The Scribes and Pharisees concern is obvious, they may just have crucified the Messiah, the Son of God as He claimed. Oops! For the Roman soldiers, the concern was for another reason, and would go a long way in supporting what occurred. It was necessary for the Sanhedrin to claim that Christ's followers had robbed the grave, taking and hiding the body and claiming He rose. One thing they didn't count on though, was Roman law and the Roman soldier. The Romans used geese as early warning devices. They would feed the geese so they would be used to them. On guard duty, the geese would be let free to wander nearby. Any one coming near would cause the geese to begin honking, alerting the remainder of the guard. So, there is no way that anyone 'snuck in' and stole Christ's body. Nor is there any chance that frightened, unarmed, unskilled fishermen and others were about to take on a cohort of Roman Legionnaires. (There's a reason why the Romans had the most successful Army of all time)
The story goes, that the guards fell asleep and the Apostles came and took the body. Well, there's the geese problem. But what if there were no geese? (Possible though improbable) If a soldier falls asleep on guard today, he gets a reprimand. In the Roman Legion, he was executed. Great incentive to stay awake.
So, here we have the Sanhedrin saying that they were asleep, while all of Judea knew that was very unlikely. So, the rumor went out and was unstoppable, that Christ rose form the dead and was seen by many.
Now, why do I tell you this? Because we're still speculating, but in newer, more 'enlightened' ways.
First, we see many trying to speculate who Jesus was? I recall hearing one person asking, "Where did Jesus get all His learning?" (One would think that being the Son of God would answer that) No, they feel He 'must' have gone to India to learn Buddhism AND/OR to England to learn Druidism. Hence explaining why some Buddhist philosophy and Druid practices seem to mirror Christianity, because Christ learned them and made them part of His philosophy. This explains, to them, why nothing is written about His early life. He was off globe trotting with His Uncle Joseph of Arimathea. (Pretty good trick for a poor carpenter's son from Nazareth) [Ruhani Satsang - Leader: Kirpal Singh. "Jesus Christ was essentially a man of the East, and his teachings are imbued with oriental mysticism. It is even speculated that he spent many of his early years in India and learned from the Yogins and Buddhist monks" (The Crown of Life, Kirpal Singh).]
They need this because to acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God is unthinkable. All the other 'religious' founders had glorious legends about them. Sidhartha (Buddha) was born to a royal family and immediately walked. And lotus blossoms grew where he walked. No such 'legend' about Christ (unless you accept the gnostic gospels, but there we see a mean little child. Killing a bird to raise to life again, and killing another child for simply bumping into him) No, Christ grew up in obscurity, as per the prophecy.
"Who would believe what we have heard? To whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up like a sapling before him, like a shoot from the parched earth; There was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him" (Isaiah 53:1-2).
Is it so hard to believe that God loves us so much that He would send His only begotten Son, so that we may be saved? For them yes, since to do so would mean a change of heart. A redirecting of their priorities.
Another innovative speculation is that Jesus didn't die on the cross! This has two approaches. One is that someone did die on the cross but it wasn't Jesus, but His twin brother James. (This comes from the notion that James was a biological brother of Jesus, whereas it is more likely he was a cousin) Again, one has to search the gnostic gospels to find this one or some other 'New Age' writings. Again though, if this were true, all they had to do was produce a body. (Going back again to the difficulty of the Apostles stealing the body in the tomb to complete the 'supposed' charade.)
The other approach is that it was Jesus on the cross, but He didn't die, but merely passed out. A group of doctors got together and, reviewing Scriptures, gave a report on the death of Christ. Their findings were that it was a miracle He survived to make it to the cross. Also, assuming that He was able to, Scripture gives clear evidence that He was dead. "But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out" (John 19:33-34).
Romans were pretty good at knowing when someone was dead or not. But the key for us is the blood and water. At death, the blood immediately begins to separate itself between plasma and the red blood cells; hence, what they would see as blood and water.
Another is that Jesus was on the cross, and that He did die, but only His 'essence' rose, not Him physically. (There's the problem of the body again though) This one is keen on those who think of Jesus as having two distinct natures, not even remotely connected. That is, that Jesus' 'human' nature died, but not His Divine 'spirit'. (Anthroposophical Society - Leader: Rudolf Steiner. "According to Steiner, Jesus of Nazareth was just an ordinary man until, at the age of thirty, he received the Christ-Essence during his baptism at the Jordan." (Spiritual Counterfeits Project in Berkeley, CA : Letter, Feb, 1977) Steiner was an occult medium who interpreted the Bible through clairvoyance)
Why bring this up? Because these notions have invaded many parts of the Church. Here are some others with notions you may recognize.
" The awakening of individuals to the realization of their own Christ-nature is what will liberate man and transform society" (Darshan The vision of Light, Roy E. Davis). "Jesus was a man who reached Christ-consciousness and was on earth to share the truth of this consciousness." (Center for Spiritual Awareness - Leader: Roy Eugene Davis. Also called Christian Spiritual Alliance.) Many in the Church tell us and our children to seek the god/dess within.
"Jesus was a reincarnated man, the highest luminary possible. The Christ spirit in Him was a manifestation of the cosmic Christ"( Rosicrucianism).
It is interesting that it was Fr. Matthew Fox who led many out of the Church, with the notion of the Cosmic Christ. "In order to become true members of the Church of Christ, a person must know not who Jesus was, but what Christ is. Christ, Ishvara, is the very personal force pervading the universe that guides and illuminates every aspirant ... It is not an embodied person, but rather a force in which all individual beings are divine sparks."
The list goes on and on. The Sanhedrin tried to explain away the resurrection, the soldiers tried to explain how they didn't allow anyone to steal the body. And it goes on and on. If they acknowledge Christ, it would demand they act on it. They would have to do what St. Thomas found himself having to do: "Then he said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.' Thomas answered and said to him, 'My Lord and my God!'" (John 20:27-28).
