Blessed John Henry Newman on the Resurrection

Blessed John Henry Newman on the Resurrection
St Mary the Virgin Church, Oxford

“Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen.” Luke xxiv. 5, 6.

SUCH is the triumphant question with which the Holy Angels put to flight the sadness of the women on the morning of Christ’s resurrection. “O ye of little faith,” less faith than love, more dutiful than understanding, why come ye to anoint His Body on the third day? Why seek ye the Living Saviour in the tomb? The time of sorrow is run out; victory has come, according to His Word, and ye recollect it not. “He is not here, but is risen!”
These were deeds done and words spoken eighteen hundred years since; so long ago, that in the world’s thought they are as though they never had been; yet they hold good to this day. Christ is to us now, just what He was in all His glorious Attributes on the morning of the Resurrection; and we are blessed in knowing it, even more than the women to whom the Angels spoke, according to His own assurance, “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” . . .

When He was risen from the dead. .  .  . the Divine Essence streamed forth on every side, and environed His Manhood, as in a cloud of glory. So transfigured was His Sacred Body, that He who had deigned to be born of a woman, and to hang upon the cross, had subtle virtue in Him, like a spirit, to pass through the closed doors to His assembled followers; while, by condescending to the trial of their senses, He showed that it was no mere spirit, but He Himself, as before, with wounded hands and pierced side, who spoke to them. He manifested Himself to them, in this His exalted state, that they might be His witnesses to the people; witnesses of those separate truths which man’s reason cannot combine, that He had a real human body, that it was partaker in the properties of His Soul, and that it was inhabited by the Eternal Word. They handled Him,—they saw Him come and go, when the doors were shut,—they felt, what they could not see, but could witness even unto death, that He was “their Lord and their God;”—a triple evidence, first, of His Atonement; next of their own Resurrection unto glory; lastly, of His Divine Power to conduct them safely to it. (from Parochial and Plain Sermons, II.13, “Christ: A Quickening Spirit”)

No man saw Him rise from the grave. His Angels indeed beheld it; but His earthly followers were away, and the heathen soldiers were not worthy. They saw, indeed, the great Angel, who rolled away the stone from the opening of the tomb. This was Christ’s servant; but Him they saw not. He was on His way to see His own faithful and mourning followers. To these He had revealed His doctrine during His humiliation, and called them “His friends.” [Matt. xiii. 11. John xv. 15.] First of all, He appeared to Mary Magdalene in the garden itself where He had been buried; then to the other women who ministered unto Him; then to the two disciples travelling to Emmaus; then to all the Apostles separately; besides, to Peter and to James; and to Thomas in the presence of them all. Yet not even these, His friends, had free access to Him. He said to Mary, “Touch Me not.” He came and left them according to His own pleasure. When they saw Him, they felt an awe which they had not felt during His ministry. While they doubted if it were He, “None of them,” St. John says, “durst ask Him, Who art Thou? believing that it was the Lord.” [John xxi. 12.] However, as kings have their days of state, on which they show themselves publicly to their subjects, so our Lord appointed a meeting of His disciples, when they might see Him. He had determined this even before His crucifixion; and the Angels reminded them of it. “He goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see Him, as He said unto you.” [Mark xvi. 7.] The place of meeting was a mountain; the same (it is supposed) as that on which He had been transfigured; and the number who saw Him there was five hundred at once, if we join St. Paul’s account to that in the Gospels. At length, after forty days, He was taken from them; He ascended up, “and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” (from Parochial and Plain Sermons, I.23, “Christian Reverence”)

We, too, though we are not witnesses of Christ’s actual resurrection, are so spiritually. By a heart awake from the dead, and by affections set on heaven, we can as truly and without figure witness that Christ liveth, as they did. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself. Truth bears witness by itself to its Divine Author. He who obeys God conscientiously, and lives holily, forces all about him to believe and tremble before the unseen power of Christ. To the world indeed at large he witnesses not; for few can see him near enough to be moved by his manner of living. But to his neighbours he manifests the Truth in proportion to their knowledge of him; and some of them, through God’s blessing, catch the holy flame, cherish it, and in their turn transmit it. And thus in a dark world Truth still makes way in spite of the darkness, passing from hand to hand. And thus it keeps its station in high places, acknowledged as the creed of nations, the multitude of which are ignorant, the while, on what it rests, how it came there, how it keeps its ground; and despising it, think it easy to dislodge it. But “the Lord reigneth.” He is risen from the dead. (from Parochial and Plain Sermons, I.22, “Witness to the Resurrection“)

These selections were found in Armel J. Coupet, O.P. A Companion to the Gospels (Burns & Oates, 1966)


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