, et tutus eris; tutior autem, si arborem non aspexeris, [26/27] 'Can you command Eve. Can you so? And can you beware the serpent ? Well; do so then, and you will be safe. But here you, tutor, you will be yet more safe, if you see not, look not upon, come not within the reach, no not within the sight of the forbidden tree.' But Christ is not the forbidden tree; the tree of life rather, to be touched and tasted, that we may live by Him. No place in Christ for a noli me tangere.
Of those that hurt us, some we have no sense of at the first. Such are all things unlawful and forbidden; which, though for the time they seem pleasant, yet they have their stings in their tail; sooner or later we shall find they will hurt us, any fruit of the forbidden tree.
Other things we feel hurt us, we forbear easily. An angry inflammation there is, the name of it is a noli me tangere; and not that only, but any boil or sore endures not the touching. What? had Christ any sore place about Him, since His Passion? No; for St. Thomas put his finger, nay, his whole hand into the place of His wounds, and put Him to no pain at all. No place in Christ, for this noli me tangere neither.
Not to hold you longer, noli Me tangere can rise but one of these ways; either out of 1. noli, or 2. out of Me; ex parte tacti, or ex parte tangentis; Him that was touched, or hers that did touch Him. 1. 'Touch Me not,' I shall hurt you, I am hot or sharp--ex parte tangentis. Fire, I shall scorch you; an edge tool, I shall wound you; pitch, I shall defile you; an edge tool, I shall wound you; pitch, I shall defile you; some contagious things, I shall infect you. Every one of these cries, noli me tangere. But neither of these hath place in Christ. Christ rising was not now in state to receive any hurt, and neither now, nor ever in case to do any, to prick or to burn the fingers of any that touch Him.
We resolve then, it was not on Christ's part, this 'touch Me not.' It should then more properly have been nolo Me tangi; but it is noli Me tangere, and so on hers. No let in Him but He might be touched; the let in her, she might not touch Him. That it was never Christ's meaning, after He was risen, He would not be touched of any at all, it is evident. This very day, at even, appearing to the eleven, He not only suffered, but invited them to touch Him; no more palpate Me, which is touch Me thoroughly. This very chapter at the [27/28] twenty-seventh verse, He calls to St. Thomas, infer digitum, 'to put in your finger;' no affer manum, 'hand' and all; which is to touch, and touch home I am sure.
How then? would He have men touch Him, and not women? nor that, neither. This is the first appearing; at His second, and next to this, certain women met Him on the way; He suffered them to touch Him, and take Him by the feet. Some virtuous women it may be, but Mary Magdalene had been a notorious sinner, and so unworthy of it. No, nor that; for those, of the women who met Him, and so touched Him she was one. Mary Magdalene touch, and Mary Magdalene not touch! the difficulties grow still. For I ask, if at the second appearing, why not at the first? Why after, and not now? Why there, touch and spare not, and here noli Me tangere, not come hither?
Let me tell you what we have gained yet; these three things. 1. The prohibition is not real; the touch, the thing is not forbidden, it is but personal. 2. Nay, not personal, neither absolutely; not she simply, but not she as now at this time. She might touch it seems, for she did not long after. Mary Magdalene might, but not this Mary Magdalene. 3. And last, that it is not final; there is life, there is hope in it. Not never to touch, but not stando in his terminis, 'standing in the terms she does.' What terms are those? And now, lo, we are come to the point, to that we search for.
Three senses I will give you, and they have great authors all three, Chrysostom, Gregory, Augustine. I will touch them all three, and you may take your choice of them; or if you please, take them all, for they will stand well together.
One is, it is Chrysostom's, that all was not well--somewhat amiss; she something to blame in the manner of her offer which was not all as it should. The most we can make she failed in somewhat. Not that she did it any immodest or indecent manner; God forbid! never think of that. But only a little too forward it may be, not with that due respect that was meet.
