Sunday, April 4, 2010

How Jesus came forth from the tomb

St. Matthew alone tells us that the stone was still blocking the entrance of the tomb when Christ came forth. He says: “After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it.” The angel does not roll back the stone in order that Christ may come forth, but in order to show the women the Christ had already risen and come forth from the tomb.

You may notice that, in most artistic depictions of the Resurrection, the tomb is already open when Christ rises. But this is not really quite accurate: he came forth from the tomb when it was still completely closed!

Why is it important to note that the stone was rolled back after Christ had already risen and come forth? St. Matthew tells us this detail, so that there can be no doubt about whether Christ’s body was stolen during the night. If the stone was sealed and the women saw it opened, they would be able to testify that the body could not have been taken during the night, but that Christ had miraculously risen and come forth from the tomb, when it was still sealed shut!

But how did Jesus exit the tomb, when the stone was blocking the opening?
St. John tells us that Jesus was able to walk through walls, when he entered the closed room where the disciples were hiding. Though all the doors were locked, Jesus came into their midst, obviously passing through the walls. (Jn 20:19)

This is also what happened when Jesus came forth from the tomb. Though the stone sealed the entrance, Christ passed through the stone walls of the tomb. When the women came and the stone was rolled back, they saw that their Lord was not in the tomb, but had risen from the dead.

But this raises another question: How did Christ walk through walls? Was this proper to his glorified body? Interestingly, St. Thomas says that this ability to walk through walls was not proper to Christ’s body through its glorification, but was the effect of Christ’s divine power. (ST III, q.54, a.1, ad 1)

This means that, ordinarily, even after the resurrection, Christ could not walk through walls. Still, on certain occasions (like when he exited the tomb and when he entered the locked room where the apostles were), through his divine power working in his glorified body, Christ walked through walls. (ST supplementum, q.83, a.2)

This means that the bodies of the saints, after the resurrection, will not ordinarily walk through walls. Indeed, since the glorified bodies of the saints will still be real, physical bodies, all the necessary properties of physical bodies will remain (and bodies cannot pass through other matter). In addition to these natural properties, certain other graces will be bestowed: immortality, brightness, agility, subtlety, etc. These new properties given to the glorified bodies of the saints will allow them to walk on water, to shine brightly, to appear under various forms, to move about with great speed, etc—but this will not include the ability to walk through walls.


Anonymous said...

20:19 That day. Sunday evening. Doors being locked. Barred. The twelve minus Judas & Thomas. The disciples were afraid they would be arrested for supporting Jesus' alleged conspiracy against the authority of imperial Rome. Jesus came and stood among them. After His resurrection, Jesus more fully mainfested His divine attributes. Thus, though still completely human, He did not allow physical barriers to keep Him from revealing himself to His disciples.

Anonymous said...

NTM evidently acknowledges post ressurrection gift of 'agility', which is ability to 'be' in a place merely by desiring to 'be' in that place. So, why wouldn't that work with being on one side of a wall, then desiring to be on the other side? Using the gift of agility would take place virtually instantaneously such that 'passing through the wall' is easily understood as an event that happened versus 'how it was done'. Right?

Terry said...

I see also a simultude in the way in which our Lord exited the tomb and the womb of Our Lady.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

You are correct that Christ, after the resurrection, had the gift of "agility", but this is not quite the same as "transportation".

The resurrected body is still physical (though glorified), it is still material. Matter cannot transport (outside of the working of divine omnipotence)...

What you describe would entail that Christ's body would simply fall out of existence and then come back into existence...
While, by virtue of divine omnipotence, this may be possible, it is not the gift of "agility".

Even in the resurrection, Christ's body had to pass through space.
Thus, it was by divine omnipotence that he passed through the wall (the material of the wall and the material of Christ's glorified body existed in the same place at the same time).


Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

You are quite right! There is a very close and important connection between Christ's coming forth from the tomb and Christ's birth of the Virgin.

Consider this verse of Rex sempiterne Caelitum (from the Roman Breviary):
"Qui natus olim e Virgine,
nunc e sepulcro nasceris."
He who was once born of the Virgin,
Now is born from the tomb.

Also, St. Gregory the Great tells us that Christ exited the closed womb of the Virgin Mary in the same manner that he entered the closed room where the Apostles were hiding. (this is also the same power by which he exited the closed tomb).

Wonderful connection, which is very deeply rooted in our Tradition (it is a de fide truth).

Here is one more thought:
As Christ was born of the Virgin without causing any harm to her virginity, so too the Word was born of the eternal Father without causing any separation of essence or division of nature!

God be praised!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Fr for this explaination to this means, that Christ was a divine GOD one of the Trinity

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

Thank you to all who commented.

John White said...

"St. Thomas says that this ability to walk through walls was not proper to Christ’s body through its glorification, but was the effect of Christ’s divine power. (ST III, q.54, a.1, ad 1)" I would guess St. Thomas has reason(s) as to why it was divine power and not a glorified-body property that allowed the resurrected Jesus to pass through rock and walls, but I can't fathom what they are. In absence of such reasons, I must agree due to the fact that, based on our current level of ignorance, this is what we THINK we know.

Trevor said...

Thanks for this interesting article. It provoked a question. What is the difference between a body walking through walls and a body walking on water when it comes to the idea of bodies acting consistent with the rules of the material universe? Thanks again.

Father Ryan Erlenbush said...

The laws of nature are such that bodies have the ability to float on water ... thus, walking on water is not entirely beyond the natural order.
BUT, for two bodies (pieces of matter) to be in the same place at the same time -- this is entirely beyond natural order. And this is what occurred when Jesus walked through the walls (and when he was born of Mary).

Great question! +

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