In the evening of the Sabbath (Vulg.), as the first day of the week was dawning, &c. How could it be called evening if day was dawning, or even if, as S. Mark says, the sun were risen? Firstly, S. Jerome answers that these women had gone forth frequently to the sepulchre, both in the evening and in the morning, so that the Evangelists refer to different occasions of their going forth.
Secondly, S. Ambrose thinks that they were different women who went out in the evening and in the morning. So Nyssen (Orat2, on the Resurrection) thinks that the women went four times to the sepulchre. But it is clear to any one who compares the different accounts, that the Evangelists speak of the same visit made by the same women to the sepulchre of Christ.
Thirdly, Baronius by the evening understands the star of Venus, which is called Lucifer, so that the meaning will be, "When Lucifer was risen in the morning before the sun, Mary Magdalene came to the sepulchre of Christ." But this star is not denoted by the Greek word όψε, or by the Latin word Vespere.
I say, therefore, that by the evening of the Sabbath is signified the night which followed the Sabbath. That it was so clear, first, from S. Mark, who says, and when the Sabbath was passed; secondly, because S. Matthew is wont to sum up many things in a few words. Accordingly, he here sums up the time when the women came together and made preparations for visiting and anointing Christ, which was in the evening, or immediately the Sabbath was passed; and he also wished to indicate the time when they came to the sepulchre, which was at the dawn of the Lord"s day. For this is what S. Luke says (chap. xxiii56), "And they returned (after Christ had been buried), and prepared spices and ointments, and rested on the Sabbath day, according to the commandment; and on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared." And S. Mark 16:1 says, "When the Sabbath was passed, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, that they might come and anoint Jesus. And very early in the morning on the first day of the week, they came to the sepulchre." Mark is generally the interpreter of Matthew. S. Augustine says, "Thus, on the evening of the Sabbath is just the same as if he had said on the night of the Sabbath, that is, the night which follows the day of the Sabbath, which is sufficiently proved by the words which follow, as it began to dawn towards the first day of the week." This could not be if we understood only the first portion of the night, its beginning, to be signified by the word evening. For the evening, or beginning of the night, does not begin to dawn towards the first day of the week, but only the night which is concluded by the dawn. For the end of the first part of the night is the beginning of the second; and the dawn is the end of the whole night. Whence the evening could not be said to dawn towards the first day of the week, unless by the word evening the night itself is understood, which is concluded by the dawn.
Matthew, therefore, declares that these women had prepared ointments at night, but came to the sepulchre at the rising of the dawn, as Luke, John, and Mark say. But John adds that they came early in the morning, while it was yet dark. I answer, That also is true, because it was dawn, since the sun not having yet appeared, but only his rays reflected from the hills or clouds, there still remained a measure of darkness in the air.
Peter Chrysologus, in a sermon on the resurrection, gives another symbolical reason. "According to nature," he says, "it was dark, and yet it is said that the sun had risen, because on that day the sun, rejoicing as it were at the resurrection of Christ, rose before the wonted time." Remigius agrees with Chrysologus, "The dignity of that night is declared, for according to the course of nature evening does not dawn towards day, but darkness towards night; but the Lord by the light of His resurrection made the whole of that night joyful and brilliant."
It is clear that these women came to the sepulchre early in the morning; for their love for Christ urged them on to hasten to this, and anticipate the day; and also their fear of the Jews, lest if they had come by daylight, and had been seen by the Jews, who were hostile to Him, they should have been ill-treated by them.
Further, Matthew here only mentions directly the time of the coming of the women to the sepulchre, yet he indirectly signifies also the time at which Christ rose, namely, in the early morning, a little before the arrival of the women, according to the common opinion of the Doctors and the Church, which S. Jerome and S. Augustine prove from Psalm 56:9, I will awake early.
The general sense, then, is, that Christ rose after the middle of the night before sunrise on the Lord"s day, for otherwise He would have been found dead by the women; and as He was born at the same time thirty-three years before of the Blessed Virgin, so now He was born again through the resurrection, that He might as a new Sun of Righteousness shine upon the world. Whence also in former times, Christians, after the middle of the night on the day of the Passover, broke of their fast and keeping of vigil, and began to rejoice greatly.
Further, Christ does not seem to have risen immediately after the middle of the night. For Mark more exactly says that Christ rose early in the morning. And most of the Fathers teach this, whom Suarez quotes (3. p. disp46, sect2), and the Church in the Paschal hymn, Aurora lucis.
On the first day of the week. That is, on the first day after the Sabbath, on the Lord"s day; about the religious observance of which day S. Augustine thus writes (Serm251, de Temp.), "The Apostles and apostolic men appointed that day to be observed with holy solemnity, because on it our Redeemer rose from the dead; and it is called on that account the Lord"s day, that abstaining on it from earthly works, we may devote ourselves only to the study of divine things, giving to this day honour and reverence, on account of the hope of our resurrection, which we have in it. For, as the Lord rose from the dead, so also we hope that we shall rise."
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. That is, the wife of Cleophas and mother of James. These were the leaders and standard-bearers of the rest who were wont to follow Christ; for that there were several others is clear from Luke 23:55, where, among others, he names Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod"s steward: and Mark adds Salome. The Blessed Virgin Mother of God did not come with them, because she certainly knew and expected that Christ would rise on that same day; whence she knew that the anointing would be useless.
Morally: Learn from this that Christ reveals Himself and His grace and glory to those souls who hasten to anoint Him with the good works of prayer, penance, and charity. Whence S. Gregory (Hom21) says, "Those women who came with spices see the angels; and so those souls behold the heavenly citizens who, with the sweet odours of their virtues, approach the Lord in holy desires."