We see by that is past, how the world went. Christ said, 'Mary;' she answers Him with her wonted term, with a Rabboni. And as she saluted Him with her wonted term, so after her wonted fashion she made towards Him, to have [28/29] touched Him; not in such manner as was fit to have been observed, or with that regard which His new glorified estate after His resurrection might seem justly to require. It is in 'Me,' not the same 'Me' He was. That that was enough to Christ a few days ago, was nothing near enough to-day for Him. He that three days since endured so much, the day is now come, He will be touched after another fashion. Propter hoc exaltavit Eum Deus, 'For to this end God so highly exalted Him.' I tell you plainly I did not like her Rabboni, it was no Easter-day salutation, it would have been some better term expressing more reverence. So her offer would have been in some more respective manner, her touch no Easter-day touch; her tangere had a tang in it, as we say. The touch-stone of our touching Christ, is with all regard and reverence that may be. Bring hers to this, and her touch was not the right touch, and all for want of expressing more regard; not for want of toto but tanto; not of reverence at all, but of reverence enough.
Two causes they give of this fail. One, a defect in her judgment; the other, an excess in her affection. Her amiss in the manner grew out of her amiss in the mind; a misconceit, He had been but even Rabboni still. As it should seem, it seemeth to her, it was with Him no otherwise than with her brother Lazarus; that Christ had risen idem Quui prius, neither more nor less, but just the same He was before. To be saluted, approached, touched, as formerly He had been. Formerly, He might have been touched; she thought He might have been even so still. Whereas with Him the case was quite altered, He risen in a far other condition than so; His corruptible had now put on incorruption, and His mortal immortality. He died in weakness and dishonour, rose again in power and glory. And as in another state, so to another end; not to stay upon earth or converse here any longer, but to ascend up into heaven. There was no ascendi in her mind.
His reason imports as much. You touch me not as if I were upon ascending, but as if to stay here still. For in saying 'I am not yet,' His meaning is, before long He should. Nondum ascendi, 'yet I am not;' but ascendo, 'presently I am to do it,' to leave this world and all here beneath, and to go [29/30] up and take possession of my kingdom of glory. To this new glorious condition of His there belonged more than Rabboni, another manner approach than more solito. He being so very highly exalted, and far otherwise than He was, her access to have been according; not being so, it made her unmeet to touch Him now. No, if you be but at Rabboni, and make towards Me in no other sort than thus, noli Me tangere.
Hence we learn, that when He sees we forget ourselves, Christ will take a little state upon Him; will not be saluted with Rabboni, but with some more seemly term. St Thomas', 'My Lord and My God,' a better far than Rabboni. Nor to be approached to after the old accustomed fashion, but with some more seemly respect, sicut decet sanctos. They that press to touch Him, they are in Mary Magdalene's case. Her noli Me tangere homely with Him, they are in Mary Magdalene's case. Her noli Me tangere touches them home. And their punishment shall be, that touch Him they shall not.
It is no excuse to say, all was out of love; never lay it upon that. Love, Christ loves well; but love, if it be right oÙ perpereÚetai, nihil facit perperam, saith the Apostle oÙk _schmoue, doth nothing uncomely, keeps decorum; forgets not what belongs to duty and decency, carries itself accordingly. And such love Christ loves. Otherwise, love may and does forget itself otherwhile; and then, in that case, the heathen man's saying is true, importunus amor parum distat a simultate, 'such love is not love.' A strange kind of love when for very love to Christ we care not how we use Him, or carry ourselves towards Him. Which being the case, she heard, and heard justly, Noli Me tangere; you are not know in case, till you will have learned to touch after a more regardful fashion.
This may truly be said; she was not before so carried away with sorrow--that passion, but she was now as far gone in the other of joy, and so like enough to forget herself in offering to touch Him no otherwise than heri and nudius tertius, 'as two or three days ago' she might have done. St. Peter's case in the Mount was just her case here: 'He knew not what he said,' nor she, what she did; so surprised with the sudden joy, as she had no leisure to recollect herself, and [30/31] to weigh the wonderful great change this day wrought in Him.
Out of which our lesson is, that in the sudden surprise of any passion Christus non est tangibilis, 'no touching Christ then.' But when the passion is over and we come to ourselves, it will be with us as with her; her affection calmed, her judgment settled better than now on the sudden it was as it seemed, she will then be fit, and then she may be admitted; and so she was, and did touch Him; but that time, when she did so touch Him, she was upon her knees, down at His feet, another manner of gesture than here she offered.
