THE SPIRITUAL RESURRECTION 

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THE SPIRITUAL RESURRECTION

INTRODUCTION. St. Paul addressed these words to the faithful of Corinth, from Ephesus, around Easter time toward the end of his third missionary journey. He is referring to the Jewish custom of excluding all leaven from their houses before celebrating the Pasch, and he tells his Christian readers to celebrate the coming feast of the Resurrection of our Lord, by excluding from their souls the leaven of sin and wickedness, and by feasting with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. In other words, the Apostle is reminding the faithful of Corinth that the way to celebrate the new Pasch, the Feast of Easter, is to have their souls free from sin and adorned with the grace of Christ. As Christ, from the state of natural death, rose glorious and immortal on Easter Sunday, so the Christian, who wishes to be associated with his risen Lord and worthily to keep the great feast of the Resurrection, should rise from the state of sin and moral death to that of grace and life.

I. The death of the soul is caused by mortal sin. 1. This sin is called mortal, because it brings to man a two-fold death– spiritual death in this world, and, if not repented of, eternal death in the world to come. 2. The life of the soul is God, just as the life of the body is the soul (St. Aug.). Mortal sin separates the soul from God, and hence it causes death. This spiritual death is not visible to our eyes, but it is more terrible than the death of the body since it causes so much greater loss. 3. Mortal sin deprives the soul of sanctifying grace, the gift of God, its most precious adornment. A soul in mortal sin is more disgusting in the sight of God than the rotten corpse of a dead dog is to us (St. Bernard). 4. With the loss of sanctifying grace the soul also loses the divine friendship, the sonship of God, and the right to heaven. 5. Mortal sin strips a person of all his past merits (Ezech. xviii. 24), and makes one incapable, while in that state, of doing anything deserving of heaven. 6. By reason of mortal sin the soul becomes subject to hell, the second death (Apoc. xx. 14, 15).

II. The resurrection of the soul to life is caused by grace. l. Grace operates in the soul to restore all the lost wonders of supernatural life. Not only does it wash away the stain and guilt of sin, and cancel the debt of eternal punishment due to sin, but it brings back to the soul all its lost treasures and privileges. 2. With the forgiveness of mortal sin the soul becomes once more the temple of the Holy Ghost 3. With the presence of God restored the soul recovers anew its life and most beautiful ornament sanctifying grace, and all those wondrous powers and gifts of the Spirit which enable it to lead its supernatural existence here on earth. Grace gives to the soul the same charm that youth and life and beauty give to the body. 4. Grace brings back to the soul revived all the past merits that were destroyed by mortal sin, the ability of acquiring new merits, the divine favor and re-established sonship and right to life eternal.

EXHORTATION, 1. Gratitude to our risen Lord who, by His death and Resurrection, has made it possible for us to rise from the grave of sin to the life of grace. 2. As Christ rose from the darkness of the tomb, freed from the winding sheet of death, and all the fetters of the grave, so the soul risen from sin to the state of grace should cast aside those evil habits, those bad companionships, those sinful and worldly attach merits which have before enslaved it and bound it down to earth. 3. The body of the risen Saviour was endowed with glorious qualities–it was bright, immortal, swift of movement incapable of being impeded in its actions by any obstacles. Likewise the soul risen from deadly sin takes on the brilliancy of sanctifying grace and the glow of heaven; it should be swift to heed God’s impulses and fulfill His commands; it should be undeterred in the service of its glorified Master by any temptations, allurements, or other obstacles to its salvation; finally like Christ it should rise to die no more.

SERMON

The Resurrection
BY THE REV. A. M. SKELLY, O.P.
THE GLORIOUS RESURRECTION OF CHRIST

Before Jesus Christ the tomb was always looked upon as the fatal rock on which was wont to split and perish all human greatness. Death had triumphed over all, and no man had yet been found upon the earth who did not end his career by being made the prey of this devouring monster, who swallowed up all and disgorged none. In vain had the great ones of the world tried, in some sort, to survive their own discomfiture. They chose even to combat death in the very field of his fame and the place of his triumph, by raising to themselves costly mausoleums which had no other foundation than the nothingness of their dust. In vain had they tried to render at least their sepulchers glorious by engraving on them in marble and brass the titles of nobility which once was theirs.