To see the sepulchre. It is very probable that they were ignorant of the watch of the soldiers that had been posted by the Jews at the sepulchre, and also of the sealing. For if they had known of these two things, they would not have dared to come to the sepulchre, lest they should fall into the hands of the watch, much less to break the seal. But God removed both of these hindrances out of their way. Hence learn courageously to undertake works for the glory of God, and certainly to trust that God will either remove, or cause us to surmount, all hindrances that lie in our way.
Mystically: Bede (on Luke 24:1.) says, "By the women coming early in the morning to the sepulchre, we have an example given to us, that, having cast away the darkness of our vices, we should come to the body of the Lord. For that sepulchre also bore the figure of the altar of the Lord, wherein the mysteries of Christ"s body, not in silk or purple cloth, but in pure white linen, like that in which Joseph wrapped it, ought to be consecrated, that as He offered up to death for us the true substance of His earthly nature, so we also, in commemoration of Him, should place on the altar the flax, pure from the plant of the earth, and white, and in many ways refined by a kind of crushing to death. But the spices which the women bring signify the odour of virtue and the sweetness of prayers, by which we ought to approach the latter."
The following was the order of events:—First, Christ was in His Passion during about eighteen hours. For on the Thursday, towards evening, He ate the lamb, He washed the disciples" feet, He instituted the Eucharist, and held a long discourse on love, and at last proceeded to Gethsemane; all which things would easily take up three hours. Wherefore, about the third hour of his death in Gethsemane, He began to be sorrowful, and to pray that the cup might pass from Him. Hence, if you reckon all the hours up to the third hour in the afternoon of Friday, when Christ died, you will find eighteen hours; so that you may learn, according to the moral meaning, how short is the time of the suffering of Christ and of Christians, and how long the time of resurrection and of glory, for it is eternal. So bountiful is God, so brief is the suffering, so long the reward and the glory.
Secondly, Christ dying at the third hour in the afternoon, immediately as to His soul went down into hell; but His body was taken down from the Cross, and washed and wrapped in linen, so that He was buried before night, for it was the night of the Sabbath, on which the Jews must rest from all work. Wherefore He was in hell about thirty-six hours (but in the sepulchre thirty-three).
Thirdly, Christ, as soon as He appeared in hell, that is, in Limbus, showed to Adam and Abraham and the rest of the fathers and prophets, not only His soul, but also His Deity united to it. Wherefore He gladdened them with the vision of His divinity; then, too, did hell become like heaven. Whence He said to the robber who was about to go to Him in Limbus, To-day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise.
Fourthly, About the ninth hour of the night of the Lord"s day, Christ, having passed forth from hell with the fathers, came to the sepulchre, and there He showed them His body, livid, blood-stained, and torn for them; and presently cleansing His body from all lividness, blood, and ointment, and again sending angels (though some are of opinion that all these things were done not by angels, but by the soul of Christ itself, which had this power through the hypostatic union with the Word) to gather up the blood which had been scattered by the scourging; and after it had been gathered up, He again infused it into the veins of His body, which the glorious soul of Christ entered, and uniting to itself, animated and glorified.
Fifthly, To many of the fathers, as Abraham and others, He restored their bodies, that He might make them sharers of His resurrection and glory, and witnesses of it to the Jews, as is clear from Matthew 27:53.
Sixthly, Christ, when He rose, passed through the stone that covered the sepulchre. Soon afterwards the angel descended and caused an earthquake, and removed the stone from the sepulchre that He might arouse the watch, and open a way for the women to the sepulchre.
Seventhly, He appeared in glory to the Blessed Virgin, His mother, and showed the Patriarchs to her, who all saluted her, and were filled with great joy. Then He appeared to Mary Magdalene, who had stayed near the sepulchre.
Tropologically: Learn here how religiously we ought to venerate and adorn the tombs and relics of Christ, the Martyrs, and other Saints. "The bodies of the just," says S. Augustine, "are not to be thought meanly of, which the Holy Spirit used as organs and vessels for all good works."
And, behold, there was a great earthquake, &c. Firstly, By it was signified the power, magnificence, and glory of Christ in His resurrection as God. For by an earthquake God made known His presence on Sinai and elsewhere.
Secondly, That the women might recognise the angel not only from his glorious appearance, but from this earthquake, and might more easily believe the resurrection of Christ proclaimed by the angel; especially because by means of the earthquake he rolled away the stone from the door of the sepulchre, that the women might enter, and seeing it empty, might know that Christ was risen.
Symbolically: The earth which trembled with horror at the death of Christ, as it were leaped with joy at the resurrection.
For the angel, &c. Franciscus Lucas and others are of opinion that this angel was Gabriel, who, according to the meaning of his name, is the minister of the power of God. It is not to be doubted that other angels were present with him, and guarded the sepulchre during the three days, and adored the sacred body of Christ lying in it, as being hypostatically united to the Deity.
Further, the angel appeared in the form of a young man, as Mark says, first, because youth is a sign of the never-failing vigour and strength of the angels. Secondly, because the angel represented Christ, who was a young man; for He died and rose again in the thirty-fourth year of His age. Thirdly, his youth showed that he was strong and warlike, ready to fight against the watch. Lastly, youth represents beauty, immortality, activity, and the glory of the glorious body which Christ had assumed in the resurrection.
And rolled away the stone, of the sepulchre of Christ. Not that He might rise out of it, for He had already risen while the sepulchre was closed, but that he might show to the women that Christ their God and Lord had already risen. Opening to them a way to the sepulchre, he showed it to them empty of the body of Christ. For as Christ was born from the closed womb of the Virgin, so also He rose from the closed sepulchre.
