Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Where was Jesus during the forty days after Easter?

We know that Christ truly rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples in bodily form at various times during the forty days from Easter Sunday to Ascension Thursday. Christ our God was truly upon the Earth and in the world, even in his glorified flesh, for all of those days until he ascended into heaven.
The gospels speak of ten apparitions of the risen Jesus, and we gather at least two more from St. Paul. But, we wonder, where was Jesus during the rest of those forty days? Where was the Lord when he was not visibly present to his disciples?

On the day of the Resurrection
On the first Easter Sunday, our Savior appeared five times to his disciples. Msgr. Charles Pope had recently posted a nice summary of these events [here] – and, though he lists six apparitions on the first day, he admits that the sixth is probably the same as the fifth.
1) To Mary Magdalene at the sepulcher.
2) To the women as they left from the tomb.
3) To Cleopas and the other disciple on the road to Emmaus.
4) To Peter, alone.
5) To the eleven Apostles, excepting Thomas.
Five other appearances in the gospels
There are, then, five more apparitions recorded in the gospels and set forward by St. Augustine (De Cons. Evang. III) and St. Thomas (ST III, q.55, a.3, ad 3).
6) A week later, to the eleven Apostles including Thomas.
7) By the sea of Tiberius (i.e. the sea of Galilee), when there was the great capture of fish.
8) On the mountain of Galilee, when Jesus said, Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. (Matthew 28:19)
9) When they were at table, according to Mark. On this occasion our Lord said, And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name they shall cast out devils: they shall speak with new tongues. They shall take up serpents; and if they shall drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them: they shall lay their hands upon the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:17-18)
10) And, finally, Jesus appeared to them at Bethany before he ascended to heaven.
Other apparitions
Beyond those contained in the gospels, we know that our Lord appeared also to five hundred disciples at once, and to James the Less (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:6-7) On this point, St. Augustine mentions that, “as John admits, not all things were written down. And he visited them [i.e. the Apostles] frequently before he went up to heaven.” St. Thomas adds that these frequent visits were given in order that they might be comforted and strengthened.
We might well presume that our Lord would have appeared also to the Blessed Virgin Mary at least occasionally during those forty days. Many, especially in more recent years (since the 1500s), have claimed that Jesus appeared to his Mother before all the others.
We also must add that, after his Ascension into heaven, our Savior did appear in bodily form upon the earth one last time – when he called Saul to be his apostle and gave him the new name of Paul [correction: It is not clear in Scripture as to when and why Saul took the name Paul]. This apparition is most unique, since it is the only occasion in which our Savior has or will be bodily present upon the earth (i.e. in his own proper species, and not simply in the sacramental species by which he is truly and substantially present in the Eucharist).
Where was Jesus in those days?
Still, even given that there were perhaps many more apparitions than the ten recorded in the gospels (and the other two recorded by St. Paul), we must admit that for most of those forty days Jesus was not visibly present to his disciples. If our Lord was not appearing to the disciples for large portions of those days (and especially on the days other than Sundays), where was he?
St. Thomas speaks very simply to this question: “It is quite unknown in what places he was bodily present in the meantime, since Scripture is silent, and his dominion is in every place.” (ST III, q.55, a.3, ad 2)
We know that Jesus was not continually with the disciples, because St. John makes it clear that our Lord did not dwell with them in the days between the fifth and sixth apparitions – he was not with the Apostles or with any of the disciples during those first six days after Easter, hence St. John says and after eight days indicating that none saw him in the interim. (John 20:26)
Further, we know that Jesus did not go up to heaven, but remained in the world. The Savior did not ascend until the fortieth day, but was well pleased to dwell in our world for an extended period so as to manifest his resurrection and strengthen his disciples.
It seems reasonable to conclude that most of these days were spent in quiet prayer, alone and apart.
Further, we can suspect that our Savior visited his Mother frequently – not so much to prove his resurrection (for she had perfect faith), but rather to give her great cause for joy. Indeed, as a good Son, it seems quite likely that Jesus would have spent a great deal of time with Mary before his ascension.
Why didn’t Jesus spend more time with the Apostles?
It is good for us to consider why our Savior did not live continually in the presence of his Apostles during these forty days. It may seem that he could have instructed them more profitably and also given them greater encouragement by spending more time with them, rather than only appearing to them on rare occasions.
St. Thomas Aquinas writes: “Concerning the Resurrection two things had to be manifested to the disciples, namely, the truth of the Resurrection, and the glory of Him who rose. Now in order to manifest the truth of the Resurrection, it sufficed for Him to appear several times before them, to speak familiarly to them, to eat and drink, and let them touch Him. But in order to manifest the glory of the risen Christ, He was not desirous of living with them constantly as He had done before, lest it might seem that He rose unto the same life as before.” (ST III, q.55, a.3)
Further, it should be added that it was not so much that our Savior wanted to be in other places or had other things “to do”, as though he were too busy to spend time with the Apostles. Rather, it was for the sake of the Apostles’ instruction that he chose not to rest with them continually in bodily form throughout the whole of those forty days.