All these garnishments served only to render their tombs more brilliant trophies of the conqueror, Death, and monuments the more illustrious of their overthrow. The bare inscription written on their tombs is proof of this. The first two words will tell you all; you need go no further. The rest may, perhaps, tell you what they had been: but these alone will tell you what they are. “Here lieth,” they will say: “here lieth this man, great according to the world, but little in the eyes of God; who, having been lifted up with pride and ambition like the waves of the sea, is finally come to dash himself in impotence against the sand of this tomb?”

Here he lies–that famous conqueror who had astonished the world with the fame of his exploits. The earth which he held captive under his laws was silent in his presence. But behold him in the end, a captive in the dark prison-house of death, where he is himself condemned to a silence everlasting.

But where human greatness meets with its overthrow, that of Jesus Christ begins to be more solidly established. The angels today engrave on His tomb an epitaph very different, indeed to that engraved on the tombs of men. “He is not here,” they say, “He has arisen! Why seek ye the living among the dead?”

The prophet foretold that the Messias would display, for the first time in the world’s history, a glorious sepulcher. A glorious sepulcher is not one in which the dead is enclosed. It is one wherein he is enclosed no longer, and from which he has come forth by the power of his own arm. And this one fact is argument enough, according to the prince of the Apostles, to prove His Divinity and the truth of the religion that He taught.

“My brethren,” says St. Peter, addressing the Jews from the steps of the Supper-chamber on the great day of Pentecost, “We have amongst us still the tomb of David, the greatest man of our race. The dust of that monarch is still there enclosed. Go out to that of Jesus Christ, you will find His Body there no longer. He has rescued Himself from the arms of death. This Jesus Christ, whom you have crucified, whom I announce to you, is then greater than David. He is greater than man. He is Divine, and the religion which He preached to you is true.”

He has conquered, then–this “Lion of the tribe of Juda!” He has conquered death itself! He is become more powerful, it would seem, since He was crucified! He has bound that strong arm that had power since the beginning of the world to bind all human powers! He has gloriously triumphed; and this triumph of Jesus Christ over death and hell is the source of our triumph also, and of our glory–the invincible proof of our faith; the foundation of our hope; the source of all our graces.

NEED OF SPIRITUAL RESURRECTION

But it is not enough for us to glory with our Saviour in His Resurrection from the tomb; we must share also in His triumph: and as He has arisen to a life of glory, so should we arise to a life of grace and Christian perfection modeled after His.

Brethren, we have sinned in the past; we have basely sunk into the grave of sin! And, oh, how many are there today, who, in spite of the graces of the holy Lenten season; in spite of the overwhelming graces of Redemption week; in spite of the joyous notes of the Easter bells proclaiming a jubilee of graces to the whole Church of Christ, still lie prone in the grave of mortal sin.

But, by the grace of God, we can arise; and by the power of that omnipotent Arm that raised our Saviour from the tomb, we also are enabled to break the bonds of spiritual death and lead a life conformable to that of the risen Saviour.

And this is what should engage our earnest attention today especially, if this bright Easter day should find us still shrouded in the winding bands of spiritual death.

FALSE RESURRECTION

But, brethren, I would not have you believe that every resurrection is commendable, is profitable to the soul, and pleasing to God, in Whose Name, apparently, it is effected. For there is a false resurrection; and there is an imperfect one. There is a resurrection that is to result only in a temporary spiritual life, and there is one that precipitates the soul into greater miseries.