S. Augustine (Serm138, de Temp.) says, "The unbelieving Jews set a seal on the stone of the sepulchre that Christ might not come forth. But how would it be impossible for Him to come forth from the sepulchre who had come forth from the pure womb of His mother, her virginity being preserved? He escaped the notice of the guards; He leaped forth from the sepulchre; He appeared to the disciples when the doors were shut: from the one place He came forth when He was shut in; into the other He entered when He was shut out." So Euthymius, Chrysostom, &c. S. Leo, in his83epistle to the monks of Palestine, says that the stone being rolled back, Christ rose again on the third day, and that the rolling back of the stone was not the cause, but the sign and the proof that the resurrection of Christ was not in appearance only, but real.
We may gather, hence, in opposition to Calvin, that by the same power of God, whole Christ can be obtained under a small host. For if Christ in passing through the stone of the sepulchre could occupy the same place as the stone, therefore in the same host there can be at the same time the great and several members of Christ. The Calvinists, in order to evade this argument, answer that the stone being softened like wax melted away, and so opened a way for Christ as He rose. But this is an absurd figment of theirs, and altogether opposed to the consent of the Fathers, the Doctors, and the Church.
Some think that there were two stones to the sepulchre, the first on the outside, which closed the outer entrance of the sepulchre; the second on the inside, which protected the sepulchre itself. But the Evangelists make mention of only one stone. Chrysologus (Serm74) says truly, "The rolling to of the stone was a proof of death; the rolling back of it asserted the resurrection." And Severian in the Catena says, "He says not "rolled," but "rolled back" the stone; because the stone rolled to was a proof of death, and the rolling of it back asserted the resurrection. The order of things is changed. The tomb devours death, and not the dead. The house of death becomes the mansion of life; it receives a dead, and renders up a living man."
Samson was a type of this, who having entered Gaza, and being besieged by the Philistines, rose up in the middle of the night and carried away the gates to the top of a mountain; because, as S. Gregory (Hom21) explains, "our Redeemer rising before it was light, not only came forth free from hell, but destroyed also the bars of hell. He carried away its gates, and ascended to the top of the mountain; for by rising again He carried away the bars of hell, and by ascending He entered the Kingdom of Heaven."
And sat upon it. Not as if wearied with the labour of removing the stone, but to show, first, that it was he who had rolled away the stone. Secondly, to protect the women against the watch. Thirdly, that he was the guardian of the sepulchre of the Lord, says S. Jerome, so that no one seeing it empty might bring in another dead body, and say that Christ had not risen. Fourthly, that he might terrify the soldiers.
S. Thomas assigns symbolical reasons for the sitting of the angel. "He sat, though he was not weary, as teacher of the faith, as master of the resurrection. The angel laid upon the stone the foundations of the faith upon which Christ was going to found His Church. Or by the stone may be designated death, by which all men were oppressed: by the angel sitting upon the stone it is therefore signified that Christ subdued death by His own power." And Bede also says, "The angel sat, to show that now He had overcome him who had the power of death; He had mounted the throne of the everlasting kingdom. He sat upon the stone that had been rolled back, wherewith the mouth of the sepulchre had been closed, to teach that by His power He had burst the bars of hell."
You will say, How do Matthew and Mark say that the angel sat, when Luke says that he stood? I answer, that by a Hebraism, to stand is a term applicable to any position; for it only signifies that a thing is present, whether standing upright, or sitting, or lying. Then, also, the account given by Matthew and Mark is a different one from that given by Luke, as I shall presently show.
You will say, secondly, How does Matthew say that the angel sat upon the stone rolled back, that is, outside the sepulchre, when Mark says that the women saw the angel not outside, but on entering into the tomb? I answer, that the angel first removed the stone which closed the sepulchre, and then terrified the watch who were outside, and drove them away, so that they might not hinder the women from approaching the sepulchre; then, that he entered the sepulchre itself, and was there seen by the women, that he might show them the empty sepulchre, and that Christ had risen. Whence he says, "He is risen, as He said; come, see the place where the Lord lay." So Theophylact. Or, rather, the angel of whom Matthew speaks was a different one from that of whom Mark speaks. So Barradius.
But I maintain that the same angel is spoken of by Mark as by Matthew. For Mark is generally the interpreter of Matthew. Wherefore, what Mark says about their entering into the tomb is to be understand thus, when they were preparing or beginning to enter the tomb; for they had not yet entered it, but were still outside, and there they saw and heard the angel, as Matthew has it. For to enter signifies, here and elsewhere, an act begun and not finished.
And his countenance was like lightning, &c. First, because lightning is akin to, and best represents the nature and properties of angels. For lightning is most brilliant, swift, and powerful. For this reason it is spoken of the cherubim who accompany the chariot of God ( Ezekiel 1:14), "They ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning." And the Psalm 104:4 Psalm, quoted by Paul, Hebrews 1:7, "Who maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire."
Secondly, lightning signifies the glory of the angels, which shines with the lightning of divine knowledge. Again, lightning signifies the glory of Christ rising; for the body of Christ shone with glory like lightning. For angels, when they appear, appear in that manner which is in agreement with the matter on account of which they appear. Since, therefore, this angel appears to represent the glorious resurrection of Christ, His countenance therefore was like lightning. For lightning best represents the four properties of the glorious body of Christ and of the blessed, namely, brightness, impassibility, subtlety, and agility. "For by the resurrection of Christ," says S. Leo, "weakness has been changed into strength, mortality into immortality, and shame into glory."
Thirdly, Lightning represents the zeal and the anger of the angel against the impious Jews and soldiers, who wished to hinder the resurrection of Christ. Whence to them only he appeared shooting forth lightning, as if he were going to spring upon them; but for the women he tempered this lightning, and showed to them a countenance glorious indeed, but mild. For the Blessed appear to different persons with such appearance and form as they will; wherefore to the women he appeared only clothed with a white robe, as Mark says ( Mark 16:3). Listen to what S. Gregory says (Hom21, in Evang.), "In lightning is terror, but in snow is a tempered brightness; and because Almighty God is terrible to sinners and mild to the righteous, so the angel, who is a witness of His resurrection, is rightly shown with a countenance like lightning and with raiment like snow, that by his appearance he might terrify the wicked and comfort the good."
