On the third day He rose again from the dead. We say these words frequently and are sometimes perplexed when we do the math. Our Lord died on Good Friday and arose very early on Sunday, which counts for two days, unless we reckon the number of the days of the week, even partial days, in which His body was in death rather than count the number of twenty-four-hour days. Another interpretation holds that since Christ had been thrown into an underground prison on Holy Thursday night awaiting trial the next day, His body was “in the bowels of the earth” three days: Thursday in a cellar under the High Priest’s house, and Friday and Saturday in the tomb. In any case, our Lord emerged out of the earth alive in the body after having descended into “hell:” limbo or the abode of the dead. This mission into the lower regions of the earth (it was believed that spirits of the dead went to a place deep in the earth) must have been a sort of Easter celebration for the souls of those just men and women. Although Christ was not yet there in His body, His appearing there indicated to those souls that the purpose for which He had lived and died–to be the Victor over sin and death–had been successfully accomplished. Can we imagine the jubilation which took place in limbo? A vast sea of humanity, we should hope, was there waiting for this precise moment. A short time later these holy souls would follow Christ in His ascension into heaven, producing a sweeping procession of people into the Holy City, the Jerusalem above.
I use a bit of imagination to try to stir your minds to catch some of the excitement which must have greeted our Lord Easter Sunday morning. The rejoicing must have been at a feverish pitch. It was the vindication of everything the disciples had believed about Christ–that He is truly God, the Messiah, the Redeemer of humanity, the true judge of judge the living and dead. The resurrection meant that His teachings about heaven, beatitude, righteousness, the Holy Eucharist, about the worth of the sacrifices that had been made for the sake of Christ by leaving home and work–all is vindicated. This was the sign which confirmed everything. There would be no further proof needed to convince these witnesses to convert all the world to Christ. On Easter day any doubts about Christ were dispelled and the affection for Him must have been intense. The Acts of the Apostles indicates the prodigy of people whose faith was ardent.
We are at a seeming disadvantage not having seen the Lord’s resurrection with our eyes. Our knowledge of Him comes rather through faith, a way of knowing which is often taken to be a lesser, weaker manner of knowing. “Seeing is believing” is a well-known phrase, but one that’s totally contrary to what we mean by faith. Faith is indeed a kind of knowing Christ, but not through sight, not through the senses. It is a supernatural gift infused into the soul at baptism. And in order to be a living faith, it needs to be fed by instruction and by intimate association with Him through prayer. This is how many lapse from faith. They suffer malnourishment through poor instruction, and are weakened by deceit and led astray through godless men. Our Lord indicated that the faith of many would grow cold. This does not happen of itself since faith is a permanent gift abiding in one’s soul. But faith can be lost by putting faith in falsity and it can be ‘cooled’ through neglect of religious practice.
Once I heard the sad words from a woman: “I’m afraid we’re rather poor Christians” (‘poor’ here referring to lax, not to material poverty). We’ve got lots of such people today, poor Christians, people without a passion for truth, without a deep personal love for Christ, but who have skeptical minds and sordid affections. What follows this laxity is disorder, sadness, misery, and deep spiritual loneliness.
I know you are aware of this enfeeblement of Christianity in the world today. It’s a worrisome thing for us and surely a heartbreak for the Lord who gave His all to redeem us. But I hope you are true believers in Him and in His holy Church which brings you truth and grace. If so, you are spiritually alive and so you must be joyful. Easter has literal meaning for you. Christ is living and you know Him with the superior kind of knowledge called faith. It’s wonderful to live in God’s grace and to have some of that apostolic zeal which the first Christians had ever since Easter morning.
I wish you to have this always: a strong faith in Christ and deep love for Him. If so, your life has meaning and a secure and worthwhile direction. You should carry the exuberance of Easter in your hearts today and keep it always stored within you. You won’t ever be defeated if the life of the risen Christ remains in you.
Wednesday, April 08, 2015
Fr. Perrone on Christ's Descent to Hell & Resurrection
Fr. Eduard Perrone, "A Pastor's Descant" [temporary link] (Assumption Grotto News, April 5, 2015):