1 Christ, on rising from the tomb, appears first to Mary Magdalene; secondly ver. 19, to ten of the Apostles, and breathing on them gave them power to remit sins; lastly, ver. 26, He appears to Thomas, and bids him touch and handle His wounds.
HE first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.
Douay Rheims Version
Christ's resurrection and manifestation to his disciples.
ND on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalen cometh early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre: and she saw the stone taken away from the sepulchre.
Ver. 1.—On the first day of the week. Literally, of the Sabbath, the week being called the Sabbath, after its principal day, or the day of the Pasch. (see on Matt. xxviii.)
Mary Magdalene came. The other gospels speak of the other women but she only is mentioned here, as being their leader, and more zealous and active than the rest.
When it was yet dark. In the early dawn (profundo diluculo), says S. Luke. Note here her activity, watchfulness, and ardour. She seeks Christ in the dawn, and hence she is the first to see Him as the rising sun. As S. Ambrose says on the title of Ps. lv.,*“For the morning undertaking.” This morning undertaking we can ascribe to Mary Magdalene, who went very early in the morning to watch at the tomb, and first greeted the resurrection of the Lord, and as the sunlight grew brighter, she only, and before the rest, recognised the rising of the Sun of righteousness, and as by this morning greeting she rejoiced at the return of daylight, so did she rejoice the more that Christ was raised from the dead, and in her was fulfilled the prophecy, In the evening weeping will tarry (see vulg.) (heaviness may endure for the night, E. V.) but at morning is joy (Ps. xxx. 6).
Unto the sepulchre. To anoint the Body of Jesus, says Nonnus.
And saw the stone taken away. And the Angels, who said that Christ had risen, but the Magdalene did not believe it, and ran to Peter and John, saying, “They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him.” See notes on S. Matt. xxviii. 8. S. Jerome remarks (Ep. cl. Hedibiam), Her error was connected with piety—piety in longing to see Him whose Majesty she knew, but her mistake was in what she said.
Ver. 2.—Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, as the Chief Apostle, and as designated by Christ as His Vicar and successor, (Matt. xvi.), and that other disciple whom Jesus loved, i.e., S. John, who would be more diligent than the rest in searching for the Body of Christ.
Ver. 4.—So they ran both together. Before the rest, as loving Him above the rest, says S. Gregory.
And he (John) did outrun Peter, as the younger and more active, and moreover as more desirous of seeing that Body which he had just before seen marred on the cross.
Ver. 5.—And he stooping down, to look into the tomb, saw the linen clothes with which the Body of Christ had been wrapped. Yet went he not in, paying deference to Peter, as his senior and more worthy, says Lyranus, or else hindered by fear, or seized with a kind of sacred dread at the Body of Christ which was buried there.
Ver. 6.—Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre. Peter (says S. Chrysostom) entered with ardour, and carefully inspected everything. For the soldiers who guarded the tomb, when they saw the angel and the earthquake, ran away through fear. See also S. Jerome, Quæst. vi. ad Hedib. And seeth the linen clothes lie, and the napkin which was about His head (covering His face, as is generally done to the dead, for the sake of seemliness), not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. “This,” says S. Chrysostom, “was a sign of His Resurrection, for if they had removed the body they would not have stripped it, and if they had stolen it, they would not have been so careful to fold up the napkin, and put it aside by itself; for John had said before that He was buried with myrrh, which makes linen clothes cling close to the body, so that no one would be deceived by those who said that It was stolen away; for what thief would trouble himself so much about an unnecessary matter?”
Ver. 8.—Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre.
Tropologically, Toletus says that by John are signified all Christians, but by Peter the Pontiffs, Vicars of Christ. Peter then entered the tomb first as the highest in dignity, as the Vicar of Christ; but John came last, because it is possible that he who is first in rank, is behind others in desert and holiness.
And he saw and believed. Both of them, that is, believed that what Mary Magdalene said was true, namely, that the Body of Christ had been taken away. So says S. Augustine, Theophylact, and Jansen. S. Cyril, Chrysostom, Euthymius, and Nyssen add that both believed that Christ had risen. But this word “believed” more clearly and correctly applies only to S. John, who remembered the words of Christ, that He would rise on the third day. But Peter, on account of the strangeness of a Resurrection, and from His earnest desire to see Him alive again, was more slow to believe that Christ had risen. Whence the Angel significantly said to the women, “Go, tell His disciples and Peter.” (Mark xvi. 7.)
Ver. 9.—For as yet they knew not the scriptures, that He must rise again from the dead. For although He had solemnly assured them that He would rise, yet on account of its strange and wonderful nature they believed it not, but thought that He spoke in a figure and parable, as He was wont to do.
Ver. 10.—Then the disciples went away again unto their own home. Peter wondering, John believing He had risen, the Magdalene alone remaining at the sepulchre, to learn something more certain about the Body of her beloved Christ. See S. Augustine (in loc.) “And hence it came to pass that she alone saw Him, she who remained to seek for Him, for perseverance in a good work is a virtue,” says S. Gregory, Hom. xxv.
Ver. 11.—But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping. Because she anxiously looked about on every side for the Body of Jesus, as glowing in love for Him, and was beside herself; and not finding Him, wept for grief. “The eyes (says S. Augustine in loc.) who sought, but found Him not, had leisure to weep, and sorrowed more for His being taken from the tomb than that He had died on the Cross, because not even a memorial remained of so great a Teacher, whose life had been taken away.”
And as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre. Though she looked in before and saw that the sepulchre was empty. For, as says S. Gregory (in loc.), “A single look suffices not one who loves. The power of love increases the earnestness of the inquiry: she persevered in seeking, and accordingly she found. And so it was that her desires expanded and increased, and could thus take in that which they found.”
Ver. 12.—And saw two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. All these were tokens of His glorious Resurrection, and prepared the mind of the Magdalene to believe it. One sat at the head and the other at the feet, to signify that the whole Body of Christ had risen, and that, by assuming the immortal form and glory of angels, He had entered into their company, and had left these two angels, as guardians of the tomb, to announce the fact to the Magdalene.
Origen says that, mystically, the angel at the feet represented the active, the angel at the head the contemplative, life. For they are both of them from Jesus, about Jesus, through Jesus, and on account of Jesus.
Ver. 13.—They say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? This is no place for weeping, but rather for rejoicing, and being glad. Because thou seest not here the dead Body of thy Beloved One, thou oughtest to infer that Jesus has risen, and is no longer among the dead, but among the living; and more than this, that He is passing a blessed and heavenly life among the glorious angels, such as we are ourselves.
She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. I weep for three reasons. (1.) Because of the ignominious death of my Lord. (2.) Because His Body has been taken away, for if I saw It, I should kiss It, lament over It, and anoint It. (3.) Because I do not know where to look for It. For did I know, I should haste to the spot, embrace It, and overwhelm It with kisses. See here how Jesus suffers the souls of those that love Him to remain in ignorance for a while, in order to sharpen and enkindle their desire for Him; and when it is thus sharpened and enkindled, to comfort and make them glad with the full revelation of Himself.