Tropologically: Holy and angelic preacher"s may be like thunder and lightnings, by which the vices of enemies are destroyed. So John and James are called by Christ Boanerges—that is, sons or thunder, thundering and lightning against impiety and impious men.
Anagogically: Lightning represents the fire of Gehenna, prepared for the impious Jews and the soldiers, because lightnings are sulphurous, and smell of fire and sulphur, and Gehenna burns with fire and sulphur.
And his raiment was like snow. Pure and white. This brightness signifies, first, the purity, innocence, and chastity of the angels; secondly, the joy and glory of the resurrection of Christ.
Ver4. And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. That is, they were astonished and stupefied like the dead, as S. Jerome says. For they feared lest they should be blasted, as it were, and killed by lightning. If the angel only by the lightning glance of his countenance so struck and terrified the soldiers, what would he have done if he had laid his hands on them? For one angel slew in one night185,000 soldiers in the camp of Sennacherib.
Ver5. And the angel answered, &c. You will say, How is it that Matthew and Mark speak only of one angel as seen by the women, when Luke affirms that two were seen, who comforted the women with different words from those which Matthew and Mark have? I answer that the account of Luke is different from that of Matthew, and that he relates what happened later, as I shall hereafter show.
The women. Namely, the Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Joanna, and the rest (see Luke 24:10). Those are mistaken, therefore, who think that Magdalene, after she had seen the empty sepulchre, immediately ran back to tell the Apostles, without seeing the angels, and that they were only seen by Mary the mother of James and the rest. John, therefore ( John 20:1), while he mentions Magdalene only, with her understands all the rest of her companions; for she was the leader and chief of them all. Eve conversing with the devil incurred death; but these conversing with the angel found life. Sorceresses and witches are like Eve, who, conversing with the devil, drink in death; but penitents are like Magdalene, who, invoking angels, obtain life.
Fear not ye. "The word ye," says S. Chrysostom, "carries with it much honour, and at the same time declares that those who had dared to commit that great crime would, unless they should repent, suffer extreme punishment. For it is not, he says, for you to fear, but for those who crucified Him."
For I know that ye seek Jesus which was crucified. The word "for" gives the reason why they ought not to fear the sight of the angel, but to rejoice and be glad, because they both love and worship Jesus which was crucified, and minister to and serve Him.
He expressly says "crucified," both to show that he is not ashamed of, but that he openly confesses the Cross and the Crucified, and that he is His servant, because the Cross is the highest honour and glory to Christ and to His followers, and also to signify the fruit of the Cross of Christ; because, says S. Chrysostom, it is the head and sum of blessings, and because by His Cross Christ redeemed not only the women and the rest of mankind, but also made the angels to rejoice, yea, even conferred grace and glory on them. And lastly, because by the Cross He reconciled angels to men, and Heaven to earth, "reconciling through the blood of the Cross both the things which are in earth and in Heaven," as Paul Says ( Colossians 1:20).
He is not here. "He is not here in His fleshly presence," says S. Gregory; "and He is nowhere absent in the presence of His majesty."
For He is risen. The Greek word is η̉γέρθη, which means, He has awaked from death, as it were from a short and light sleep, to light and life. For the death of Christ was like sleep, for He slept, as it were, in the sepulchre thirty-six hours. So also will it be with us. Wherefore, as sleep is a sort of brief death, so also death is a sort of longer sleep. Hence Paul (1Cor. xv.) does not speak of those who have departed from life as dead, but as sleeping, because we shall all be awakened from the sleep of death, and shall arise again to life in the Day of Judgment.
Again, He has awaked as trees, which in winter having been, as it were, stripped and asleep, wake up in spring, when they begin to put forth leaves and flowers and fruit. So S. Jerome (on Mark 16) says, "The bitter root of the Cross has vanished; for the flower of life has burst forth with fruit—that is, He who lay in death has arisen in glory." And in the same glory He will make His faithful ones to rise.
As He said. Christ, whom ye all esteemed as a holy and divine Prophet, foretold and promised that He would rise on the third day. Therefore believe that He has risen, for so great a Prophet could not lie; especially since ye now see that the body has departed from the sepulchre, and has risen, as I, who am an angel of the living and true God, most certainly affirm. He Himself foretold the same by David in the15th Psalm, "Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell, neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption;" because, as S. Peter says (Acts ii24), "it was impossible that He should be holden of it."
Moreover, Christ rose before He was anointed by the women, that He might show that He did not need that anointing, since He rose again by His own power. S. Bernard (Serm12, in Cant.) gives another moral reason,—because He would rather the price of this anointing should be given to the poor than to Himself.
Come. "Enter with me into the sepulchre; for your sake, that you may enter, I have removed the great stone." See the place where the Lord lay. That by the beholding of it with your eyes, says S. Chrysostom, ye may see that His body is not here, but has risen from it, so that, "if ye believe not my words, ye may believe the empty sepulchre," says S. Jerome. The angel therefore led the way, and as a guide introduced the women into the sepulchre, and showed it to them empty, that they might not doubt that Christ had risen from it.