Marko Ivančičević said...

Beautiful post Father...thank you.

Someone said that Jesus, when He was with them in those days, had taught the Apostles how to serve Mass.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Ryan,

Not to quibble with an otherwise excellent article, but are you referring to Paul's encounter on the road to Damascus as the last time that our Lord appeared in bodily form on the earth? In my readings of various translations, including the Nestle-Aland interlinear translation, Paul doesn't actually 'see' the Lord, but 'hears' Him. Perhaps more of an 'audition' than a 'vision.'

Paul rises from the ground blind. Did this occur when the first flash of light hit, since Luke reports that he only heard a voice? Did it happen after gazing on Jesus - although nothing specifically is said of that?

Also, slightly off the subject, but still referencing your comment on Paul, it seems that Paul was called Saul for some time after the Damascus encounter. Luke changes the name later in Acts with no explanation. Is there something in the Fathers that addresses the name change possibly coming from his encounter with the Lord?

- Mark

Anonymous said...

Dear Father,

Thank you for your post. I had always been under the impression that St. Paul changed his name for practical purposes in ministering to the Gentiles, since Christ's directly changing his name (as He did to St. Peter) appears nowhere in Scripture. Does this come from a later tradition? There is a possible explanation here: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11567b.htm


Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

I believe that the primary Scripture testimony is in 1 Cor 15:8 -- "And last of all, he was seen also by me, as by one born out of due time".

Jesus appeared to Paul in just the same manner as to Peter, the 500, James, etc.
Though, as you mention, the accounts of the apparition on the road to Damascus are a bit confusing at times -- of course, not contradictory.

Peace! +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Yes, as I think of it ... you may be correct there...

kkollwitz said...

Further, we know that Jesus did not go up to heaven, but remained in the world. The Savior did not ascend until the fortieth day...

I agree He did not ascend to heaven and stay there until the 40th day. But during the 40 days He moved between Heaven and Earth, his Resurrected body being somewhat ill at ease on Earth.

kkollwitz said...

Re Saul > Paul, the namechange occurred after hands were laid on Saul in Acts 13.

kkollwitz said...

"It is good for us to consider why our Savior did not live continually in the presence of his Apostles during these forty days."

I regard the 40 days as a time of transition for the the apostles. Jesus 24/7 before Easter; Jesus intermittently during the 40 days; Jesus definitively leaves Earth at the Ascension.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

there is nothing in Scripture to suggest that Jesus ascended to heaven and came back down multiple times during the 40 days ... and, on the other hand, there is much in the tradition which says that he did not; but rather remained all those days on earth (refer to the works of Augustine and Thomas cited above).

Regarding Saul to Paul ... Acts 13 is not conclusive on that point ... certainly, there is nothing explicit in that place about a name-change. +

R.C. said...

Jesus' body was a resurrected, "spiritual" body: A true body, and not ghostly, but a body whose shape and characteristics were a constant ongoing reflection of His freely willed choosing.

At present our natural bodies are what our spiritual selves are "stuck" with...good (not evil as in the old Gnostic heresy) but not typically obedient to our own choosing.

But Christ's perfected body would be a different matter, literally: Material, but its matter completely under the command of the soul, with none of the bodily frailty or unruliness that comes from the weakened nature of fallen humanity.

For those with a taste for sci-fi: I imagine that Christ's relationship with the material world, after His resurrection, was in some ways like Neo's relationship with the Matrix, or Dr. Manhattan's (Jon Osterman's) relationship with the material world (in the Matrix movies and in Watchmen, respectively).

I therefore surmise that He had, after the Resurrection, the ability to become corporeal or non-corporeal at any location in space (and perhaps any moment in time? why should time remain linear and compulsory for a resurrected person, anyway?) at will.

Certainly He seemed to find it easy to appear and disappear at will, into locked rooms and away from roadside dinner tables. Did He simply "drop" the atoms making up His body on the road to Emmaeus, and "pick up" different atoms to comprise His body inside the locked room?