Ver. 14.—And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Christ appeared behind the Magdalene, so that the angels who beheld Him rose up and bowed their heads, and exhibited other tokens of reverence and adoration towards Him. And this was why she turned about, viz., to see who it was whom the angels saluted so reverently. So S, Chrysostom (Hom. 85), and the author of the Quæst. ad Antioch (Quest. lxxviii.), [Pseudo-Athanasian]. Some think that Christ made a noise with His feet to attract her attention.
And saw Jesus. “The first to share the joy: as loving more than all.”
And knew not that it was Jesus. As appearing in the form of the gardener. Just as He appeared in the form of a stranger at Emmaus. For glorified bodies can put on any appearance they please, not by changing their own appearance, but by presenting only a refracted appearance to the sight of others. Christ did this, in order that she should not be startled. He appeared to her in consequence of her intense love to Him. But because she did not believe that He was alive, He veiled Himself from her, and presented Himself to her outward sight as the person she fancied Him to be. So S. Gregory (Hom. xxiii.), speaking of the disciples at Emmaus.
Ver. 15.—Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? S. Ambrose (Lib. iii. de Virg.) explains the whole passage minutely: “Woman, why weepest thou? He who believeth not is a woman; for he that believes rises up into the ‘perfect man, into the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.’ It is a reproach not on her sex, but on her slowness of belief. It is well said a woman hesitated, though a virgin had already believed. Why weepest thou? Thou thyself art in fault, as being incredulous. Dost thou weep because thou seest not Christ? Believe, and thou wilt see Him. Christ is close by thee, He never fails those that seek Him. Thou shouldest not weep, but have ready faith, as God requires. Think not of mortal things, and thou wilt not sorrow; think not of perishing things, and thou wilt have no cause for weeping. Thou weepest for that, at which others are glad. Whom seekest thou? seest thou not that Christ is at thy side?”
Origen wrote a striking Homily, and one full of devout feelings, respecting the Magdalene,** in which he says, among other things, “Love made her stand there, and sorrow caused her to weep. She stood and looked around, if perchance she could see Him whom she loved. She wept, as thinking that He whom she was looking for, had been taken away. Her grief was renewed, because at first she sorrowed for Him as dead, and now she was sorrowing for Him as having been taken away. And this last sorrow was the greater because she had no consolation.” And then he proceeds to lay open the sources of her sorrow, saying, “Peter and John were afraid, and therefore did not remain. But Mary feared not, because she felt that there was nothing left for her to fear. She had lost her Master, whom she loved with such singular affection, that she could not love or set her hopes on anything but Him. She had lost the life of her soul, and now she thought it would be better for her to die than to live, for she might perchance thus find Him when dead, whom she could not find while she lived. ‘Love is strong as death.’ What else could death do in her case? She was lifeless, she was insensible: feeling she felt not, seeing she saw not, hearing she heard not. And she was not really there, even where she seemed to be. Her whole thoughts were with her Master, and yet she knew not where He was. I seek not for the angels, who do but increase, and not remove my grief, but I seek my own Lord, and the Lord of angels.” And after a few more bursts of glowing and holy affections, he adds, “I am straitened on every side, I know not what to choose. If I remain by the tomb, I find Him not; if I retire from it, I know not where to go, or where to seek for Him: hapless that I am. To leave the tomb is death to me, to remain by it is irremediable sorrow. But it is better for me to keep watch over His tomb, than to go far away from it. For perhaps when I return, I shall find that He has been taken away, and His sepulchre destroyed. I will therefore remain here and die, that at least I may be buried by the sepulchre of my Lord. Return, my beloved one,—return, the loved one of my vows.” He then adds, “Why, Beloved Master, dost Thou trouble the spirit of this woman? Why dost Thou distress her mind? She depends entirely on Thee, she abides entirely on Thee, she hopes solely on Thee, and utterly despairs of herself. She seeks Thee, as seeking or thinking of no one besides. And perhaps she does not recognise Thee because she is not in her right mind, but quite beside herself for Thy sake. Why then dost Thou say, ‘Why weepest thou-whom seekest thou?’”
She, supposing Him to be the gardener, saith unto Him. Because, as Theophylact and Euthymius say, “He was meanly dressed, and because He seemed from His dress to be at home there. She knew that Joseph of Arimathæa did not live there, and supposed that He was the person left in charge of the garden. So F. Lucas. [Pseudo]-Origen proceeds, “0 Mary, if thou art seeking for Jesus, why dost thou not recognise Him? And if thou dost recognise Him, why art thou seeking for Him? Behold Jesus cometh to thee, and He whom thou seekest asketh of thee, ‘Woman, why weepest thou?’ And thou supposest Him to be the gardener, as not knowing Him. For indeed Jesus is also the Gardener, as sowing the good seed in the garden of thy heart, and in the hearts of His faithful servants.” Whence S. Gregory (in loc.), “Is He not the Gardener who planted in her breast, through His love, the flourishing seeds of virtues?”
Sir, if thou hast borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away. She does not say “Whom,” but means Jesus, of Whom her heart was full. S. Thomas and others say, that this is the feeling of those who are deeply in love. They suppose that others are thinking about the same person as themselves. Although she might have thought that He knew the answer she had already given to the angels, They have taken away my Lord, &c., as S. Chrysostom seems to indicate. [Pseudo]-Origen remarks, “Such great grief for Thy death had overwhelmed her, that she could not think of Thy resurrection. Joseph placed Thy body in the tomb, and Mary also buried her spirit there, and so indissolubly united it as it were to Thy body, that she could more easily separate her soul from the body which it animated, than she could separate her soul from Thy dead body, for which she was seeking. For the spirit of Mary was more in Thy body than in her own; and in seeking for Thy body she was at the same time seeking for her own spirit, and where she lost Thy body she lost also her own spirit. What wonder then she had no sense, since she had lost her spirit? What wonder if she knew Thee not, as not having the spirit wherewith to know Thee? Give her back then her spirit, I mean Thy body, and she will then regain her senses and abandon her error.”
And I will take Him away—“What if He is in the High Priest’s palace? What if He is in Pilate’s house? Yes, I will take Him away. Love conquers everything. It counts impossibilities as possible, nay, as easy.” So [Pseudo]-Origen and S. Chrysostom. Though S. Jerome (Quæst. v. ad Hedib.) regards them as the words of ignorance and want of consideration.
Ver. 16.—Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto Him, Rabboni, which is to say, Master. He called her not merely by her own name, but with that tone of voice, that sweetness, grace, and efficacy, with which He used to speak to her; and she at once recognised Him. Whence [Pseudo]-Origen, wondering at the condescension of Christ, exclaims, “0 the change of this right hand of the most High (Ps. lxxvii. 10). My great grief is turned into great joy; the tears of sorrow are changed into the tears of love. When she beard the word ‘Mary’ (for thus He used to address her), she perceived a wondrous sweetness in the name, and knew that He who called her was her Master. Her spirit then revived and her senses returned, and when He wished to add something more, she could not wait, but from excess of joy she interrupted Him, saying, Rabboni. For she thought that having found the ‘Word’ she did not require a single word more, and she deemed it more profitable to touch the ‘Word’ than to hear any words whatever. 0 vehement and impatient love! It was not enough for her to see Jesus and to talk with Him; unless she also touched Him, for she knew that virtue went out from Him, and healed all.”