Ver7. And go quickly, and tell His disciples, &c. Quickly—so that ye may quickly banish the sorrow of the disciples, caused by the death of Christ their Master, and cheer their sorrowful minds, and fill them with joy by the most joyful news of the resurrection of Christ. For the women deserved this favour above others, because above others in their devotion to Christ they had come to the sepulchre. S. Gregory (Hom25) gives a symbolical reason, "For because woman in Paradise ministered death to man, woman from the sepulchre announced life to men. As if the Lord were saying to mankind, not in words but by deeds, "From that same hand by which the potion of death was administered to you, receive ye the cup of life.""
Tell His disciples. Mark adds, and Peter—that is, chiefly and before all, Peter, both because Peter in Christ"s absence was the first and Prince of the Apostles, and because Peter, as he loved Christ above the rest, so also above the rest he was mourning over His death. S. Gregory adds a third reason (Hom21, in Evang.), "If the angel had not expressly named him who had denied his Master, he would not have dared to come amongst the disciples; he is therefore called by name, lest he should despair on account of his denial. In which thing we have to consider why Almighty God permitted him to fear the words of a maid-servant, and to deny Himself, whom He had appointed to set over the whole Church, which thing we perceive to have been done by a dispensation of great goodness, in order that he who was to be the pastor of the whole Church might learn through his own fault how he ought to have compassion upon others."
He goeth before you into Galilee. First, because Galilee was the native country of the Apostles, to which, after the death of Jesus, they were purposing to return, that they might live more safely among their own relations. Secondly, because in Galilee Christ willed to show Himself openly to all His assembled disciples. For the Jews would not have permitted them to assemble in Juda. Thirdly, because in Galilee Christ had for the most part preached, and had performed very many miracles.
Symbolically: S. Gregory (Hom21) says, "For Galilee means a passing over from death to life; for our Redeemer had already passed from His Passion to His resurrection, from death unto life. And He is seen first by His disciples after His resurrection in Galilee, because we shall have joy in seeing the glory of His resurrection, if only we pass over from vice to the heights of virtue. He, then, who is announced at the tomb is shown in passing over; because He who is first known in mortification of the flesh is seen in this passing over of the soul." Yet Christ appeared to the Apostles in Juda also, but secretly; in Galilee publicly.
In the historical order of the events must be brought in here what Luke mentions (chap. xxiv3), namely, that Magdalene and her companions, while at the invitation of the angel they had entered the sepulchre and seen that it was empty, yet were affrighted; on account of which the angels cheered them, and at the same time gently reproved their want of faith. For that Luke"s account is not the same as that of Matthew and Mark, as some think, is clear from the words themselves, which are evidently different. Also, from the circumstance that in Luke two angels are said to have appeared, while in Matthew and Mark only one is mentioned.
Ver8. And they went out quickly, &c., with fear. That is, with a sacred trembling, which was caused by the sepulchre of Christ and the angels, and the resurrection of Christ announced by the angels to them, which came upon them in their sorrow for the death of Christ, and in their thoughts about anointing Him, as a thing not only unexpected but well-nigh incredible; wherefore a new fear was added, lest this vision of angels was only a phantom which deceived them, and lest the body of Jesus had been stolen.
And with great joy. Because they had seen the angels, and had received from them the joyful news of His resurrection. Their minds, therefore, were alternating between joy and fear. So S. Jerome says, "A twofold feeling possessed the minds of the women, fear and joy; fear at the greatness of the miracle, joy in their desire for Him that was risen."
Tell His disciples. Matthew does not mention what they told; but John and Luke explain it, but in different ways. For John says that Magdalene only said to Peter, They have taken away my Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid Him. But Luke says that they related to the Apostles all the things they had seen and heard.
You will say, Whence this difference? I answer, It arises from the women being possessed with fear and doubt, and therefore they told no one anything by the way. And because they did not firmly and certainly believe that Christ had risen, they spoke alternating words, in accordance with the alternations of their thoughts; for at one time they speak of the vision of angels, at another they declare their opinion that the body of the Lord had been taken away.
At this point we must bring into the history what S. John relates ( John 20:2-19).
Magdalene, then, was the first to see Christ, as Mark says. Afterwards, at the command of Christ, she hastened after the other women, and overtook them, and then with them again saw Christ, and heard His salutation. So SS. Chrysostom, Jerome, and others.
Ver9. And, behold, Jesus met them, &c. As after the courtiers follows the king, as after the priests the High Priest, so here after the angels follows Christ, and confirms His resurrection by showing Himself alive to the pious women. For it was His will that the angels should prepare the way for Him, to this end, both that they might more easily believe that He had risen, and that they might not be terrified, as they would have been if, without warning, He had unexpectedly shown Himself to them.
Met them. Because they were seeking Him with greater affection and desire than the men. For he who seeks Jesus with fervour finds Jesus lovingly coming to meet him, according to that saying, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find. So S. Jerome says, "They who thus desired, and who thus ran, merited to have their risen Lord come to meet them, and first to hear the word "Hail," that the curse of the woman Eve might be removed in these women."
Tropologically: Rabanus says, "Jesus sometimes meets those who are entering on the path of virtue by helping them." Moreover, Eve is to us the mother of perdition and of sorrow. But these women, instead of the word "Eva," bear the word "Ave," because they are the messengers of resurrection, salvation, and joy. Hence we sing to the Blessed Virgin, the mother of Christ, the queen of these women, the hymn "Ave Maris Stella," &c.
Hail. In the Greek χαίζετε—that is, rejoice; in the Syriac, Peace be to you. For this is the proper salutation of the Hebrews, in which, under the name of peace, they pray for every blessing and every felicity. In the Arabic, Rejoice, because ye see your Master now alive again. So, after the example of Christ, blessed souls and angels, when they appear to men, cause joy; but demons, and the souls of the damned, cause sorrow, fear, and despair.
