WHY ARE YOU SEEKING AMONG THE DEAD FOR THE ONE WHO IS LIVING? HE IS NOT HERE, BUT WAS RAISED UP./ These words were addressed to the holy women disciples of Jesus at the tomb who were greatly frightened upon seeing the two messengers, clothed in radiant garments. Luke states that as soon as the angels reminded them of Jesus' prediction of his death and resurrection, all their fear was swallowed up in the excitement of belief that Jesus whom they sought truly was the living one. They no longer hesitated, but, thoroughly convinced, ran to tell the apostles the marvelous news. Matthew's account supports Luke's version: they went out of the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, hastening to tell his apostles (28:8).
The apostles, however, like many non-believers since them, had stronger resistance to putting their faith in such an unlikely and unheard of happening. To them the women's story was all in their imagination, the fruit of hysteria. No one in their right senses, they considered, would take such a story as factual; it is obviously mere wish-fulfillment that caused such a delusion. They would have done well to recall a dictum of Agathon, the ancient Greek philosopher, cited approvingly by Aristotle (The Poetics, 1456a) that reflects a greater sophistication than that of the so-called hard-headed realists: "The probability is that many improbable things take place." As it turned out the apostles came to believe only after Jesus himself appeared to them in person, rebuked them for their unbelief, and proved that he was not a mere apparition by eating in their presence.
Whatever the first reaction of the women and the apostles after them, before long the whole group of believers were filled with joy as the realization of the reality of the resurrection of their much loved Master firm root in their mind and heart. The very existence of the four Gospels, as well as the rest of the NT witness to this fact. There was no apostolic preaching that did not base itself on this truth of faith explicitly. A German exegete sums up the significance of this general agreement as convincingly as one could wish .
There is no presentation of the way of Jesus that would not have been conceived from the point of view of his perfection, of the resurrection and glorification of the one who was put to death. There exists no transmission of the prophetic preaching of Jesus that prescinds from his Messianic dignity and its disclosure in the closing events. The case is that through many cross references and extensive bonds throughout, a firm structure is established in which the resurrection is the key stone ( Heinrich Kahlfeld, Die Oster-Evangelien, Paschatis Solemnia, ed. B. Fischer and J. Wagner, Basel 1959, p. 23.).
In the year 1907, when faith in the resurrection as an event of history was called into question, Pius X reaffirmed the Church's firm conviction that the resurrection took place at a given moment of time, and is a properly historical fact (cf. A. Schoenmetzer,sj Enchiridion Symbolorum,§3436, 3437, p. 672)
As a consequence it is not too much to say that the whole of the New Testament, not only in its content but in its very presuppositions and structure, witnesses to the belief of the apostolic Church in the resurrection of Jesus. If the women reacted with panic and ran off it was because they met with an overwhelming reality they could neither assimilate at first, nor deny.
Living faith in the resurrection cannot exist as a circumscribed truth, sealed off from the rest of our life and rendered harmless to our customary ways of knowing, perceiving and acting in the world we inhabit. On the contrary, once we allow it to touch the hidden recesses of our mind and heart, it inevitably challenges our whole manner of thinking and feeling about ourselves and the surrounding realities of life. It requires a lifetime of inner work to align our habits of mind and of act, and to modify our interests and tastes so as to live consistently with the conviction that we are destined for life with the risen Lord without end. None of us completes this labor of the spirit except in the very act of dying, and only by the continual support of God's grace. To spend ourselves in this work of the spirit is what this mystery of Christ's resurrection calls each of us to undertake throughout our lives.
The Easter Eucharist that we are about to offer at this altar is a pledge for each of us who partakes of it with loving faith that our hope of attaining to such a consummation of life is not a vain one. Rather, we are given in this sacrament the reality itself of this new life, the risen Lord Jesus, uniting himself with us in the spirit. This is the source of our Easter joy; may we so live as to preserve it faithfully always, in the depths of our hearts until its promise is consummated in glory.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
© Abbey of the Genesee
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