She turned herself. For when He was slow in answering, she had looked away from Him towards the angels, as if to ask them who was this gardener who was talking with her, and why they stood up and greeted Him with such reverence? But when she heard Jesus addressing her by name, and recognised His voice, she was enraptured with joy, and at once looked straight towards Him. The voice of the Shepherd reaching the ears of the lamb, at once opened her eyes, and soothed all her senses with its secret power and wonted sweetness; and so carried her away out of herself, that she at once was carried away with unhoped-for and inexplicable joy, and cried out “Rabboni,” my Master. I, as Thy disciple, Thy spiritual daughter, give myself wholly to Thee. In Thee who hast risen, I myself live again, I exult and rejoice. So S. Cyril, Chrysostom, and others. And accordingly she fell down at His knees, and wished, as she was wont, reverently to touch His head and His feet, and cover them with kisses. Just as the Shunammite embraces the feet of Eliseus the prophet (2 Kings iv. 27). This is plain from Christ’s instant prohibition.
Rabboni. This was a word of greater reverence than Rabbi, and was used by the Magdalene only after His Resurrection. [But see Mark x. 51.]
Ver. 17.—Jesus saith unto her, Touch Me not; for I am not yet ascended to My Father, &c. This is a difficult passage, and the connection between the two parts is even more difficult. (1.) S. Augustine explains the connection thus, “Touch Me not, for as yet thou art not worthy to touch Me; for in thy thoughts regarding Me, I have not as yet ascended to My Father, for as yet thou dost not perfectly believe that I am the Son of God, and that I ascend to My Father.” And S. Jerome (Quæst. v. ad Hedibiam) explains it much in the same way. But this is a mystical rather than a literal explanation. As also is that of S. Leontius (Serm. ii. de Ascens.), “I do not wish you to approach Me bodily, or recognise Me with thy bodily senses. I reserve thee for higher things. I am preparing for thee greater things. When I shall have ascended to My Father, then wilt thou touch Me more perfectly and truly, for thou wilt comprehend that which thou touchest not, and believe that which thou seest not.” (2.) S. Cyril (Lib. xii. cap. i.) says, “ He forbade her to touch Him, to signify that no one ought to approach His glorified Body, which was soon to be touched and received in the Eucharist, before receiving the Holy Spirit, which He had not yet sent.” But, on this ground neither would the other women, or Thomas, or the rest have been able to touch Him—which yet they did. (3.) S. Chrysostom (in loc.), Theophylact, and Euthymius say that He forbade her to touch Him, because He wished to be touched with greater reverence than heretofore: since He would not henceforth hold converse with men, but with angels and blessed spirits. But it does not appear that the Magdalene failed in reverence. And after all, what connection has this with the reason given, “I have not yet ascended to My Father”? (4.) [Pseudo]-Justin (Quæst. a Gentibus, propos. xlvii.), and after him Toletus and others, explain it thus: Touch Me not: for I am shortly about to ascend to heaven, and I wish to withdraw you gradually from My accustomed presence. Therefore, says [Pseudo]-Justin, “He did not constantly show Himself to His disciples after His Resurrection, nor yet withdraw Himself entirely from their sight, so that He was seen, and yet not seen.” But this explanation is not clear, and requires many things to be supplied, besides misinterpreting the reason given. (5.) The best explanation is this, “Do not waste any more time in thus touching Me. Go and bear the glad tidings of My Resurrection to My disciples at once. I do not just yet ascend into heaven. You will have ample time before then to touch and converse with Me.” (See Suarez, par. iii. Disput. xlix. § 3, Ribera (in loc.), and others.) Christ afterwards allowed Himself to be touched by her and the other women, because they were then on their way to tell the Apostles that He had risen. (Matt. xxviii. 9.)
1. It is said that Christ when speaking these words touched the forehead of the Magdalene, and that Sylvester Prieras saw those marks when her tomb was opened in 1497 (see Surius, in Vita S. M. Magdalenæ). 2. S. Epiphanius (Her. xxvi) gives a moral reason, viz., that Christ did not wish to be touched by any woman, except in the presence of others; an example followed by SS. Augustine and Ambrose, S. Martin, S. Chrysostom, S. Charles Borromeo, and others. 3. Rupertus gives an allegorical reason. Mary, he says, here represented the Gentile Church which was to come to Christ, not by corporal but by spiritual contact, after His Ascension. See also Chrysostom, Serm. lxxv.
It is most probable, as S. Augustine (de Consen. Evang. iii. 24), Theophylact, and Euthymius (in cap. ult. Matt.), and S. Jerome (Epist. ad Hedibiam, Quæst. v.) say, that Mary hastened away, and came up with the other women who went away with Peter and John, and that she then saw Christ again when He appeared to them all; that she then touched His feet, and adored Him (see Matt. xxviii. 9). But Toletus says it was not so.
Tropologically. Hence learn that it is more acceptable to Christ to comfort those who are in any affliction, than to look only to one’s self. So that when necessity, or piety or charity require it, it is allowable to postpone the Sermon, or even Mass, on a Feast day, for the purpose of aiding the sick and suffering. See notes on Matt. ix. 13.
Symbolically. S. Bernard (Serm. v. in Fest. Omn. Sanct.) says, “This is a word of glory, ‘A wise son is the glory of his father.’ Touch Me not then, says the Glory. Seek not glory as yet, rather avoid it. And touch Me not till we come to the Father, where all our glorying is secure.”
But go to My brethren. He calls them “Brethren” out of His wondrous condescension, being, as He is, not only as God but also as man, the Head and Lord of all. For all men are brethren as descended from Adam, and as the sons of God by grace. But the term properly applies to them as Apostles. And Christ was an Apostle, as being sent by God, and He associated with Him in His office Peter and the rest. The Pontiff calls in like manner the Cardinals and Bishops his brethren, though he is their superior. Christ speaks of them in this way to inspire them with courage, as though He said, Though they have forsaken Me, yet I do not forsake them; and by taking on Me the nature of man on rising again, I will show Myself to be their Brother.
And say unto them, I ascend unto My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God. Remind them of what I said to them before My Passion, that after a few days I should ascend to God the Father.
He says, “My Father and your Father,” Mine by nature, yours by grace, as S. Augustine says, to show that they had in common God as their Father. He as His Father by nature, they by adoption. So S.. Ambrose (de Virginitate). Moreover, S. Hilary (de Trinit., Book xi.), “He is His Father, as of all others, in respect of His human nature; and God, as He is the God of all men, in that nature in which He is a servant for God the Only Begotten is without brethren.” But it is simpler to say that He called Him “My Father,” to designate His own Divine Nature, and “My God” to set forth the human nature He had assumed, and that thus He was Very God, and very man. So S. Ambrose (ut supra), referring to Heb. ii. 11.
