Easter Tuesday Print
By James V. Schall, S.J.   
Tuesday, 02 April 2013

The Breviary’s second reading for Easter Tuesday is its only citation of St. Anastasius of Antioch (d. 700 AD). Anastasius was the Abbot of the famous St. Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai.

Like Benedict XVI, he was concerned with the teachings and events of the Old Testament, with how they lead to those of the New Testament: Christ has shown by “his words and actions that he was truly God and Lord of the universe.” Yet he was given over to be crucified: “Scripture also affirmed that these things were going to happen to one who was immortal and incapable of suffering because he was God.” Just how these seemingly contradictory truths were both true was indicated by the Incarnation. This explanation involved another look at the inner life of God.

The “other look” is open to us when we read Christ’s explanation of Himself. He never tells us that He sends Himself. Nor does He decide by Himself to come into the world. He is Himself beyond the world because He is always “sent.” He says that He and the Father are One. He speaks of sending the Holy Spirit. He identifies Himself as God, yet not as God the Father, the origin. He tells us that He knows all things that are the Father’s.

This whole way of putting it means that reality is not only composed of the Father, but includes the Father “being known,” and hence the existence of a knower that can know the Father. Christ tells Philip, “He who sees me sees the Father.” He “sees” the Father. He is not the Father, nor is He the Spirit. But he knows both. He is one with them, God.

            When St. Athanasius tells us that God has also suffered, he is careful not affirm that the Father “suffers” except perhaps through the love of His Son. When we come to Easter morning, to the “days” of Easter, we deal with the Resurrection of Christ. Christ the Word is likewise immortal. If Christ suffers, as He does, He must suffer because He is Word made flesh. We are asked to distinguish, to think clearly. So we affirm that this Christ is “true God and true man,” without blurring the two natures into a sort of confused mixture.

The Resurrection by James Tissot, 1896

Why do we need to know these things about God, about the Word, about the Spirit? Our knowledge of them begins in belief, in the trust that what is said makes sense. If we are told, say, that God “suffers,” we are not simply to reply that God cannot suffer. Rather, we are asked whether any way exists in which the propositions that God cannot suffer and that God does suffer can be reconciled. The whole burden of early Christology demonstrates its possibility. We think on a new basis. We may need new philosophical categories that we did not see before.

Thinking about what has been revealed to us about God, about each of the three Persons, causes us to deepen our ideas about what is a person, about what is nature. We become more philosophical because we believe. Grace builds on nature, Aquinas tells us. But he adds that nature is more known and fundamental for us. When we are graced, we do not become gods or angels. We remain human persons with the peculiar destiny God has spelled out for us.

How does this reflection relate to the Resurrection of the body? St. Paul tells us that, without the Resurrection, our faith is in vain. Why so? The first step is to show that the Resurrection of Christ did happen. The second step asks: “What does it mean?” “Why was it necessary or advisable?” The Resurrection of the body means, if true, that the world is populated also by beings who are not gods, but who are none the less real and in fact immortal.

They are not just “immortal souls,” but full human persons, body and soul. The logic is impeccable. Man does not live by logic alone, but it helps. Why? We read in the Old Testament that God did not originally intend for us to die. We wonder: “Why, then, did not God just restore us to our original status?” The Resurrection obviously means that we still die.

It also means that the unity of body and soul that was lost is restored. God evidently intends to carry out His plan for man, even if man initially or finally rejects it. Why? Because He loves the whole of that which is man. This love includes our free will and our bodies.

The Resurrection will restore our bodies. But not even God can force us to love Him. The only thing He can do is to indicate how much He loves us. This is what the Crucifixion is about. This is what Easter is about.

James V. Schall, S.J., who served as a professor at Georgetown University for thirty-five years, is one of the most prolific Catholic writers in America. His most recent books are The Mind That Is Catholic and The Modern Age.
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