And they came and held Him by the feet. That is, with reverence and love for His majesty, and with joy at His glorious resurrection, they embraced and kissed His feet. So the Shunamite laid hold of Elisha"s feet, praying him to raise her dead son to life again. So the faithful embrace and kiss the feet of the Pope, and of men illustrious for their sanctity. Christ on this occasion allows Himself to be touched by the women, that He may prove to them that He is really risen, and make them witnesses and heralds of His resurrection. Whence S. Chrysostom says, "When with great joy they had hastened towards, they by touching Him received a certain proof of His resurrection."
And worshipped Him. With the worship of latria, as the true Messiah or Christ the Son of God, who by the power of His Deity had raised His humanity from death, as He Himself had predicted when alive. The vision, therefore, of Christ risen confirmed and increased their faith in His Divinity, and in the other mysteries which they had been taught by Him when He was alive, but had not fully understood; so that with Thomas they said, if not with the mouth, yet certainly with the heart, My Lord and my God.
Then said Jesus unto them, Fear not, &c. The vision of what is supernatural and celestial, as was the resurrection of Christ strikes and alarms the nature of the beholders; whence S. Jerome says, "This may be always observed both in the Old and New Testament, that when there is an appearance of any majestic person, the first thing done is to banish fear, that the mind being tranquillised may receive the things that are said."
Go, tell My brethren. Christ now made glorious, in order to give us an example of humility, calls His disciples brethren, so as to console them and raise them up from their sorrow. As if He had said, Tell the Apostles, who are the sons of one and the same God and Father with Me; but adopted sons through grace, whereas I am His Son by nature through the Deity which I have received from Him as God, and through the hypostatic union with the Deity which I have received from Him as man. S. Chrysostom says, "Because a woman was made the cause of sorrow to man, now women are made the ministers of joy to men." Luther wrongly concludes from these words of Christ that women may preach; for it is one thing to tell, another to preach. But if Christ had said to Magdalene preach, she might and ought to have preached.
There they shall see Me. In Galilee they shall see Me frequently and openly, and talk with Me face to face, but not so in Judæa, although even there I shall appear to them sometimes. For in Judæa on the day of His resurrection Christ appeared six times. First, He appeared to His mother, as S. Ambrose, S. Anselm, and others teach, and this is the common opinion of the Doctors and of the faithful. Secondly, He appeared to the Magdalene at the sepulchre ( Mark 16:9). Thirdly, He appeared to her again with the other women as they returned to Jerusalem (Matt. xxviii9). Fourthly, He appeared to Peter ( Luke 24:34). Fifthly, to the two disciples as they went to Emmaus ( Luke 24:13). Sixthly, to all—that is, to ten of the Apostles, for Thomas was not with them, and Judas had hanged himself. After the day of the resurrection He appeared, first, to the eleven Apostles, when Thomas was with them, on the eighth day ( John 20:26). Secondly, He appeared to eleven disciples, among whom were Peter and John, as they were fishing in the Sea of Galilee (John xxi.). Thirdly, He appeared on a mountain in Galilee to many—that is, to more than five hundred ( Matthew 28:10; 1 Corinthians 15:6). Fourthly, He appeared to James the brother of the Lord in the same place. Fifthly, He appeared to all the Apostles, and to others of the faithful, on the Mount of Olives, when He was going to ascend into Heaven ( Acts 1:9). Sixthly, He appeared to Saul when He made him Paul. Christ appeared often on other occasions, which are not mentioned by the Evangelists.
Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch, &c. We may conclude from this, that when the soldiers saw the angel rolling away the stone they fled and hid themselves behind the hedges, and there remained half dead with fear, so that they could not and dared not stir from the place; and this was according to the purpose of God, that they might, from their hiding-places, see and hear all that the angels said to the women about the resurrection of Jesus, so that they might report the same things to the Chief Priests, and so become messengers of the resurrection of Christ. Wherefore neither the women, nor Peter and John, saw the soldiers, who were lying hid in the hedges. But after the vision of angels had disappeared, and when the women had departed from the sepulchre, the soldiers, coming to themselves, approached the sepulchre, and seeing it empty, they formed a plan, and sent some of their number to the Chief Priests to tell them all they had seen and heard, and to show that it was not through their carelessness that the body of Christ had left the sepulchre.
And when they were assembled with the elders, &c. See here the perversity of the priests and elders, who, not content with having put Christ to death, persecute Him after His death, and try to do away with His resurrection, so as to cover their crime, and lest any one should rise against them as the slayers of Christ, and avenge His death. This was the design of the devil, who was attempting to destroy the Church and all Christians in Christ. The priests corrupt the soldiers with money, who were witnesses of the truth, that they might become witnesses of a lie. S. Jerome says that they took this money from the treasury of the Temple, and therefore were guilty of sacrilege. "The money," he says, "which was given for the use of the Temple they convert for the purchase of a lie, as before they had given thirty pieces of silver to the traitor Judas."
Saying, Say ye that His disciples came by night, &c By their perversity, says S. Chrysostom, the High Priests increased the faith which they endeavoured to extinguish, for they speak things impossible and incredible. For first, says Remigius, "If the soldiers slept, how could they see the theft?"
Secondly, The disciples were afraid and had fled; how, then, would they have dared to steal the body of Christ, which they knew to be guarded by so many soldiers?
Thirdly, It is incredible that Roman soldiers, who were so faithful and watchful, should all have slept at the sepulchre of Christ, especially when they knew that their own lives were in danger. And let it be granted that they all slept, they would certainly have been awakened by the noise caused by the removal of the stone. So S. Chrysostom says, "How should the disciples carry Him away by stealth, who did not dare to show themselves? They fled when they saw Him alive; how, when He was dead, would they not have feared the soldiers? And why did they not rather steal the body on the first night, when there was no one there? Truly they confirm the truth of the resurrection, for they confess that the body was not in the sepulchre."