It means then, Tell the Apostles to banish their fear and sorrow, for I have risen from the dead, and love them as brethren, and therefore shall soon ascend to heaven, to prepare a place for them, that they may follow Me thither, and that I may send them the Holy Spirit from thence, to make them resolute preachers of My Gospel.
Ver. 18.—Mary came and told the disciples, I have seen the Lord, and He has said these things to me. She thus became an apostle and evangelist to the Apostles. And accordingly, when she was driven into exile by the Jews, and arrived at Marseilles, she preached the gospel to the people there. And she fully deserved this honour, by her glowing love to Christ, her faith and constancy, which led her to the sepulchre by herself at early dawn, where she waited patiently till she saw her Jesus.
Ver. 19.—Then the same day at evening, on the first day of the week. Or the feast of the Pasch. (See notes on Matt. xxviii. 1.)
When the doors were shut. Calvin says that Christ opened the doors, or entered through an open window, so as not to be compelled to admit that one dimension could penetrate another—penetratio dimensionum, or that two bodies could exist together in the same place, which Durandus (in iv. dist. 44, Quæst. vi.) says is even beyond the power of God. But S. John here intimates the contrary, for he says that the doors were shut, to signify that Christ passed through the closed doors, as He did both at His conception and nativity, and passed through the stone when He rose from the grave, thus manifesting the almighty power of His Godhead, and the gifts conferred upon His glorified Body. On this subject see Bellarmine, de Eucharistia, iii. 6, who quotes both Greek and Latin fathers on this point. As S. Augustine, “The closed doors opposed not His Body. Let us grant that God can do anything, which we admit, though we cannot understand. It all turns on the power of the Creator.” (S. Ambrose on Luke xxiv; S. Hilary, de Trin. lib. iii.; S. Justin Martyr, Resp. ad Græcor Quæstiones; Epiphanius, Hæresi, lxiv.) “As our Lord rose from the grave, not by raising up another Body, but the very same, changing it into the subtile nature of a spirit, thus He entered the closed doors, a thing impossible to our gross bodies,” &c. (Origen). And S. Cyril, “The Lord entered suddenly, the doors being closed, overcoming the ordinary nature of things by His omnipotence; for being true God, He is not under the power of nature.” And Euthymius, quoting S. Chrysostom, “He did not knock at the doors, lest they should be alarmed, but as God entered through them, though closed.”
Tropologically. Christ appears to those who have closed the doors of their mind to the world and the flesh, and gives them unexpectedly the sweetest peace. As S. Gregory (Lib. iv. in Lib. i. Reg. cap. v.) says, “They have their doors closed, who keep their bodies strictly guarded against human frailty and carelessness. They too are within, because they rest in the inward love of the life above. And the Lord appears to them on His Resurrection, because they behold His glory the more clearly, the more strictly they despise the world and imitate the mystery of His Passion. And they too can be filled with His Spirit within, because they enjoy His gifts and graces in abundance who have trained themselves for their enjoyment by despising the things of sight.”
And stood. Without any previous sign of His coming, with the swiftness of thought.
Tropologically. S. Bernard says (Serm. vi. de Ascens.), “Thou art deceived, 0 Thomas, in hoping to see the Lord when separated from the company of the Apostles. The truth loves not holes and corners, takes no pleasure in places apart. He stands in the midst, that is, He takes pleasure in common discipline, common life, common studies.”
And saith unto them, Peace be unto you. This is the usual Hebrew mode of greeting, for peace brings with it every good, war every evil.
Ver. 20.—And when He had so said, He showed them His hands and His side. It is clear from this verse (and still more clearly from ver. 27) that Christ after His Resurrection retained not only the scars, but even the very holes, of His wounds, and that really and not in appearance. So S. Augustine teaches in answer to Porphyrius (Epist. xlix. [al cii.] ad Deogratias). He did not fill them up with His glorified flesh, but left them open, in order that they might be incontrovertible proofs of the truth of His Body, and of Its Resurrection. So S. Cyril and Leontius. S. Augustine says (in loc.), “The nails had wounded His hands, the spear had pierced His side, and the marks of the wounds were left, to heal the hearts of the doubtful.” 2. This was a sign of His victory over sin, the world, the flesh, and the devil. So S. Augustine and S. Ambrose in Luke (cap. ult.) 3. To inspire us with greater confidence, inasmuch as Christ, by displaying these wounds to the Father, intercedes for us. See S. Anselm on Heb. ix. and [Pseudo]-Cyprian, de Baptismo Christi. 4. To enkindle our love, and to lead us in return willingly to bear even death itself for His sake. So S. Ambrose (ut supra), and S. Gregory in Cant. iii. 5. That Christ might in the day of judgment convict Jews and reprobates of impiety and ingratitude, in neglecting such great grace. So S. Augustine. All theologians teach us (as well as S. Cyril, xii. 58) that Christ carried these wounds into heaven, and will retain them for ever. See Zech. xiii. 6, John xix. 37. It was miraculously so ordered by God that these wounds interfered not with the actions and motions of His Body. (See Suarez, iii. part, Quæst. xliv., Disput. xlvii. art. 4, sect. 2.)
S. Augustine accordingly thinks (de civ. xxii. 20) that it will be thus with the wounds of the martyrs. He thus writes, “Are we so inspired with love for the martyrs as to wish to behold in their bodies the scars of the wounds which they suffered for Christ? And it may be we shall see them. For this will not be a deformity, but an honour; and even though some of their limbs have been cut off, yet will they not appear without them at the resurrection. For it was said to them, ‘Not a hair of your head shall perish.’” He adds, and “these proofs of their virtue must not be counted as defects.”
S. Cyril (ut supra) seems to deny this; but he is not speaking of martyrs, but of those who have some natural defect, as those who are blind, deaf, &c. These will rise again with all their faculties.
Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord, and recognised Him by His wounds. S. Augustine (de Civ. xxii. 19) says, “The brightness with which the righteous will shine as the sun, seems to have rather been veiled in Christ’s person than wanting. For man’s feeble sight could not have endured it, when steadily looking at Him, in order to recognise Him.”
They were glad, not only because they saw that Christ was risen, but also because they hoped that all His gracious promises would now be made good.
Ver. 21.—Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you. Why again? The Interlinear Gloss says, “It was a repeated confirmation, Peace upon peace, according to the prophet.” Bede says, “He repeats it, because the virtue of charity is twofold, or because He is the peace who makes both one.” The Gloss, “He offers peace, who came for the sake of peace; and He repeats His words to show that all things whether in heaven or in earth are restored to peace through Him.” S. Chrysostom, “Because they were waging an unappeasable contest with the Jews.” He proclaims peace in order to console them, and sets forth also the power of the cross, by which He drove away all sorrow, and conferred every good, which is peace. But a further joy was announced to the women, for they had to bear the curse, “in sorrow shalt thou bring forth,” and they were indeed in sorrow.
As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you. With like power, authority, end, mode, and love.