Hence He may have simply been non-corporeal during as much of the 40 days as He saw fit. His soul was now so empowered that had someone tried to destroy His new body with a missile He could have (a.) caught the missile, (b.) withstood the blast without a scratch, or (c.) allowed the blast to destroy His body and then, a millisecond later, rebuilt another body from nearby matter or from matter freshly-created ex nihilo...whatever He preferred.

This was, I suppose, the original intended destiny for mankind had Adam and Eve not fallen.

Some folks wonder about how unfallen nature would have been different so as to make human suffering within it impossible: Would there have been vegetarian tigers and no tornadoes or tsunamis? But for the person with the resurrected, perfected body, I suspect that man-eating tigers would have been no risk at all: Give the tiger a good meal, if you like, and then come back to life a moment later. It's not called "dying" if one's expulsion from corporeal existence is entirely voluntary and lasts only as long as one likes. And it's only a "resurrection" the first time; after that re-corporealizing is as easy as breathing. And as for tornadoes: What a wonderful natural carousel ride! And tsunamis: What an opportunity to body-surf!

All of that is wild (and picturesque) speculation. I submit it entirely to the judgment of Holy Mother Church. But at present I see no reason in Her teachings why it could not all be true.

Alessandro said...

Dear Father,
I read through this post and found a little doubt: I hope you can solve it.
When Jesus meets the Magdalene and she wants to touch him, the Lord says "Do not touch me, for I am not yet ascended to my Father". That sentence may suggest that Jesus couldn't be touched until after ascending to the Father, but that seems to contradict the fact that the Apostles touched him in the Upper Room on that very evening to test our Lord's physical reality. How can this be reconciled with the idea that Jesus ascended to the Father on the 40th day for the first time? What does Tradition or the Magisterium say on this difficult point?

I thank you in advance for your answer!


Anonymous said...

Is it possible -- i.e., would it be consistent with Church teaching and good theology -- that Jesus also visited peoples in other parts of the world? For example, seems I;ve read somewhere that ancient Native American folklore alludes to the visit of the Creator as a man who resembled Jesus in every biblical way ... is that my imagination or have you heard a version of that too?
Anyway, interested in your thoughts.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Just one point about your comment -- you said that Jesus' body could become "corporeal" or "non-corporeal" at will. We simply cannot say that.
He had a true and real body after the resurrection ... and a non-corporeal body is self-contradictory.

Yes, the body is immortal ... but not immaterial.

As to the rest, there is no doubt that theology on the resurrection of the body is some of the difficult and speculative work there is ...

Peace. +

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Great question.
St. Augustine deals with this and says:
1) Mary Magdalene is a symbol for the gentiles who did not believe in Jesus until after the resurrection.
2) Christ must be spiritually "touched" (i.e. believed in) only as being one and equal with the Father.

Here is the quote (taken from the Catena Aurea):
"And did He not before His ascension offer Himself to the touch of the disciples: Handle Me and see, for a spirit has not flesh and bones? Who can be so absurd as to suppose that He was willing that disciples should touch Him before He ascended to His Father, and unwilling that women should till after Nay, we read of women after the resurrection, and before He ascended to His Father, touching Him, one of whom was Mary Magdalene herself, according to Matthew. Either then Mary here is a type of the Gentile Church, which did not believe in Christ till after His ascension: or the meaning is that Jesus is to be believed in, i.e. spiritually touched, in no other way, but as being one with the Father. He ascends to the Father mystically, as it were, in the mind of him who has so far advanced as to acknowledge that He is equal to the Father. But how could Mary believe in Him otherwise than carnally, when she wept for Him as a man?"

In addition, St. John Chrysostom adds that Mary Magdalene was trying to hold on to Christ as he was before the passion ... but when Thomas touches Jesus it is as a proof that our Lord has moved into a new life beyond the passion.

Peace! +

Alessandro said...

Dear Father,
might there also be some other theological reason? Because it looks rather weak to accept the simple view of Augustine which, nevertheless, looks rather good to me for an allegorical exegesis.

I have another one to propose, but I don't know if it is correct (I must say I thought of it when I read your interesting post!). I hope you can give your personal opinion on the subject. Here's my proposal:

The first people who touched Jesus were the Apostles because they were the first bishops and priests of the Church - the same who had to touch Jesus Himself transubstantiated in the Host during the Mass. Unlike Mary Magdalene, they had been ordered to the priesthood on the very day that Jesus offered Himself at the Last Supper. The Apostles had to handle and touch Christ's body even before the Resurrection as ministerial priests of the New Covenant, while Mary, as a laywoman, had to wait until she received Jesus in the Eucharist by the Apostles themselves or by the bishops and presbyters who continued that priestly ministry. Is this a possible explanation of the Noli me tangere?

R.C. said...