And if this come to the governor"s ears, &c. That is, we will persuade Pilate that your sleep and negligence in guarding the body of Christ was a light matter, and that no harm can happen from it; for he knows that this business does not concern himself, but us, and so he, to please us and against his own conscience, condemned Jesus to be crucified; for if he was so yielding when he unjustly condemned Jesus, in compliance with our urgent request, he will be much more yielding in absolving you at our request. But the soldiers secretly disclosed the whole matter to Pilate, and confirmed the truth of Christ"s resurrection, and Pilate wrote the account to Tiberius, who forthwith was desirous of enrolling Christ among the gods. So Hegesippus relates from the acts of Pilate himself. "The chief of the Jews," Pilate says, "falsely asserted to me that Jesus was a sorcerer, and had broken their law. And I believed that it was so, and delivered Him to be scourged, according to their will; but they crucified Him, and set a watch at the sepulchre. But He rose again on the third day, while my soldiers were keeping watch. But the wickedness of the Jews was inflamed to such a pitch that they gave money to the watch, and said, Say ye that His disciples stole away His body. But when they had received the money they were not able to be silent about what had been done; for they testified that they had seen Him rise, and that they had received money from the Jews. I have therefore made a statement of these things, that no one may falsely allege otherwise, and suppose that credit ought to be given to the falsehoods of the Jews,"
So they took the money, and did as they were taught, and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews unto this day. That is, among the common people and those of little sense; for the wiser men easily saw through the deceit, and found out the whole matter in secret from the soldiers. Moreover, Longinus, the centurion, asserted that Christ had risen, and on that account died as a martyr for Him. But this false story was chiefly confuted by the Apostles, who affirmed that Christ had appeared alive again to them, and who confirmed the same by many miracles. It is also confuted by Josephus, although he was of the nation and sect of the Jews. Let the Jews then listen to him, and believe one of their own nation, though they will not believe Christ. For thus he writes (Antiq., book18, ch4), "At the same time lived Jesus, a wise man—if it is right to speak of Him as a man. For He was a performer of wonderful works, and a Teacher of those who willingly received Him, and had very many followers both from among the Jews and the Greeks. This was Christ whom, on His being accused by the chiefs of our nation, Pilate had sentenced to the Cross; yet those who had begun to love Him from the first, did not cease to do so. For He appeared to them on the third day alive, for the Prophets had foretold this and many other wonderful things concerning Him. And to this very day the body of Christians, so called from Him, still continue."
Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee. Matthew omits the rest of Christ"s appearances, and mentions only that one which took place in Galilee, because it had been promised both by the angel and by Christ, and because it took place publicly before five hundred brethren, as Paul says ( 1 Corinthians 15:6). For all the disciples, of whom He had very many in Galilee, were assembled there, according to the command of Christ, because they were safer there than in Juda from the persecution of the Jews.
To a mountain. It is certain that this mountain was not the Mount of Olives, from which, in the presence of His disciples Christ ascended into Heaven. For the Mount of Olives is in Juda, and not in Galilee. Dionysius, S. Bonaventura, and others think it very probable that this mountain was Tabor, where Christ in His transfiguration had shown His glory to Peter, James, and John.
Mystically: S. Jerome says, "Galilee was the abode of all vices, where before were error and deceit, and it behoved that it should be illuminated by the presence and glory of Christ." Again, Bede says, "The Lord now had passed from death unto life, from corruption to incorruption; for Galilee is the same as transmigration."
Allegorically: S. Augustine (de Cons. Evan., lib3) says, "Galilee is the same as transmigration, from the Heb. galal, because the grace of Christ was about to pass over from the people of Israel to the Gentiles; whence He says, "I will go before you into Galilee," because they would not believe when the Apostles should preach the Gospel to them, unless the Lord Himself should first make ready their way in the hearts of men. "There shall ye see Him;" that is, there shall ye find His members."
Anagogically: S. Augustine, in the same place, says, "Galilee in Hebrew also signifies "revelation," whence it represents Heaven and the beatific vision. That revelation will be the true Galilee: we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him there as He is. That will be the more blessed passing from this world to that eternity, if we so embrace His commandments that we merit to be set on His right hand."
And when they saw Him, they worshipped Him, but some doubled. Not of the eleven Apostles, but of the other disciples. For all the Apostles had now been confirmed by so many visions and proofs, that they did not doubt that Christ had risen. Or if any one prefers to refer this expression to the Apostles, it must be understood as meaning, They had before doubted, but were not now in doubt. So Theophylact says, "You ought to understand it as meaning that when they were come into Galilee they worshipped Him; but they who worshipped Him in Galilee had first doubted in Jerusalem."
Moreover, Christ appeared in the same form as He had when He was alive, so that He was recognised by the Apostles as the same and not another. Whereupon He veiled His brightness, for the weak eyes of mortal men would not have been able to bear it. S. Augustine (de Civ. Dei, 22, c19) says, "We must believe that the brightness which Christ"s body had when He rose was veiled from the eyes of the disciples."
And Jesus came and spake to them, &c. Maldonatus and others are of opinion that these things were not done and said by Christ now when He appeared in Galilee, but at the last appearance which took place on the Mount of Olives. For Christ seems there to have said His last farewell to His Apostles, and to have given them His last commands; and to have sent them forth as His ambassadors to evangelise the world, which He did at His ascension.
Is given to Me. That is, to Me alone; and that both because I am the Son of God and God, for from eternity has been given to Me by the Father, with the divine essence, all power and majesty; and also because I am man (as S. Cyril, Athanasius, and others say). It was given to Me inchoately in My incarnation on account of the dignity of the hypostatic union with the WORD; and it was given to Me in its fulness by God on account of the merits of My Passion, when having overcome death, sin, hell, and the devil, as the Redeemer of men, I obtained full right and dominion over them at the price of My blood.
Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, &c. Hence, according to the tradition of the Church, it is well known that this is the form of baptism, "I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost;" in which we profess our faith in the Holy Trinity and in the Divine Unity, saying, in the Name, not in the Names. Hence S. Isidore (lib7, Etymol. c4) says, "It is called a Trinity, because One Whole is constituted of Three, as it were a Tri-unity, resembling memory, intelligence, and will, in which the mind has in itself a certain image of the Divine Trinity; for since They are Three, They are One." Whence, in opposition to the Arians, Macedonians, Nestorians, and other heretics, it is clear that the Son is true God, and of one substance (όμοούσιον) with the Father and the Holy Spirit, as S. Athanasius, Augustine, Hilary, and others teach. Christ, therefore, here most clearly expresses the mystery of the Holy Trinity, which Moses obscurely shadowed forth in the Old Testament, lest the ignorant Jews should believe that the Three Persons were Three Gods, and so after their custom worship a plurality of Gods.
Morally: Learn here that it is a divine work to teach and convert all nations, even rude and barbarous ones. Whence S. Gregory (Hom12, in Ezek.), "There is no sacrifice so acceptable to Almighty God as a zeal for souls." That saying also of Dionysius the Areopagite is well known, "Of all divine works, the most divine is to co-operate with God in the conversion of the wanderers, and in the bringing back of sinners to Himself."
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. That is, all the commandments which I have enjoined in the Gospel; for faith alone does not suffice for salvation, but the keeping of the commandments is required, and the constant practice of virtues. For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified ( Romans 2:13).
And, behold, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Although I ascend into Heaven, I will not forsake you, whom I am sending abroad over the whole world. I am with you, both as God and as man, by present help, grace, consolation, guidance, deliverance, which I will always bestow upon you and your successors; by means of which I will make all difficult things easy to you, says S. Chrysostom, so that out of all nations ye may gather together for Me a Church, that is, a company of faithful and holy men. And I am with you unto the end of the world. This world shall come to an end sooner than My presence in the Church shall fail. "He who promises," says S. Jerome, "that He will be with His disciples to the end of the world, shows both that they shall live for ever (in their successors), and that He will never depart from them that believe."
"Do not fear," says Prosper (lib2, de Vocat. Gent. c1), "because of your own weakness, but have confidence in My power, for I will not leave you in the performance of this work. Not that ye shall be without suffering, but, which is a much greater thing, I will take care that ye be not overcome by any cruelty of them that rage against you."
This is what Christ promised to His Apostles before His death ( John 16:16), I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever, even the Spirit of Truth. For the gifts of the Holy Spirit and of Christ are the same, since the Deity of each and the operation of each is the same. For the external works of the Holy Trinity are undivided; and that which One Person works, the other Two also work. To the Holy Spirit, however, who proceeds forth as love, are fitly attributed the works of grace and holiness. So Christ was visibly present with Paul ( Acts 22:17), and S. Stephen in his martyrdom ( Acts 7:53-60.).
For this reason, likewise, Christ has willed to abide continually in the Church in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. For as the humanity and deity of Christ are present in glory in Heaven, and are adored visibly by the angels and saints, so are the same likewise present in the Eucharist, but hidden under the forms of bread and wine, and therefore invisible, and are there adored, and even partaken of by the faithful. Wherefore it is Christ who, by the ministry of every priest, performs daily that miracle of miracles, namely, the wonderful conversion of the bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord, which theologians call transubstantiation; for neither man, nor angel, nor created power could effect this. He Himself, therefore, in it offers Himself as an unbloody victim to the Father.
Tropologically: Christ is in and with the faithful soul even to the end of life, granting to it that great gift of perseverance, by which the elect are brought to Heaven. For He does not desert the just man, unless He first be deserted by him. Wherefore Christ is in a holy soul, first, politically, as it were a king in his kingdom, inasmuch as He directs and rules it aright according to the laws of justice
Secondly, He is in the soul economically, as a father in a house and family, which he rules wisely; He is what a charioteer is in a chariot, so that we ought ever to be crying out to Him, as Elisha did to Elijah when he was being carried up into Heaven, My Father, the chariot of Israel and the charioteer (Vulg.) thereof.
Thirdly, Christ is in the soul ethically, in the manner of reason and prudence, which prudently directs all its actions, according to the rule of divine reason and eternal law which is in the mind of God.
Fourthly, He is in the soul physically that which the soul is in the body; for He is, as it were, the soul of the soul, Himself the life-giving life of grace, in order that the soul may live not an animal and carnal life, but a spiritual and divine one.
Lastly, He is, as it were, a divine fire, kindling the soul with the flame of charity. He is in the soul what the sun is in the world, making it fruitful in good works, according to that saying, He worketh in us to will and to do ( Philippians 2:13.). And, He worketh all things in all according to the purpose of His own will ( Ephesians 1:11). It is He who inspires our words with power, in order that they may be effectual to the conversion of the hearers from sin to holiness, according to that saying of Paul, I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase ( 1 Corinthians 3:6). Therefore, 0 wise and holy soul, go forth to meet thy God with love and desire. Thy Jesus desires to be with thee; do thou in thy turn desire to be with nought but Jesus. His delights are with thee, let thy delights be with Him. Suffer thyself, therefore, to be ruled and guided by Him, as a kingdom suffers itself to be ruled by its king, an army by its leader, a chariot by its charioteer, the will by the reason, the body by the soul, the world by the sun. "Thou art sufficient for God," says S. Augustine; "let thy God be sufficient for thee."
END OF S. MATTHEW.
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Lapide, Cornelius. "Commentary on Matthew 28". The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany