Newsletter of the District of Asia

 April - May 2000

The Catechetical Instructions
of St. Thomas Aquinas


"The third day He rose again from the dead."

We must necessarily know two things: the glory of God and the punishment of hell. For being attracted by His glory and made fearful by punishments, we take warning and withdraw ourselves from sin. But for us to appreciate these facts is very difficult. Thus, it is said of God's glory: "But the things that are in heaven, who shall search out?" 1 For those who are wordly minded this is indeed difficult, because "he that is of the earth, of the earth he is, and of the earth he speaketh;"2 but it is easier for the spritual-minded, because, "he that cometh from above is above all," as is said in the same place. Accordingly God descended from heaven and became incarnate to teach us heavenly things. Once it was difficult to know about the punishments of hell: "no man hath been known to have returned from hell,"3 as it is said in the person of the wicked. But this cannot be said now, for just as Christ descended from heaven to teach us heavenly things, so also He came back from the region of hell to teach us about it. It is, therefore, necessary that we believe not only that Christ was made man, and died, but also that He arose again from the dead. Therefore, it is said in the Creed: "The third day He arose again from the dead."

We find that many arose from the dead, such as Lazarus,4 the son of the widow,5 and the daughter of the Ruler of the synagogue.6 But the resurrection of Christ differed from the resurrection of these and of all others in four points.

Special Character of Christ's Resurrection

(1) Christ's resurrection differed from that of all others in its cause. Those others who arose did so not of their own power, but either by the power of Christ or through the prayers of some Saint. Christ, on the contrary, arose by His own power, because He was not only Man but also God, and the Divinity of the Word was at no time separated either from His soul or from His body. Therefore, His body could, whenever he desired, take again the soul, and His soul the body: "I lay down My life, that I may take it again . ...And I have power to lay it down; and I have power to take it up again."7 Christ truly died, but not because of weakness or of necessity but rather of His own will entirely and by His own power. This is seen in that moment when He yielded up the ghost; He cried out with a loud voice , 8 which could not be true of others at the moment of dying, because they die out of weakness ... For this the centurion said: "Indeed, this was the Son of God. "9 By the same power whereby, He gave up his soul, He received it again; and hence the Creed says, "He arose again," because He was not raised up as if by anyone else. "I have slept and have taken My rest; and I have risen up."10 Nor can this be contrary to these words, "This Jesus hath God raised again,"11 because both the Father and the Son raised Him up, since one and the same power is of the Father and the Son.

(2) Christ's resurrection was different as regards the life to which he arose. Christ arose again to a glorious and incorruptible life. "Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father."12 The others, however, were raised to that life which they had before, as is seen of Lazarus and the others.

(3) Christ's resurrection was different also in effect and efficacy. In virtue of the resurrection of Christ all shall rise again "And many bodies of the saints that had slept arose."13 The Apostle declares that "Christ is risen from the dead, the first fruits of them that sleep."14 But also note that Christ by His Passion arrived at glory: "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and so to enter into His glory?"15 And this is to teach us how we also may arrive at glory: "Through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God."16

(4) Christ's resurrection was different in point of time. Christ arose on the third day; but the resurrection of the others is put off until the end of the world. The reason for this is that the resurrection and death and nativity of Christ were "for our salvation,"17 and thus He wished to rise again at a time when it would be of profit to us. Now, if He had risen immediately, it would not have been believed that He died, and similarly, if He had put it off until much later, the disciples would not have remained in their belief, and there would have been no benefit from His Passion. He arose again, therefore, on the third day, so that it would be believed that He died, and His disciples would not lose faith in him.18

What We May Learn from the Resurrection

From all this we can take four things for our instruction. Firstly, let us endeavor to arise spiritually, from the death of the soul which we incur by our sins to that life of justice which is had through penance: "Rise, thou that sleepest and arise from the dead; and Christ shall enlighten thee."19 This is the first resurrection: "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection."20

Secondly, let us not delay to rise until our death, but do it once, since Christ arose on the third day: "Delay not to be converted to the Lord: and defer it not from day to day"21 You will not be able to consider what pertains to salvation when weighed down by illness, and, moreover, by persevering in sin, you will lose part of all the good which is done in the Church, and you will incur many evils. Indeed, the longer you possess the devil, the harder it is to put him away, as St. Bede tells us.

Thirdly, let us rise up again to an incorruptible life in that we may not die again, but resolve to sin no more: "Knowing that Christ, rising again from the dead, dieth now no more. Death shall no more have dominion over Him. So do you also reckon that you are dead to sin, but alive unto God, in Christ Jesus our Lord. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of iniquity unto sin, but present yourselves to God, as those that are alive from the dead."22

Fourthly, let us rise again to a new and glorious life by avoiding all that which formerly were the occasions and the causes of our death and sin: "As Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life."23 This new life is the life of justice which renews the soul and leads it to the life of glory.


"He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty."

Besides the resurrection of Christ, we must also believe in His ascension; for He ascended into heaven. Concerning this we ought to observe three things viz., that it was sublime, reasonable, and beneficial.