Say she were unfit, yet hangs there a cloud still, all is not clear. For why then did others touch, to our seeming as unfit as she? Thomas with his faith in his fingers' ends? The rest, in whose teeth He cast their unbelief and hardness of heart--they touched Him at first; why not she as well as they? They were unfit, I grant, but their unfitness grew ex alio capite, 'another way than did hers.' They believed not, were in doubt; thought He had been but a ghost. To rid them of that doubt, that they may might be sure it was He, and be able to say another day 'which our hands have handled of the word of life,' they were suffered to touch Him. Touching was the proper cure for their disease. So was it not her hers. She never doubted a whit, was sure He whose voice she heard was Rabboni. She had no need to be confirmed in that, her disease grew another way. Not from want of faith--of fear rather; from want of due regard. To touch would not have cured her disease, but made it worse. So, they touched because they believed not; she touched not, because she misbelieved, believed not of Him aright. They touched, that they might know He was risen; she touched not, that she might know He was so risen as she wrongly imagined that is, as in former times she had known Him.
Out of that hath been spoken we learn, that they be not so well advised who, if they hear one speak of noli me tangere, imagine straight it must needs be meant of a boil, ulcer, or some dangerous sore. Every noli me tangere is not so; Christ's here is not so. Learn here, there doth to excellency belong a noli me tangere, including reverence, no less than to boils or sores procuring indolency. 'Touch me not,' come [31/32] not near me, I am 'unclean,' saith the leper. Stand back, touch not my skirts, 'I am holier than you,' saith one, Esay the sixty-fifth; that is, touch me not, I am so pure and clean, as if to His excellent holiness there belongeth this privilege, not to be touched.
The truth is, in the natural body the eye is a most excellent part, but withal so tender, so delicate, it may not endure to be touched, no, though it ail nothing, be not sore at all. In this civil body the like is: there are in it both persons and matters, whose excellency is such they are not familiarly to be dealt with by hand, tongue, or pen, or any other way. The persons, they are as the apple of God's own eye, christi Domini. They have a peculiar nolite tangere, by themselves. Wrong is offered them, when after this, or in familiar or homely manner, any touch them. The matters likewise, Princes' affairs, secrets of state, David calleth them magna et mirabilia super se, and so super nos; points too high, too wonderful for us to deal with. To these also, belongs this 'Touch not.'
And if of Kings' secrets this may truly be said, may it not as truly be said, may it not as truly of God, of His secret decrees? May not they, for their height and depth, claim to this noli too? Yes sure; and I pray God, He be well-pleased with this licentious touching, nay tossing His decrees of late; this sounding the depth of His judgments with our line and lead, too much presumed upon by some in these days of ours. Judicia Ejus abyssus multa, saith the Psalmist, 'His judgments are the great deep.' St. Paul, looking down into it, ran back and cried, 'O the depth!' the profound depth! not to be searched, past our fathoming or finding out. Yet are there in the world that make but a shallow of this great deep, they have sounded it to the bottom. God's secret decrees they have them at their fingers' ends, and can tell you the number and the order of them just, with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Men that sure must have been in God's cabinet, above the third heaven, where St. Paul never came. Mary Magdalene's touch was nothing to these.
This was but on the by. The main of the text, that it beareth full against, ex totæ substantiæ, is undue and undutiful carriage, and against them that use it. Not that Mary Magdalene's was such; hers was but Tekel, certain grains too light, [32/33] minus habens; not altogether without regard, but not altogether so full of regard as it might and ought to have been. Make it as little as you will, Christ saith noli to it; and noli is a word of unwillingness. Christ is not unwilling with aught that is good; what He saith noli to, is eo ipso not good, would be forborne, would not be offered Him, be it no more than hers was. She, it may be, shewed more regard than we; yet, if we shew not more regard than she, we shall hardly escape this noli Me tangere.
But from this we rise. If Christ said noli to her who failed but in tanto, what will He say to them who fail both in tanto and in toto? The noli to her given, reacheth them in a higher degree. Greater must their fault be now, than hers was then. She had no noli to warn her; they have hers to warn them, and will take no warning by it. Christ, as He saw she was, so He foresaw others would be as, yes more defective this way. The noli that was given to her, was in her given to them all. Even to this day Christ crieth still, noli Me tangere, even to this day there is use of it, to call upon us for a better touch.
If the text be against rudeness, to restrain it, then it is for reverence to enjoin it. If He say noli to the want of regard, we know what He will say volo to; that the more respectively, the better we carry ourselves, the better He will like us. This is sure: He will be approached to in all dutiful and decent sort, and He will not have us offer Him any other. Whatsoever is most or best in that kind, if there be any one better than other, be that it. The best we have I am sure is not too good for Christ. It is better to render account to Him of a little too much, than of a good deal too little.