Observe here by this word ‘as’ Christ in a manner puts His Apostles on an equality with Himself, that is proportionately, as His successors and vicars. This word signifies likeness in office; with the same power and special authority with which the Father sent Me to found His Church, do I send you as its teachers and rulers (as I am Myself), that ye may have power to remit sin, as I also have. So Rupertus, S. Cyril, Theophylact, who maintain that by these words Christ made His Apostles His Vicars, the teachers and pastors of the world, and communicated to them His own office and authority, that is to say, all ecclesiastical authority, in fact made them Bishops. But Turrianus thinks that they were created Bishops on the day of Pentecost, as he writes in his notes on the Apostolic Constitution, vi. 11. Bellarmine (de Rom. Pontif, i. 24), following Turrecremata, thinks that only S. Peter was ordained Bishop by our Lord, and that the other Apostles were ordained by S. Peter. Suarez considers it more probable that all the Apostles were ordained Bishops by Christ, though not certain as to time and place (see Tract de Fide, Disput. v. sect. 1 num. 8). S. Augustine takes this latter view (Quæst. xcviii. in Quæst. N. and Vet. Test.) (2.) The word ‘as’ signifies similarity of origin. The beginning of Christ’s mission, as also that of the Apostles, was God Himself. (3.) It signifies likeness of object or end, that is, the propagation of the faith and the salvation of the world. So S. Cyril and Leontius. (4.) Likeness of mode, that ye way confirm your teaching by miracles, as I have confirmed Mine. (5.) Likeness of mutual love. As the Father sent Me to shed My blood from love of Him, with the same love do I send you. For it is a mark of the supreme love of God when He makes any one his witness and martyr.
Hear S. Gregory. “In sending you forth among the perils of persecutors, I love you with the same love that the Father had to Me, when He sent Me to endure My Passion.”
Ver. 22.—And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Why did He breathe on them? (1.) To signify the nature of the Holy Spirit, as proceeding both from Him and the Father. For as a man by breathing on another imparts to him his breath, so the Father and the Son by breathing produce the Holy Spirit, and communicate to Him their Spirit and Godhead. So S. Augustine (in loc.), Cyril, Bede, and others. This breathing was not the Holy Spirit Himself, but a sign of Him: so that it means, Receive by this breathing,-as by a sign and instrumental cause, the gift of the Holy Spirit.
(2.) To signify that the Holy Spirit was consubstantial with Himself and the Father. (3.) To show that it was He who first breathed into Adam the breath of life. As if He would say, I first gave Adam his natural life by breathing on him, so by breathing on you, do I give you that Holy Spirit which bestows on you supernatural and divine life. I who first created men, am now their re-creator and restorer. See S. Cyril (Lib. xii. 56), Leontius, Euthymius, and S. Athanasius (Quæst. lxiv. ad Antiochum). (4.) S. Cyril and S. Basil (de Spir. Sancto, cap. xvi.) and S. Ambrose (Serm. xx. in Ps. cxviii. [cxix.]) say that Christ, by these words, signified that He breathed into Adam not only breath but grace, and because he had lost grace by sin He restored it in this way to the Apostles, and through them to all men, being in fact the restorer of grace. He seems to say, Receive ye the Spirit which ye lost in Adam’s person by sin. Breathe Him forth on penitents in the sacrament of penance, remit through Him their sins and restore them to the life of the Spirit by grace. Hear S. Cyril. “Man was at first made by the Word of God, and God breathed into him the breath of life, and strengthened him by the imparting of His Spirit. But since he fell by disobedience, God the Father refashioned him, and brought him to new life by His Son. And we may learn that as it was He who in the beginning created our nature, and sealed it by His Holy Spirit, so when He began the renewal of our nature, He gives the Spirit to the disciples by breathing on them, that just as we were created by Him at first, we may in like manner also be renewed by Him.
Symbolically. This breathing represents sin as a black cloud. For as a cloud is dispersed by the wind, so is every cloud of sin driven away by the breath of the Spirit. See Is. xliv. And again, it represents the judiciary power of remitting sins, which is exercised by the breath of the voice which says, I absolve thee.
Tropologically. It denotes that a Priest, in order to remit sin, should possess a mighty spirit, charity, and zeal, so as to breathe on penitents and lead them to true penitence, sorrow, and repentance, and thus dispose them for the remission of their sins. And so we see Confessors who are gifted with mighty resolution, wound with the spirit of their mouth many and great sinners, and convert them to holiness. Just as we read that S. Ambrose, when hearing the sins of those who confessed to him, was wont to weep, and thus by his own tears lead them to tears and contrition.
Receive ye the Holy Ghost. The Apostles had already received the Holy Ghost in Baptism and Holy Communion. But they were about to receive His fulness, according to Christ’s promise, at Pentecost, in order to the conversion of the Gentiles, when the Holy Spirit descending on them visibly in form of fiery tongues, filled them to the full with all His gifts, and especially with the power of preaching. But here He confers on them the Holy Ghost for another purpose, the remission of sin. “Receive ye the Holy Ghost,” that is, power to remit sins by the Holy Ghost. So Theophylact, Euthymius, and Rupertus. This signifies that He came as was prophesied by Isaiah (xxvii. 9), and that both Christ and the Father gave the Holy Ghost. And from hence it is clear that the Holy Ghost is given, not merely by grace making us acceptable (to God), but also by grace given freely, as is the power of remitting sins, which is given to priests even in mortal sin, when they are ordained. For the Holy Ghost is the primary author of grace who works in the sacrament, and by it remits sins, even though its minister be an ungodly man. Whence Cyril and Chrysostom thus expound the passage, Receive the Holy Ghost, that is, the power of remitting sin by the Holy Ghost, co-operating with you in that sacrament and remitting sins. And again, by the Holy Ghost you must understand with S. Augustine (in loc.), and S. Ambrose (Serm. x. in Ps. cxviii. [cxix.]), the very grace and charity of the Holy Ghost. For this was infused into the Apostles more fully and abundantly, and is likewise by the power of the sacrament of order infused into priests at their ordination (unless they put an obstacle and choose to continue in their sins, and refuse to be contrite for their past sins), so that they may duly and without sin administer the sacrament of penitence, and absolve sinners. For a priest who absolves others ought to be free from sin; if not, he is guilty of sin, and yet truly absolves sinners. From these words it is clear that the Holy Ghost has the primary and highest power of forgiving sins, and that He communicated this power to the Apostles, and accordingly that He Himself is truly God. (So S. Basil, Lib. v. contra Eunomium; S. Ambrose, Lib. iii. ch. 19, de Spir. Sancto, and S. Chrysostom, Hom. vi. on 2 Cor.) The same power is indeed common to the whole Holy Trinity, but specially belongs to the Holy Ghost, as do Goodness and Love, and all the work of sanctification, just as Power specially belongs to the Father, and to the Son Wisdom, and all its works.
2. Observe that the Holy Ghost and His power of remitting sins are here given them, not only for their own sakes, as about to be judges of sinners in the tribunal of penitence, but also for the sake of penitent sinners themselves. And consequently the same power is given even to wicked priests when they are ordained, as the power of judging in a secular court can be given to a wicked judge. But yet if they dispose themselves by penitence to the right reception of the Sacrament of Ordination, they will receive therein the Holy Ghost even to their own sanctification, to make them the more fit to sanctify others (penitents, for instance), as was here done to the Apostles.
3. S. Cyril (and Maldonatus after him) remarks that the Holy Ghost was here conferred on S. Thomas, even though absent, and with it the consequent power of remitting sins, just as the spirit of prophecy was given by Moses to Eldad and Medad who were absent. But the contrary opinion seems more true. For Thomas was then unbelieving and incapable of receiving the Holy Spirit, and accordingly the Holy Ghost was given him on the eighth day when Christ appeared to him, and converted him by showing him His wounds. So Toletus, Ribera, and others.
Lastly, notice this act of Christ as an example for ecclesiastical ceremonies. Christ, by the ceremony of breathing on them, gave the Apostles the Holy Ghost and the power of remitting sins. Therefore ecclesiastical ceremonies are not useless, frivolous, and superstitious, but seemly, efficacious, and sacred.
Ver. 23.—Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them, and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained. Calvin twists and turns this to make it mean the preaching of the Gospel, namely, that they to whom ye preach the Gospel, if they believe it, will have their sins forgiven by their mere belief. But every one sees that this explanation is strained, forced, foolish, and ridiculous. For in this way it would not be the Apostles, but believers themselves who would themselves remit their own sins, which is absurd. For no one is judge in his own case, or stands higher than himself, so as to remit his own sins. (2.) These two things, viz., preaching the Gospel and remitting sins, are clearly dissimilar and distinct, the one being the work of an Apostle in preaching, the other the judicial act of a judge. (3.) The Gospel must be preached to all: and consequently this absolution of Calvin’s must be given even to all the wicked. But Christ wishes not that all sins should be remitted, but orders that some should be retained, and that the Apostles and their successors should be judges in this matter. (4.) Christ had already given the Apostles power to preach (Luke x. 1), and commanded them to preach to every creature. Why then should He repeat all this in such obscure and unintelligible words?
I say therefore, it is a matter of faith to understand this passage of the sacrament of penance, wherein the priest, as judge, remits not only the punishment but also the guilt of penitents who accuse themselves in confession. This is clear from the words themselves, all of which signify that a judicial power of remitting or retaining sins was here given to the Apostles as judges in the tribunal of conscience. For so all the Fathers and the whole Church in every age understood the words. See Council of Trent, sess. xiv. can. 3 and 1. Bellarmine quotes the testimonies of the Fathers (De Pœnit. iii 2), and amongst them S. Gregory, who says, “They hold the chief place in the Divine judgment, so as in the place of God to retain some men’s sins, and remit the sins of others.”
The meaning then is, “I give you by the Spirit the power of Order, which a man can have even when in sin, and I confer on you at the same time grace and sanctification, to enable you to exercise this power in a worthy and holy manner, not merely for the salvation of others, but also for your own. And ye will really remit sins as my ministers, and not merely announce that they are remitted, and whosesoever sins ye retain, either with some, because they do not come to you, or others because ye will consider them undeserving of absolution, are retained in heaven by God.”
You may say, Cyril explains this passage as speaking of the preaching of the Gospel. I reply, Cyril does not explain these latter words, as speaking of the preaching of the Gospel, but the former words, “As the Father sent Me, even so send I you.” But you will say again, Cyril says that sins are remitted in two ways, by Baptism and repentance. But I reply, “This is true, but not to the point. Christ is properly speaking of the tribunal of Penance, but Cyril extends His words to include Baptism. Christ is here speaking of the judicial remission of sins, which is to be had specially, not in Baptism, but in the sacrament of Penance only.” See S. Chrysostom (Lib. iii. and vi. De Sacerdotio), where he shows that priests are of higher honour than not only kings but even angels, who have not the power of remitting sins.
Moreover, Christ by here instituting the tribunal of Penance, sanctioned, in this very way, Sacramental Confession, and enjoins it by Divine right. For sins cannot be remitted in this tribunal unless they are known, nor can they be known, unless they are confessed, for they are frequently secret; nay more, hidden in the mind. It is therefore necessary that the penitent should act as his own accuser, and should be at the same time a criminal, an accuser, and a witness against himself, and should humbly ask pardon of the priest, as his judge, for the sins whereof he accuses himself, and for which he is penitent. But if the priest sees that he is truly penitent, he will pronounce the sentence of absolution, and will, in the Name of Christ, as His Vicar, pardon all his sins. For Christ ratifies the sentence of His priest, and pardons everything which His priest pardons, and what he retains, Christ also retains. For Christ in the Gospel often bids men to repent of their sins. But this they should do in the way which Christ instituted, that is, by submitting to the Sacrament of Penance, that is, by confessing their sins to the priest, and asking him for absolution. See Council of Trent, sess. xiv. cap. v. Cajetan therefore is wrong in saying that Confession is not here enjoined. This error is a heresy since that Council, but Cajetan lived before it.
And whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained. This does not signify merely a refusal of absolution, but positive power. For it means, Those whom ye count unworthy of absolution, on account of their unfitness, whom ye reject, and consider guilty of sin, and deserving of hell, God will judge in like manner, who alone primarily and by His own authority forgives or retains sins. It belongs to God alone to condemn an offence against Himself. But in this matter He appoints priests to be as it were His Vicars. See Matt. xviii. 18. If a priest sees that a penitent has not serious sorrow for his sins, or no serious purpose of amendment, as refusing, e.g., to give up his concubine, or other occasions of sin, or who will not restore the good name or the wealth which he has stolen from his neighbour, the priest ought to refuse such a one absolution, to judge that he is unfit for absolution, and that he must abide in his sin, and incur the guilt of hell.
Lastly, observe that though the Apostles were ordained priests before His Passion, and at His last supper after the institution of the Eucharist with these words, Do this, &c., yet they then received only the power of consecrating the Eucharist; but after Christ’s resurrection they received from Him another power, that of remitting sins. These are two different powers, and can be divided and separated from each other. For Christ had this pre-eminent power of appointing priests in a different way from that in which they were afterwards to be appointed. For now in the ordination of priests the matter is the Chalice and Paten with the Bread and Wine, the form being, “Receive thou power to offer sacrifice.” And when the bishop delivers these vessels to any one, pronouncing these words, he makes him a perfect priest, and confers on him both the power of remitting sins and also of offering sacrifice. So that when he says afterwards, “Receive thou power to remit, sins” these words are not of the essence of the form, but merely declare the power which was given in those former words. (See Soto, Contr. Paludanem in iv. Dist. 24, Quæst. i., art. 4; and Gregory de Valentia, Tract de Ordine, disp. 9, Quæst. 1, punct. 5.)
Ver. 24.—But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didimus, was not with them when Jesus came. Didymus means a twin. See notes on. chap. xi. 16. But here he is so called (double, doubtful) because he wavered and doubted as to Christ’s resurrection. He was at that time weaker than the other Apostles, but afterwards (after Christ again appeared) was bolder and more full of faith than all of them, inasmuch as he alone traversed nearly the whole world in preaching the Gospel. Stapleton (de Vita Thomæ) says that he went to the furthest part of India, to Abyssinia and China, and even to America.