Not a spirit, not an 'essence' nor a 'consciousness', but the Son of the Living God. "Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed" (John 20:29).
The Blessed Mother is constantly reminding us of that, always drawing us closer to her Divine Son Who is ever present in the Tabernacle, but never closer to us than during Mass for the Eucharist is a sacrament that Fr. Loret describes as drawing us "into the mystery of His broken body, His blood poured out..."
This sacrifice is accomplished at the Communion, when the species of bread and wine, now Our Lord's Body and Blood, are consumed just as His Sacrifice was accomplished when He cried out "It is consummated!" and then expired on the cross. Again, it is vital to repeat that Mass is not a remembrance or memorial of His death, but an actual renewal, in the separate consecration of the bread and wine, the death of Jesus, the separation of His Body and Blood.
Christ had instituted the essence of the Mass, now He left it to His Church to build a lasting ritual around this New Sacrifice and liturgically give the Mass form and expression for those who would participate down through the ages.
The Apostles were the "first priests", ordained by Christ, and after the Holy Spirit had descended upon them on Pentecost Sunday, they went out fearlessly into the world to preach the good news and celebrate the New Sacrifice.
The passages in 1 Corinthians 10:16 and 11: 27-29 confirm that the Apostles understood that Christ's words were not to be taken figuratively, but literally! St. Augustine reaffirmed this continuous belief of Christians when he wrote, "Our Lord held Himself in His Own hands, when He gave His Body to the disciples." Bishop Morrow states that "it was only in the sixteenth century that the Protestants, breaking away from the True Church denied it and introduced a different doctrine." We wonder how, then, can they explain the powerful meaning of Christ's own words in John 6:54-59?
That is also the principle of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. The word "sacrament" signifies a means unto holiness. "A Sacrament," the Catechism tells us, "is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace." Of all the Sacraments, the Holy Eucharist is the most outward sign instituted by Jesus and which we can receive daily. It is the greatest Sacrament. That is why the Holy Eucharist is called the Blessed Sacrament.
Just as we are nourished in the Break of Life today, so also the early Christians, amidst fierce persecution, took their strength from the Eucharist. In the following installments we will delve into how the Church and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass evolved in the first centuries as well as the how and why Christ's disciples made a total break from Jewish Law while maintaining some of their traditions. We'll also see how the disciples' greatest persecutor Saul became God's greatest traveling evangelist Paul.
NEXT WEDNESDAY: Installment Four: The Embryo Years - part one
She says, Father, that I must not worry that in my lifetime many, particularly the scholars, theologians, the clerics will reject these humble Lessons, just as many reject the messages for the world. The validity of the words will bear good fruit and in God's time. All glory and honor shall be given to Him Who has chosen to work through the weakest, most wretched of all His children. So having tested Our Lady's voice, I begin.
Our Heavenly Mother's prayer is interrupted by a soft knock at the door. The sound is repeated and a voice calls softly:
"Holy Mother, it is I, Mary of Lazarus' household."
The voice penetrated Our Lady's contemplation. With what grace does she rise from her knees. She calls out.
"Peace, Mary. Please come in."
The door swings open to reveal Lazarus' sister upon the threshold, candle lit in the pre-dawn darkness.
"I didn't wish for you to remain alone in the darkness. I have brought you a new candle."
While the Magdalene is busy replacing the new candle in its holder, Our Lady's gracious smile blesses her. Our Lady's eyes catch the candle flame and her smile grows deeper, more mysterious for she instantly recognizes that the candle flame will no longer remain a solitary light in a bare room in Jerusalem. No! The light, the True Light, has been revealed. Now in the fullness of the Father's time this light shall spread a river of light, across the world. It shall be seen in every corner of the earth. It shall be offered to many and be received and thus will it grow stronger.
Then the Magdalene turns and comes to Mary, who has taken a seat in the only chair in the room.
"Dear Mother, I have come to tell you that we have prepared all the funeral spices, perfumes, balms, and ointments. All is in readiness. Shortly it will be dawn. The Passover will be fulfilled. We, the other women and I, will go to His tomb to properly anoint the body. Will you come, Holy Mother? I do not want to cause you any further distress, but my heart could not be at peace until I had asked."
"Be at peace, my dear child. You have asked and my own heart gives thanks for all you and the other women have done. No, Mary. I will remain here. It is where He desires me to be."
"I will tell the others. We will make haste and report to you upon our return."
Our Blessed Mother's face, so serene, does not give away her sacred, holy secret of Jesus' Resurrection. She knows her Son will reveal Himself to those whom He has chosen at the appointed time.
"I bless you in His Name and thank you. Mary, has there been any word of the others?"
"Jonathan came earlier, accompanied by James. They had been throughout the city and even among some of the outlying districts. Many disciples and the other Apostles are safely under Lazarus' care."
"And Judas of Kerioth? Is there no word? I had wanted to talk to him, more than anyone else."
The first conclave at the Vatican since 1303, due to the Avignon exile, the College of Cardinals elect the Archbishop of Bari, Cardinal Bartolomeo Prignano as Pope Urban VI, the two hundred second successor of Peter.
Spanish born Cardinal Alfonso de Borgia is elected the 209th successor of Peter and takes the name Pope Callixtus III. It was Callixtus who instituted the Feast of the Transfiguration.
Pope Paul III decrees the Apocrypha or body of writings on religious matters outside the canon of Scripture which are accepted by Holy Mother Church as the basis for many of the documents at the Council of Trent.
Birth of Philip IV, the future King of Spain, to the acting head of Spain King Philip III during the earliest days of Pope Leo XI's papacy.