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Sunday, April 20, 2014

St. Thomas Aquinas on the Resurrection

By:   St. Thomas Aquinas
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In answer to the question: “Whether it was necessary for Christ to rise again?” (Q.53, art. 1), St. Thomas Aquinas writes as follows:

(It behooved Christ to rise again, for five reasons: First of all, for the commendation of Divine Justice, to which it belongs to exalt those who humble themselves for God’s sake, according to Luke 1,52: “He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble.” Consequently, because Christ humbled Himself even unto the death of the Cross, from love and obedience to God, it behooved Him to be lifted up by God unto a glorious Resurrection; hence, it is said in His Person (Psalm 138.2): “Thou hast known (i.e., approved) My sitting down (i.e., My humiliation and Passion) and my rising up (i.e., My glorification in the Resurrection)…”

Secondly, for our instruction in the Faith, since our belief in Christ’s Divinity is confirmed by His rising again, because, according to 2 Cor. 13,14, “although He was crucified through weakness, yet He liveth by the Power of God”. And it is therefore written (1 Cor. 15,14): “If Christ be not risen again, then is our preaching vain, and our faith is also vain;” and Psalm 29.10: “What profit is there in My Blood (that is, in the shedding of My Blood), while I go down (as by various degrees of evils) into corruption?” As though He were to answer: “None.” “For if I do not at once rise again, but My body be corrupted, I shall preach to no one, I shall gain no one,” as the Gloss expounds.


Thirdly, for the raising of our hope, since, seeing Christ Who is our Head rise again, we hope that we likewise shall rise again. Hence, it is written (1Cor. 15,12): “Now if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” And (Job 19. 25,27): “I know (that is with certainty of faith) that my Redeemer (i.e., Christ) liveth (having risen from the dead); and therefore in the last day I shall rise out of the earth;…This my hope is laid up in my bosom.”

Fourthly, to set in order the lives of the faithful; according to Rom. 6.4: “As Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so also we may walk in newness of life.” And further on: “Christ rising from the dead dieth now no more; so do you also reckon that you are dead to sin, but alive unto God.”

Fifthly, in order to complete the work of our salvation; because, just as for this reason did He endure evil things in dying that He might deliver us from evil, so was He glorified in rising again in order to advance us towards good things; according to Rom. 4.25; “He was delivered up for our sins, and rose again for our sanctification.”

Among many other questions that he brings up and solves, Aquinas asks, “Whether Christ’s Body ought to have risen with its scars?” or with the Sacred Wounds still visible on His Sacred Body. His answer is a follows:

“It was fitting for Christ’s soul at His Resurrection to take back the body with its scars. In the first place, for Christ’s own glory. For Bede says, in reference to Luke 24.40, that He kept His scars, not from an inability to heal them, “but to bear them as an everlasting trophy of His victory.” Hence, Augustine says (in the “City of God”) “Perhaps in that Kingdom we shall see on the bodies of the Martyrs the traces of the wounds which they bore for Christ’s Name: because it will not be a deformity, but a dignity in them; and a certain kind of beauty will shine in them, in the body, though not of the body.”

Secondly, to confirm the hearts of the disciples as to “the faith in His resurrection” (Bede).

Thirdly, “that when He pleads for us with the Father, He may always show the manner of death that He endured for us.” (Bede).

Fourthly, “that when He pleads for us with the Father, He may always show the manner of death that He endured for us.” (Bede)

Lastly, “that on Judgment Day He may upbraid them with their just condemnation” (Bede). Hence, as Augustine says, “Christ knew why He kept the scars in His body. For, as He showed them to Thomas, who would not believe unless he handled and saw them, so will He show His wounds to His enemies, so that He Who is the Truth may convict them, saying: ‘Behold the Man Whom you crucified. See the wounds you inflicted. Recognize the side you pierced, since it was opened by you and for you, yet you would not enter.”’

A final example of the teaching of St. Thomas on Christ’s Resurrection that we will present here is the question, “Whether the proofs which Christ made use of manifested sufficiently the truth of His Resurrection?” The Saint answers with this explanation(Q. 55, art. 6):

Christ manifested His Resurrection in two ways: namely, by testimony, and by proof or sign, and each manifestation was sufficient in its own class. For, in order to manifest His Resurrection, He made use of a double testimony, neither of which can be refuted. The first of these was the Angel’s testimony, who announced the Resurrection to the women, as is seen in all the Evangelists. The other was the testimony of the Scriptures which He set before them, to show the truth of the Resurrection, as is narrated in the last chapter of Luke.

Again, the proofs were sufficient for showing that the Resurrection was both true and glorious.

  1. That it was a true Resurrection, He shows, first, on the part of the body, and this He shows in three respects: first of all, that it was a true and solid body, and not like a phantasm or rarefied like the air. And He establishes this by offering His Body to be handled. Hence, He says, in the last chapter of Luke: “Handle and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as you see Me have.” Secondly, He shows that it was a human body by presenting His true features for them to behold. Thirdly, He shows that it was identically the same body which He had before, by showing them the scars of the wounds. Hence, as we read in the last chapter of Luke, He said to them: “See My hands and feet, that it is I Myself.”

Secondly, He showed them the truth of His Resurrection on the part of His soul re-united with His body, and He showed this by the works of the threefold life. First of all, in the operations of the nutritive life, by eating and drinking with His disciples, as we read in the last chapter of Luke. Secondly, in the works of the sensitive life, by replying to His disciples’ questions, and by greeting them when they were in His presence, showing thereby that He both saw and heard. Thirdly, in the works of the intellectual life, by their conversing with Him, and discoursing on the Scriptures. And, in order that nothing might be wanting to make the manifestation complete, He also showed that He had the Divine Nature, by working the miracle of the draught of fishes, and further, by ascending into Heaven while they were looking on at Him, because, according to John 3.13: “No man hath ascended into heaven, but He that descended from heaven, the son of Man Who is in Heaven.”

He also showed His disciples the glory of His Resurrection by entering in among them when the doors were closed. As Gregory says: “Our Lord allowed them to handle His flesh which He had brought in through closed doors, to show that His body was of the same nature, but of different glory.” It was likewise part of the property of glory that “He vanished suddenly from their eyes”, as is related in the last chapter of Luke, because it was thereby shown that it lay in His power to be seen or not seen. And this belongs to a glorified body…”

(Excerpts from the “Summa Theologica”, Part III)



Last modified on Sunday, April 20, 2014