The Sublimity of the Ascension

It was certainly sublime that Christ ascended into heaven. This is expounded in three ways. Firstly, He ascended above the physical heaven: "He ascended above all the heavens."24 Secondly, He ascended above all the spiritual heavens, i.e. spiritual natures: "Raising [Jesus] up from the dead and setting Him on His right hand in the heavenly places. Above all principality and power and virtue and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come. And He hath subjected all things under His feet. 25 Thirdly, He ascended up to the very throne of the Father: "Lo, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven. And he came even to the Ancient of days."26 "And the Lord Jesus, after He had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sitteth on the right hand of God."27 Now, it is not to be taken in the literal sense, but figuratively, that Christ is at the right hand of God. Inasmuch as Christ is God, He is said to sit at the right hand of the Father, that is, in equality with the Father, and as Christ is man, He sits at the right hand of the Father, that is, in a more preferable place.28 The devil once feigned to do this. "I will ascend above the height of the clouds I will be like the Most High."29 But Christ alone succeeded in this and so it is said: "He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father." "The Lord said to my Lord: Sit Thou at My right hand."30

The Reasonableness of the Ascension

The Ascension of Christ into heaven is in accord with reason: (1) because heaven was due to Christ by His very nature. It is natural for one to return to that place from whence he takes his origin. The beginning of Christ is from God, who is above all things: "I came forth from the Father and am come into the world; again I leave the world and I go to the Father."31

"No man hath ascended into heaven but He that descended from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven."32 The just ascend into heaven, but not in the manner that Christ ascended, i.e., by His own power; for they are taken up by Christ:"33 "Draw me, we will run after Thee."34 Or, indeed, we can say that no man but Christ has ascended into heaven, because the just do not ascend except in so far as they are the members of Christ who is the head of the Church. "Wheresoever the body shall be, there shall the eagles also be gathered together."35

(2) Heaven is due to Christ because of His victory. For He was sent into the world to combat the devil, and He did overcome him. Therefore, Christ deserved to be exalted above all things: " I also have overcome and am set down with My Father in His throne."36

(3) The Ascension is reasonable because of the humility of Christ. There never was humility so great as that of Christ, who although He was God, yet wished to become man; and although He was the Lord, yet wished to take the form of a servant, and, as St. Paul says: "He was made obedient unto death."37 and descended even into hell. For this He deserved to be exalted even to heaven and to the throne of God, for humility leads to exaltation: "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted."38 "He that, descended is the same also that ascended above all the heavens."39

The Benefits of the Ascension

The Ascension of Christ was very beneficial for us. This is seen three ways. Firstly, as our Leader, because He ascended in order to lead us; for we had lost the way, but He has shown it to us. "For He shall go up that shall open the way before them,40 and thus we may be made certain of possessing the heavenly kingdom: "I go to prepare a place for you."41 Secondly, that He might draw our hearts to Himself: "For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also."42 Thirdly, to let us withdraw from worldly things: "Therefore, if you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth."43

1 (Wisdom 9:16)

2 ( John 3:31)

3 ( Wisdom 2:1 )

4 ( John 11:1-44 )

5 ( Luke 7:11-16 )

6 ( Mark 5:35-43 )

7 ( John, 10:18. )

8 ( Matt. 27:50 )

9 ( Matt. 27:54 )

10 ( Ps. 3:6 )

11 ( Acts 2:32 )

12 ( Romans 6:4 )

13 ( Matt. 27:52 )

14 ( 1 Co.r 15:20 )

15 ( Luke 24:26 )

16 ( Acts 14:21 )

17 ( "From the Nicene Creed" )

18 "Christ did not remain in the grave during all these three days, but as He lay in the sepulcher during an entire natural day, and part of the preceding day, and part of the following day, he is said, in very truth, to have lain in the grave for three days, and on the third day to have risen again from the dead" ('Roman Catechism." loc. cit., 10).

19 ( Eph. 5:14 )

20 ( Rev. 20:6)

21 ( Ecclus. 5:8 )

22 ( Rom. 6:9,11-14 )

23 ( Rom. 6:4 )

24 ( Ep.h 4:10 )

25 ( Eph. 1:20-22 )

26 ( Dan. 7:13 )

27 ( Mark 16:19 )

28 "In these words we observe a figure of speech, that is, the changing of a word from its literal to a figurative meaning, something which is not infrequent in the Scriptures: for when accommodating its language to human ideas, it attributes human affections and human members to God, who is pure spirit and can admit of nothing corporeal. For, just as among men, he who sits at the right hand is considered to occupy the most honored place: so, transferring the idea to heavenly things to express the glory which Christ as Man enjoys above all others, we say that He sits at the right hand of His Eternal Father. Now, this does not mean actual position and figure of body, but declares the fixed and permanent possession of royal and supreme power and glory which Christ received from the Father" ("Roman Catechism," Sixth Article, 3).

29 ( Isa. 14:13-14 )

30 ( Ps. 109:1 )

31 ( John 16:28 )

32 ( John 3:13 )

33 "He ascended by His own power, not by the power of another as did Elias, who was taken up into heaven in a fiery chariot ( 4 Kings 2:1 ); or as the prophet Habacuc ( Dan 14:35 ); or Philip, the deacon who was borne through the air by the divine power and traversed the distant regions of the earth ( Acts 8:39 ). Neither did He ascend into heaven solely by the exercise of His supreme power as God. but also, by virtue of the power which He possessed as Man; although human power alone was insufficient to raise Him from the dead, yet the virtue with which the blessed soul of Christ was endowed, was capable of moving the body as it pleased, and His body, now glorified, readily obeyed the soul that moved it" ("Roman Catechism," "loc. cit.," 2).

34 (Cant. 1:3 )

35 ( Matt. 24:28 )

36 ( Apoc. 3:21 )

37 ( Phil. 2:8 )

38 ( Luke 14:11 )

39 ( Eph. 4:10 )

40 ( Mich. 2:13 )

41 ( John 14:2 )

42 ( Matt. 6:21 )

43 ( Col. 3:1-2 )

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