Take this with you: Christ can say noli then. For I know not how, our carriage, a many of us, is so loose; covered we sit, sitting we pray; standing or walking, or as it takes us in the head, we receive; as if Christ were so gentle a person, we might touch Him, do to Him what we list, He would take all well, He hath not the power to say noli to anything. But He hath we see and saith it, and saith it to one highly in His favour; and saith it but for a touch a little awry, otherwise than it should.
As the heathen said vultu, so the text saith, tactu lædi [33/34] pietatem. One may offend Christ only by touching Him, such the touch may be. We will allow Him greater than the ark; that would not endure Uzziah's touch, he died for it. We will hold us to our text: if we touch Him unduly, we shall do it nolenti, it will be much against His will, He likes it not; witness this noli here.
Which, though it go but to the touch, yet a paritate rationis, it reacheth to all the body, and to every member of it. To our very 'feet,' saith Solomon; we to look to them when we draw near to Him. To our very fingers, saith, 'a greater than Solomon,' we to look to them when we touch Him. And as not with the foot of pride, nor the hand of presumption, so along through the rest; neither with a scornful eye, nor a stiff knee; are all equally forbidden under one, all to be far from us.
It reacheth to all, but yet for all that, the native word of the text, the touch, is to have a kind of pre-eminence. Most kindly to that. To Christ it is every way, but most of all, to Christ as He is tangibilis, 'comes under our touch.' To all part of His worship, but other parts will not come under tangere so fitly as the Sacrament. So as the use may seem properly to have relation to that, and we there to show the highest reverence. If we do so, dicite justo quia bene, we do well. But divers have too much of Mary Magdalene in them. I know not they would touch Christ, if they had Him; that which on earth doth most nearly represent Him, His highest memorial, I know not how many both touch and take otherwise than were to be wished.
But thus are we now come to the day, the very day it was given on. Christ gave this noli Me tangere, that it might be verbum diei 'a watch-word for this day.' Take heed how you touch, for He easily foresaw this would be tempus tangendi, 'the time whereon touch we must;' no, more than touch Him we must, for 'eat His flesh, and drink His blood' we must; and that can we not do, but we must touch Him. And this we must do by virtue of another precept, accipite et manducate.
How will accipite et manducate, and noli Me tangere cleave together? 'Take, eat,' and yet 'touch not?' If we take, we must needs touch, one would think; if we eat, gustus est sub tactu [34/ 35] saith the philosopher; so that comes under touching too.
It seems the text was not so well chosen, these points considered. Nay, set the day aside, we have no need, God wot, to be preached to of not touching; we are not so forward that way. It would have been that of St. Thomas, affer manum. This is now out of season.
But you will remember still, I told you, this noli was not general. It was but to Mary Magdalene; and to her but till she had learnt a little better manners. Not to any, but such as she, or worse than she, that in unbeseeming manner press and proffer to touch Him--the only cause of her repulse. But at another time, when she was on her knees, fell down at His feet, then did she touch Him without any check at all. Be you now but as she was then, and this noli Me tangere will not touch you at all.
It is the case of the Sacrament right. There is place in the taking of it, for noli Me tangere; so is there for affer manum. To them who with St. Thomas, in a feeling of the defect of their faith, or of any other spiritual grace, cast themselves down and cry, 'My Lord, and My God,' affer manum to them; I set them free, I give them a discharge from this noli Me tangere. But for them who are but at Rabboni, and scarce so far, bold guests with Him; base in conceit, and homely in behaviour; to them, and to them properly, belongs this noli Me tangere, more properly than ever it did to her. And so that point reconciled. Thus far for St. Chrysostom, and his taking.
There is a second, and it is St. Gregory's, that was vade et die, was the cause of noli Me &c, and that all was but to save time, that she was not permitted it. Christ was not willing to spend time in these compliments--it was no other, but to dispatch her away upon an errand better pleasing to Him, that required more haste. As if He should have said, Let us have no touching now, there is a matter in hand would be done out of hand; and therefore for this time, hands off, 'touch me not.'
And the reason will follow well so; nondum enim ascendi, You need not be so hasty, or eager to 'touch me, I am not yet ascended;' though I be upon going, yet I am not gone. [35/36] You may do this at some other time, at some other meeting; et quod differtur non aufertur, at better leisure you may have your desire--forbear it now.
Why, what haste was there of doing this errand? Might she not have touched Him, and done it time enough? Peradventure she might think so; she knew Christ was risen, she was well. But they who sat in fear and sorrow, who knew not so much, they would not think so--not to them. To them nihil satis festinatur, 'no haste was too much,' all delay too long.
Nor to Christ neither, Who was, we see, so desirous to have notice given with all speed, that He would not take so much time from it, as wherein Mary Magdalene might have but a touch at Him. So careful they might receive comfort with the first that He saith, Go your ways with all speed, get you to them, the first thing you do; it will do them more good to hear of My rising, than it will do you to stand and touch Me.
Yet a touch and away, would not have taken up so much time. True; but He easily foresaw, in the terms she stood, if He suffered her to touch, that would not serve the turn, she would have taken hold too. And if she had taken hold once, nor that neither; she would have come to a non dimittam, with her in the Canticles, Tenui Eum et non dimittam; she would not have let Him go, or been long ere she had; so much time spent in impertinencies, which neither He nor she the better for. So she to let her touching alone, and put it off till another time, being to be employed in a business of more haste and importance.
The third place is St. Augustine, that is Christ in these words had a further meaning; to wean her from all sensual and fleshly touching, and teach her, a new and a true touch, truer than that she was about. This sense groweth out of Christ's reason: 'Touch Me not, for I am not yet ascended,' as if till He were ascended, He would not be touched, and then He would. As much to say, Care not to touch Me here, stand not upon it, touch Me not till I be ascended; stay till then, and then do. That is the true touch, that is it will do you all the good.
And there is reason for this sense. For the touch of His body which she so much desired, that could last but forty [36/37] days in all, while He in His body were among them. And what should all since, and we now, have been the better? He was to take her out a lesson, and to teach her another touch, that might serve for all to the world's end; that she might serve when the body and bodily touch were taken from us.
Christ Himself touched upon this point in the sixth chapter, at the sixty-second verse, when at Capernaum they stumbled at the speech of eating His flesh. What, saith He, 'find you this strange, now?' How will you find it then, when you will see the Son of man ascend up where He was before? How then? And yet then you must eat, or else there is no life in you.
So it is a plain item to her, that there may be a sensual touching of Him here; but that is not it, not the right, it avails little. It was her error this, she was all for the corporal presence, for the touch with the fingers. So were His disciples, all of them, too much addicted to it. From which they were now to be weaned, that if they had before known Christ, or touched Him after the flesh, yet now from henceforth they were to do so no more, but learn a new touch; to touch Him, being now ascended. Such a touching there is, or else His reason holds not; and best touching Him so, better far than this of hers she was so eager on.
Do but ask the Church of Rome: even with them it is not the bodily touch in the Sacrament, that doth the good. Wicked men, very reprobates, have that touch, and remain reprobates as before. Nay, I will no farther; it is not that toucheth Christ at all. Example, 'the multitude that thronged and thrust Him,' yet for all that, as if none of them all had touched Him, He asks, Quis Me tetigit? So that one may rudely thrust Him, and yet not touch Him though, not to nay purpose so.
Christ resolves the point in that very place. The flesh, the touching, the eating it, profit nothing. 'The words He spoke, were spirit;' so the touching, the eating, to be spiritual. And St. Thomas and Mary Magdalene, or whosoever touched Him here on earth, nisi faelicius fide quam manu tetigissent, 'if they had not been more happy to touch Him with their faith than with their fingers' end,' they had no part in Him; no good by it at all. It was found better with it to 'touch the hem of His garment,' [37/38] than without it to touch any part of His body.
Now if faith be to touch, that will touch Him no less in Heaven than here; one who is in Heaven may be touched so. No ascending can hinder that touch. Faith will elevate itself, that ascending in spirit we shall touch Him, and take hold of Him. Mitte fidem et tenuisti--it is St. Augustine. It is a touch to which there is never a noli, fear it not.
So do we then; send up our faith, and that shall touch Him, and there will virtue come from Him; and it will take hold on Him, as it shall raise us up to where He is; bring us to the end of the verse, and to the end of all our desires; to ascendo ad Patrem, a joyful ascension to our Father and His, and to Himself, and to the unity of the Blessed Spirit. To Whom, in the Trinity of Persons, &c.