Was not with them. S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Euthymius suppose that having fled away with the other Apostles, he had not yet returned. But S. Augustine, Bede, Lyranus, D. Thomas, and others say in reply that he was with the other Apostles when the two disciples returned from Emmaus, but that he disbelieved their story, and went away. It is supposed that when S. Luke says (xxiv. 11), “their words seemed to them as idle tales,” he was referring to S. Thomas.
Ver. 25.—The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe.
Thomas sinned in this—(1) by unbelief, (2) by obstinacy, (3) by pride, (4) by irreverence (for when all the other Apostles said that He had risen, he obstinately stood out, and refused to believe, (5) by presumption, because he would not believe, unless he thrust his hands into the wounds (canst thou then presume, 0 Thomas, to lay down laws for Christ?), (6) by persisting in this unbelief for eight days when, it may be, the Mother of Christ urged him to believe—to be not merely unbelieving as to the mode of the resurrection (as S. Ambrose supposes), but even as to its truth, as though the other Apostles were taken in and deceived, having seen only a ghost or phantom, and not Christ Himself (See Origen, Lib. ii. Contr. Celsum; S. Augustine, Lib. xvi. Contra Faust. cap. 33; and S. Gregory, Hom. xxvi.)
Besides, this unbelief of S. Thomas’ arose partly from his not believing Christ to be God. For had he believed this, he would easily have understood that Christ could have raised His Body to life again, and it is surprising that Cyril should say that Thomas believed Him to be God; and it partly arose from His excessive sorrow, especially because he alone had not seen Christ at the same time as the other Apostles. This wounded him much, and caused him to utter these bitter words. So Cyril, xii. 57. But God allowed it to be thus, in order that Thomas and we should be confirmed in humility, and in belief in the resurrection by this fresh appearance of Christ. So S. Gregory, Hom. xxvi., S. Augustine, Serm. clxi. (opus spurium), and others.
The print. In Vulgate, fixura, “the driving in” the mark which the nails made. (Pseudo)-Augustine (Serm. clix.) says, “He was seeking for the hands and the side, and while he was too curiously (dwelling on the wounds, he risked the death of his faith. The Lord wished him to see Him lest he should lose his soul by unbelief.”
Ver. 26.—And after eight days. The eighth day after the Lord’s resurrection, the Octave of the Passover, when we commemorate this mystery, and read this Gospel. And from this S. Cyril observes that the Apostles, from these appearances of Christ, began from this time to hold the assemblies of the Church on the Lord’s day, and to consecrate it, as it were, because He rose on that day, and thus guided the Apostles to observe the Lord’s day instead of the Sabbath.
Again His disciples where within, in that upper chamber before mentioned. It is therefore far from probable, as S. Jerome (in Matt. ult.), Rupertus, and Ribera here suppose, that Christ appeared to S. Thomas and the Apostles, not in Jerusalem, but in Galilee, where He afterwards appeared, not only to the Apostles, but to all the disciples.
And Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst and said, Peace be unto you. Notice here, the wondrous condescension of Christ, who, in order to convert this unbelieving and obstinate Thomas, offered Himself a second time, not only to be seen, but also to be handled by him. And this He did, not for his sake only, but for the sake of the other Apostles, to strengthen both them and us also in the belief of His resurrection.
Ver. 27.—Then saith He to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands, and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side. Behold the kindness of Christ in humbling Himself to all Thomas’ requests, and in all things complying with his wishes, in order to convert him. See, says S. Chrysostom, how for one single soul He displays His wounds, and because he was somewhat dull of comprehension seeks to give him proof by means of the dullest of his senses, I mean his touch.
And be not faithless, but believing. Thou thinkest, forsooth, that I did not know what thou saidst of Me when I was not present. But rest assured that I knew, and was present to hear thy words of unbelief. Do then as thou hast said, I offer thee My wounded hands and side to touch and handle, nay more, that thou mayest measure them with thy hand, that so thou mayest lay aside thy unbelief, and believe henceforth that I have risen, I the very same that hung on the Cross, and no other. And in this way Christ heals another wound of unbelief, for He shows that He knows even all secrets, and is a searcher of hearts, and consequently God. He therefore radically cures the disease, for Thomas did not believe that Christ had risen, because he did not believe Him to be God.
It may be asked whether Thomas really touched Christ’s wounds. The Gloss doubts it. Euthymius denies it. But S. Augustine (in loc.) thinks the contrary. For he says, “He saw and touched the man, and confessed the God, whom he neither saw nor touched; but by means of that which he saw and touched, his doubts were all removed and he believed. So, too, S. Cyril, Theophylact, and Bede, and S. Chrysostom seems to be of the same opinion. Nor can it be thought that when the Lord said, ”Reach hither thy finger,“ John would have omitted to state, if this had not been done, and that Thomas believed without having touched Him.
Besides, this was an express command, which Thomas doubtless obeyed. And He intended to leave thus a convincing proof of His resurrection to believers of all ages. Whence S. Augustine (Serm. cxlvii. [al. ccxlii.]), “He wished to exhibit in His flesh the scars of His wounds to some who doubted, to heal the wound of their unbelief.” And S. Ambrose (in ult. Lucæ), “He would teach me by His touch, as Paul also taught.” Hear S. Gregory (Hom. xxvi.): “This took place not by chance, but by Divine ordering. For the mercy of God wrought in wondrous wise, so that the doubting disciple, by touching the wounds in his Master’s body, healed in us the wounds of unbelief. For the unbelief of Thomas availed more to confirm our faith, than even the faith of the disciples who believed. For while he is by his touch brought back to belief, our mind, putting aside all doubt, is confirmed in the faith.” Again [Pseudol Augustine, Serm. clxi. [clxxii. in Append.], “Thomas being a holy, believing, and righteous man, carefully inquired into all these points, not as having any doubt himself, but to do away with the slightest suspicion of unbelief. For it would have sufficed for his own faith to have seen Him whom he knew. But it was for us that he brought it about that he touched Him whom he beheld. So that we might perchance say that our eyes were deceived, but we could not say that our hands had missed their mark. For we might have some doubt as to what we see in the dazzling glory of the resurrection, but we can have no doubt as to what we touch.”
But it may be urged, Christ said, “See My hands.” He did not say, Touch My hands. “Thomas therefore saw, but did not touch them.” I answer, By seeing is meant, you may see by your very touch—may know assuredly that I who was crucified have risen—the very same person. “The sight,” says S. Augustine (in loc.), “is a kind of general sense, and the noblest of all,” and is here taken for any sense, even that of touch. See notes on Ex. xx. 10.
2. But it is said, “The glorified Body of Christ is subtile, and cannot be touched.” S. Cyril, Chrysostom, Leontius, Theophylact say that it was by divine ordering here touched by Thomas, to furnish proof of the resurrection. For this kind of resistance, which exists in a body (wherewith one body resists another, and is, therefore capable of being touched) which is the property of bulk, is in the power of Christ and the Blessed, so as to remain, or be taken away by God, as they wish. And so also as regards their visibility, so that Christ was seen when He wished it, and not seen when He did not wish it. See notes on Luke ult. ver. 39.
This finger of St. Thomas is said to be preserved, with many other relics, in the Church of Santa Croce at Rome.
From Christ’s own words, “Thrust thy hand into My side,” it appears that this wound was very large, and Thomas, astonished that this wound was inflicted for him, exclaimed “My Lord and my God.” Many Saints, as S. Bernard, S. Francis, and others, have longed to enter through that wound into the heart of Christ. See S. Bernard, Serm. lxii. in Cant.
Ver. 28.—Thomas answered and said unto Him, My Lord and my God. This was after he had fully ascertained that it was indeed Christ Himself, who had received these wounds on the cross, and who was now alive again. See Tertullian, de Anima, cap. xxviii.; S. Ambrose, in Ps. xliii. (xliv.); S. Hilary, de Trinit. Lib. iii.; S. Cyril, xii. 58; S. Gregory, Hom. xxvi.
My Lord and my God. That is, Thou art my Lord and my God. Thus showing that He was Very and true God by nature. Thomas here humbly and penitently confesses and condemns his former incredulity, with great profession of faith, hope, penitence, and love. By the word “Lord” he confesses Christ’s human nature, by the word “God” His divine nature. “I,” he would say, “because I believed not that thou wast God, did not believe that Thou hadst risen. But now I both believe that Thou art God, and that by the power of Thy Godhead Thou didst raise Thy Body to life again.” So St. Hilary (Lib. vii. de Trinit.) and S. Ambrose (in Ps. xliii.), who also adds that the word “Lord” signifies that Christ is our Redeemer as having purchased us by His Blood, and thus becoming our Lord by the right of purchase and redemption. By these words, Suarez says that Thomas offered Christ the adoration of Latria. As S. Augustine said, “He saw and touched the man,” &c. (see above on ver. 27). Consequently the fifth Œcumenical Council (in Constit. Vigilii Papæ) anathematise Theodore of Mopsuestia, who maintained that these words were not a confession of Christ’s Godhead, but merely an expression of astonishment. Note the words, “My Lord,” &c. For though Christ is the Lord and God of all, yet He is especially mine, having as the good Shepherd sought me, as a sheep that was lost, and I love and venerate Him in return from my inmost soul, as specially my Lord and my God. Thou, 0 Jesus, art my God and my Lord, because by these Thy wounds, which I have now touched, and know to be most real, Thou hast procured and obtained for me that faith with which I believe that Thou hast really risen, and this hope of obtaining grace and glory through the merit of Thy wounds, and such fervent charity as to love Thee most ardently as my God and Lord, and to offer and devote myself entirely to Thee as Thy servant for ever, so as henceforth to wish to do nothing, but that which pleases, lauds, and glorifies Thee. Would that I could lay open and breathe forth this my heartfelt feeling to the whole world! Would that I could proclaim and set forth to all the world this my faith, hope, and love towards Thee! Thus S. Francis frequently used to say, “My God and my all;” and the Royal Prophet, “What have I in heaven but Thee,” &c., Ps. lxxiii. 24.
Ver. 29.—Jesus saith unto him, Because thou hast seen Me (that is, touched and thus surely known), thou hast believed. Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed, Because there “faith has greater merit, where human reason does not afford a test,” says S. Gregory. He used the past tense, because many had already believed, but does not exclude the present and the future. They both are, and will be blessed, who believe in Me, without seeing. S. Augustine (in loc.) adds that they who will believe, did already believe in God’s foreknowledge and predestination. But this remark is more subtle and acute than solid.
Hence S. Gregory (Hom. xxvi.), S. Hilary (de Trinit. lib. xii.), and S. Augustine (in loc.), say that Thomas saw one thing and believed another: he saw that Christ had risen, he believed that He was God, and consequently had raised Himself. By touching My human nature which has been raised (Christ would say) thou hast believed My Godhead which lay hid within, and which raised it up. For the resurrection of Christ had confirmed all His teachings, one of which was that He was the Messiah the Son of God, who would die on the cross for the salvation of men, and on the third day rise again. All which Thomas believed. Again, that which comes under our senses, which we see and touch, we can believe on divine authority, but for another formal reason. We see a thing because we behold it with our eyes, but we believe it because God has revealed it, especially if our senses can err, or if the matter involve anything which is not seen, as was the case with the resurrection of Christ, which was already past, for Thomas here doubted and was convinced of Christ’s resurrection.
Thou wilt reply, that S. Augustine says, Tract xl. (on S. John), Faith is believing what thou seest not. I answer, This is true in the sense that the chief material objects of faith are such as cannot be seen. But the formal object of faith, that is to say, divine revelation, is always of such a kind, that is to say invisible. And therefore Thomas, so far as he beheld Christ, did not formally believe it. But because he saw and heard Christ, when raised, assert the same thing, he believed God, who by the mouth of Christ and the Apostles, stated and revealed to him that it was no phantom in the form of Christ (as he had before supposed), but Christ Himself who had really risen and appeared to the Apostles. Just as we say, “Because thou hast seen miracles, because thou hast heard the Gospel preached, therefore thou hast believed.” The word therefore does not signify the reason or the formal cause of belief (for that is only the Divine Revelation), but only the predisposing cause which moves us to believe.
But thirdly, the words can be explained as signifying merely assent, and not properly faith. Just as we believe the things we see and know. So Toletus. Hear S. Gregory: “He touched the man, and confessed Him to be God;” and Theophylact, “He who before was unbelieving, showed himself, after he had touched His side, to be an excellent theologian, in asserting the twofold nature, and the one Person of Christ. For by calling Him Lord he confessed His human nature, and by calling Him God he confessed the divine Nature in one and the same Person.”
Ver. 30.—And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book. Both through His whole life, and specially after His resurrection (say S. Chrysostom and Theophylact). These latter in the presence of the Apostles only, the others before all the people. Besides these signs which I have just recorded, others were wrought to confirm the truth of the resurrection. And these I have omitted (says S. John) for brevity’s sake, and because many of them are recorded by the other evangelists. So S. Thomas, Lyranus, Cajetan, Ribera, Toletus, and others.
S. John seems here to finish his Gospel, as S. Augustine says. The next chapter relates to the mysteries of the Church, and the primacy of S. Peter, to show how rapidly the disciples multiplied, over whom S. Peter was placed as Vicar. Jansenius considers, most improbably, that S. John added some things here, which subsequently occurred to him. But it would seem that the Holy Spirit, and John too, added them for an express purpose, and not merely from memory.
Ver. 31.—But these are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ (the long-promised Messiah), the Son of God: and that believing ye might have life (of grace here and glory hereafter) through His name, that is, through the merits and satisfaction of Christ, which are applied to us through the sacraments on our faith and obedience. We must therefore believe—(1.) That He is the Saviour of the world. (2.) The long-expected Messiah. (3.) That He is God the Son of God. (4.) That He will give eternal life to those who believe in, and obey Him. “For,” as S. Gregory says, “He truly believes, who sets forth his belief in his life.”