We read in the Scriptures that the unhappy Saul, the first King of Israel, being hard pressed by the Philistines and feeling himself abandoned by the Spirit of God on account of his sins, sought the witch of Endor and besought of her to raise for him the ghost of Samuel, the prophet, in order that she might declare to him the will of Heaven. And it pleased Almighty God to permit the ghost of Samuel to arise from the ground in the form of an aged man, clothed in a mantle. And addressing the king in tones of anger, he reproached him, saying. “Why do you come thus to trouble my repose? Know, then, that your crimes shall meet with their reward. Tomorrow you and your sons shall die by the sword, and your kingdom shall pass to David, whose presence you cannot bear.” This uprisal of Samuel from the tomb was not a true resurrection; it is but a phantom. That soul was not restored to conjunction with the body. Its presence there was a forced one, and one that portended dire evils to the unhappy king and all his family.

Ah, how many resurrections from sin at a time like this that are so only in appearance? How many who, driven by human respect, by the force of custom, by the threats of the Church’s penalties–how many, I say, comply externally with the Paschal duty; rise, apparently, by confession and Communion; whilst all the time they retain their affection for sin–whilst they refuse to give up evil associations which were the cause of their former falls? They rise, indeed, but their resurrection is a phantom–is the ghost of a conversion. Their hearts are not warmed with the living fire of charity. Their minds are not enlightened by the light of grace. Their souls remain dead and buried in the grave of habitual sin, and their confessions and Communions call down upon them rather the chastisement of final impenitence, which is the forerunner of their everlasting ruin. There is, then, in the Christian world a false resurrection and one that portends dire evils to come.

IMPERFECT RESURRECTION

There is a second kind of resurrection spoken of in Scripture, a true and genuine one indeed, and one effected by the intervention of the Almighty power; but resurrection which time will bring to naught, and which is destined to be swallowed up in the devastation which awaits all things perishable. Such is the resurrection recorded in the Gospel accomplished by our Lord on the widow’s son of Naim. Such was the resurrection of Lazarus, whose circumstances you all remember so well. Such was the resurrection of the daughter of Jairus. Such were the resurrections of many men and women effected by our Lord and His apostles and the saints of the Old and the New Testament. These were all true and valid resurrections, it is true, and they were accomplished, and could be accomplished, only by the outstretched arm of God. But, alas, the widow’s son of Naim died again; and Lazarus died again; and the widow’s son of Serepta died again; and the daughter of Jairus died again; and Tabitha died again; and all those raised from the dead through the prayers of the saints of every age sank again into the grave, and all at last were made to submit to that inexorable sentence pronounced by an outraged God for sin: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread all the days of thy life, till thou return to the earth of which thou wast taken; for dust thou art and into dust thou shalt return.”

Ah, how many are there here today, perhaps, who have risen, with the help of God, from a career of sin, and who at this moment feel within them the lusty life of grace; but who will again, through human frailty, through neglect of prayer, through the strength of their own sinful passions and bad habits; above all, through their imprudently thrusting themselves into the occasion of sin, fall again into a state of spiritual death, never again, perhaps, to be awakened to a life of grace by the quickening voice of God; but to be abandoned to eternal reprobation. These are the abortions of the Church’s spiritual life and the victims of their own insane folly.

THE PERFECT SPIRITUAL RESURRECTION

But give me a spiritual uprisal, modeled truly on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Give me a spiritual life analogous to His during the Easter days. Give me a resurrection, I say, modeled on that of Jesus Christ, and an after-life like to His, of whom the Gospel tells us that to show that He was truly risen from the dead He performed the functions of a living man by daily conversing with the disciples, by eating with them, and by the performance of other vital actions. So you, I say, show forth to the world that your resurrection to the spiritual life is one effected by the help of grace and destined to be perpetual, by speaking, aye, thundering in the ears of God the voice of prayer and of contrition for your past sins; by eating, yes, sharing in the ineffable banquet of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ by frequent Communion, and by doing the works of Christ; that is, by the practice of Christian virtues. Give me such a resurrection and such a subsequent life. Of such a one it can be said what was said of Jesus Christ–that being risen from the dead “He dieth no more; death hath no longer dominion over Him”; for the supernatural life begun here by grace is destined to be perfected hereafter in glory.

LITANY OF THE RESURRECTION

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ have mercy.
Christ have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of heaven,
have mercy on us.*

God the Son, Redeemer of the world,*
God the Holy Ghost,*
Holy Trinity, one God,*
Jesus, Redeemer of mankind,*
Jesus, Who hast cleansed us by Thy blood,*
Jesus, Conqueror of sin and death,*
Jesus, the Holy One and the Just,*
Jesus, the First-Born from the dead,*
Jesus, the Second Adam,*
Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life,*
Jesus, the Author of our salvation,*
Jesus, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob,*
Jesus, Who by death didst destroy him who had the empire of death,*
Jesus, Who didst bring life and immortality to light,*
Jesus, Who didst lay down Thy life for Thy sheep,*
Jesus, Who hadst power to lay it down, and hadst power to take it up again,*
Jesus, Who, after three days, didst rise again from the dead,*
Jesus, Who didst rise very early in the morning on the first day of the week,*
Jesus, Who didst hasten to visit Thy blessed Mother in her solitude,*
Jesus, Who didst appear to Mary Magdalen while it was yet dark,*
Jesus, Who didst send Thy angels to announce to the women, that thou wast risen as thou hadst said,*
Jesus, Who didst suffer Thyself to be seen of the women, and to be adored by them,*
Jesus, Who didst appear to Peter, the chief of the Apostles,*
Jesus, who didst appear, in another shape, to the two disciples going to Emmaus,*
Jesus, Who didst make Thyself known unto them in the breaking of bread,*
Jesus, Who didst appear to the eleven, saying, Peace be unto you,*
Jesus, Who didst breathe upon them, and give unto them the Holy Ghost,*
Jesus, Who didst confirm the faith of Thomas, by showing unto him Thy hands and Thy feet,*
Jesus, Who didst commission Peter to feed Thy lambs and Thy sheep,*
Jesus, Who didst converse with Thy disciples, upon the mountain of Galilee,*
Jesus, Who was seen by more than five hundred brethren at once,*
Jesus, Who wast seen by James,*
Jesus, Who didst to in and out among Thy apostles, speaking to them of the kingdom of God, and eating with them,*
Jesus, Who didst lead them out as far as Bethany, and, while they looked on, wast carried up to heaven,*
Jesus, Who shalt come again with great power and glory, to judge the living and the dead,*
Jesus, Son of God, *

We sinners,
Beseech Thee, hear us.**

That we may put off the old man with his acts,**
That we may put on the new man, who is created in justice and holiness of truth,**
That we may walk in newness of life,**
That we may grow in grace, and in the knowledge of thee,**
That we may persevere unto the end,**
That, having risen with Thee, we may die no more,**
That we may attain unto the resurrection of the just,**
That Thou wouldst vouchsafe to feed us continually with the bread of life,**
That Thou wouldst reform the body of our lowliness, and make it like unto the body of Thy glory,**
That we may behold Thy face with joy,**
That we may be placed on Thy right hand in the Judgment,**
That we may hear those words of joy: Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess ye the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,**
That Thou wouldst give us part in Thy heavenly glory,**
That Thou wouldst give rest and peace to the faithful departed,**
That with them we may obtain everlasting life,**
That we may be with Thee always, forever, and ever,**

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us.

Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

V. Christ is risen. Alleluia.
R. He is risen indeed, and hath appeared unto Simon. Alleluia.

Let us pray:

O God, Who, by Thine only-begotten Son, hast (this day) opened the passage to eternity, through His victory over death; vouchsafe, we beseech Thee, so to confirm us by Thy grace, that we may walk in all our ways like those who have been redeemed from sin. Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

(Approved by the Most Rev. John Hughes, Archbishop New York 1853)

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