Fr. Ryan:

I apologize for using self-contradictory language. Latin "corpus" means "body" and that therefore if one uses the English "corporeal" to mean "bodily" then of course "non-corporeal body" means "non-bodily body" which is nonsense.

But I didn't intend to deny that the Resurrection was bodily. By "non-corporeal" I was groping for terminology to express the odd behavior of the Resurrected body.

The Resurrected body is made of real atoms. So far so good.

But most things made of atoms, in our experience, do not appear and disappear at will. I accept on faith that this oddly-behaved matter is still matter, but it behaves in a way very unlike the way matter usually behaves.

By "non-corporeal" I meant merely to say "unlike usual bodies": Unlike that lumpish failure to respond willingly to command that physical objects normally show to anyone other than their Creator. (When God says "Let this rock become dust" or "Let this fig tree wither" it does; when I say the same thing, nothing happens.)

Now the Resurrected body seems to behave in response to its owner in much the same way that Nature overall behaves in response to the commands of her Creator. He says, "Be here" or "Be there" or "Be like this" or "Be like that" and she leaps into obedience, even to the point of vanishing from here and appearing suddenly there. This is very unlike the normal behavior of bodies that I know.

But His body is that way. (Were all bodies originally meant to be that way for unfallen man?) The fact that our bodies are not that way yet is a defect needing mending, and not definitional to what bodies and Nature really are.

What happened to the atoms in His body when Jesus "teleported" into locked rooms? If He disappears from Capernaum and reappears in Jerusalem, does he teleport the atoms that were in Capernaum? Or does he "drop" those atoms and "pick up" a different set that happened to be in Capernaum at the time? Or allow the original set of atoms to simply drop out of existence when He stops thinking about them, and call into existence a new set in a new location?

The latter two options raise doubt that we could regard the body which appears in a new location as still being the same body, if it contains a different set of atoms. But I don't think that objection stands up under scrutiny, for the atoms which make up my own body now are different ones from the atoms which made it up when I was first born: There is a constant changeover. Yet this doesn't prevent it being "my" body.

It what sense, then, is it "mine?" Well, by stewardship, I suppose: It's the body God has given me (fitful) command over for the duration of my earthly life. And if Jesus could, after the Resurrection, assemble or create a body at any given place more or less at will, it would be "His" body simply because He (even more than me!) had command of it.

For the Resurrected and the Glorified soul, then, is "having a body" a shorthand for "having the ability to be bodily present -- assembling or creating a body for the purpose -- anywhere in Nature at will?" This would certainly explain the appearances of the Resurrected Christ, as well as the oddity that the two on the road to Emmaeus did not initially recognize Him.

Does this even provide insight into how the Eucharist becomes His body and blood?

But I'm way over my head there and worry that I'm talking nonsense, so as before I submit every musing to the judgement of the Church.

Anyway, all of this is a rather protracted explanation for misspeaking! But you were right to pick on the term "non-corporeal" as erroneous even if the error was one of word choice and not of intended meaning. So I wanted to make sure anyone who read this saw both that I accepted your criticism as valid, and understood better my intention.

Jacqueline Y. said...

When Jesus appeared to the seven disciples on the shore of the Sea of Tiberius/Galilee, he had built a charcoal fire on which he was baking bread and cooking fish (John 21:9). I suspect that his Mother Mary gave him some of the bread dough that she had made.

Greg said...

I'd like to think that Jesus spent a lot of time with his Mother in between his appearances to the disciples.

alan r said...

Dear Father Ryan,
Like JC, I have often pondered what our bodies would be limited by if they were subject to the soul. Several things from scripture still puzzel me. I could be mistaken but I believe that there is a statement that when Jesus return at the last judgement, the faithful will meet him in the sky. Also, I believe it is in Revelation that the old order will pass away.

If the soul is where it acts and the body acts where it is, perhaps the new order would effect not just the spiritual order, but the a material order as well? Perhaps when Jesus comes in glory, the faithful will desire to be with Jesus and the soul will desire to be with Jesus and the body will follow.

I often go to far astray and am always grateful for correction.

Alan R.

I am not Spartacus said...

Dear Father. Also interesting to consider is where the Just, liberated from Limbo by Our Lord and Saviour, were prior to His Ascension into Heaven.

The great Dom Prosper Gueranger says they were twist Planet and Paradise (my paraphrase), in the air although invisible to man

Post a Comment

If you want your comment to be published: Use a name or pseudonym, and keep it short (generally, less than 100 words), to the point, and civil.

All comments must be approved by a blog-administrator. If your comment is deleted, please don't take it personally.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.