The Lord, as you have heard, appeared to His Disciples after His Resurrection, and greeted them, saying: Peace be to you. This is indeed peace, and the salutation of Salvation; for salutation receives its name from salvation. And what better than that Salvation Itself should greet mankind?
For Christ is our Salvation. For He is our Salvation Who was wounded for us, and fastened with nails to the Wood, and taken down from the Wood, and laid in the sepulchre. But He rose from the sepulchre; and though His wounds were healed the scars remained. For this He judged expedient for His Disciples: that He should keep His scars to heal the wounds of their soul. What wounds are these? The wounds of their unbelief. For He appeared before their eyes, showing them a true body; and they believed they saw a spirit. No light wound of the soul this. And they who continued in this wounded state have caused a malignant heresy. And do not let m think that because they were healed so quickly that the Disciples were not wounded. Let your Charity consider how had they remained in this wounded state, thinking that His buried Body had not risen, and that a spirit in the likeness of a body deceived their human eyes, had they remained in this belief, rather, had they remained in this unbelief, we should be grieving, not for their wounds, but for their death!
But what is the Lord Jesus saying? Why are you troubled, and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? If thoughts arise in your hearts the thoughts are from the earth. It is good for man, not that thoughts should rise up in his heart, but that his heart should rise up: whither the Apostle would raise the hearts of the faithful to whom he said: 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. For you are dead; and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ shall appear, who is your life, then you also shall appear with him in glory (Col. iii. 1-4).
In what glory? The glory of the Resurrection. In what glory? Listen to the Apostle speaking of this body: It is sown in dishonour, it shall rise in glory (I Cor. xv. 43). The Apostles were unwilling to give this glory to their Master, their Christ, their Lord; they had not begun to believe He could raise His Body from the dead; they did not believe even their own eyes, and when they saw His Body they supposed it was a spirit they saw. Yet we believe those who preach Him to us, though they do not show Him. And they did not believe Christ, showing Himself to them.
A grievous wound: let the remedy of the scars appear! Why are you troubled, and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, where I was fastened by nails. Handle, and see. You see, and you do not see. Handle, and see. See what? That a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as you see me to have. And when he had said this, so it is written, he showed them his hands and feet.
They were now joyful, yet their hesitation remained. For something had taken place which was incredible; yet it had taken place. Is it incredible now that the body of Christ has risen from the tomb? The whole healed world believes it: and he who believes not remains unhealed. Then it was incredible: and they were brought to believe not alone through their eyes, but through their hands, so that faith might enter their heart by way of their senses, so that the faith thus entering their heart might be preached throughout the world, to those who would neither see nor touch Him, and yet without hesitation would believe in Him.
Have you here, He says, anything to eat? How much the Good Builder adds to the edifice of our faith? He suffered no hunger, yet He asked for food. And He ate for the occasion, not because of need. And then the Apostles acknowledge that His Body is real; and the world acknowledges It from their preaching.
If by chance there are heretics who still believe in their hearts that Christ showed Himself to their eyes, but not the true Body of Christ, let them now put that belief aside, and let the Gospel persuade them. We reprove them for thinking this: He will condemn them if they continue to think it. Who are you who do not believe that a body laid in the tomb could not rise again? If you are a Manichean, you do not believe He was crucified, because you do not believe He was born; you then proclaim that all that He showed was false.
He showed what was false; you however say only what is true? You do not lie with your tongue; but He lied with His Body? Then you consider that He appeared to men’s eyes what He was not; that He was a spirit, not a body. Listen to Him: He loves you, do not have Him damn you. Listen to Him speaking. See! He is addressing you, you unhappy one, He is speaking to you! What has troubled you, and why do thoughts arise in your heart? See! He is saying, my hands and feet. Handle, and see: for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as you see me to have. The Truth said this; and He was deceiving us? It was a body, it was flesh; what had been buried appeared. Let hesitation end; let it give way to becoming praise.
He shows Himself then to His Disciples. What is He, Himself? The Head of the Church. The Church that was to be throughout the world He foresaw; the Disciples did not yet see it. He showed them its Head; He promised them the Body. For He now adds what is to follow: These are the words which I spoke to you, while I was yet with you. What does this mean: While I was yet with you? Was He not with them while He was speaking to them?
What then does this mean: While I was yet with you? While I was with you as mortal man, which I am no longer. I was with you when I was about to die. What does with you mean? I Who was to die was with you who were to die. Now I am with you no longer; for I shall die no more, with those who are to die. It is this, then, which I spoke to you. What?
That all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the Law, and the Prophets, and the Psalms, concerning me. I said to you that all things must be fulfilled. Then He opened their minds. Come then, Lord! Use Thy keys, open that we may understand! Behold you tell us all things, and you are not believed! You are supposed to be a spirit; you are handled, you are touched, and they still hesitate who touch you! You instruct them from the Scriptures, and yet they do not understand. Their hearts are closed; open them and enter there. He does this: Then he opened their minds. Open, O Lord, open the heart that still doubts concerning Christ! Open his mind who believes that Christ was a spirit: Then he opened their minds, that they might understand the Scriptures.
And he said to them. What did He say? Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary. What was necessary? For Christ to suffer, and rise again from the dead, the third day. This they have seen. They have seen Him suffering; they have seen Him hanging on the Cross, they were seeing Him in their midst after His Resurrection from the dead, living. What therefore was it they did not see? His Body; that is, the Church. They saw Him; Her they did not see. They saw the Bridegroom; the Bride lay still concealed. Let Her also come forth. Thus it is written, and thus it behoveth Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the dead, the third day. This is the Bridegroom.
What of the Bride? And that penance and remission of sin should be preached in his name, unto all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. The Disciples had not yet seen this: they did not yet see the Church among all the nations; beginning from Jerusalem. The Head they had seen: concerning the Body they believed the Head. Because of what they had seen they believed what they had not yet seen. And we are like them. We see something they saw not; and there is something they saw that we do not see. What do we see that they did not see? The Church throughout the nations. What do we not see which they saw? Christ in the Flesh. And as they saw Him, and believed in His Body, so we see His Body, and believe in Its Head.
May what we have both seen help each of us! Christ seen in the Flesh helps them: so that they believe in the Church to come. The Church Visible helps us: so that we believe Christ arose from the dead. Their faith was made full; ours also is made full. Their faith was made full seeing the Head; ours seeing the Body. The Whole Christ became known to them; and so has He become known to us. But He was not wholly seen by them; nor is He wholly seen by us. By them the Head was seen, the Body believed; by us the Body is seen, the Head believed. Yet to no one is Christ wanting. He is complete in all; though His Body is still incomplete.
They believed, and through them many believed in Jerusalem; Judea believed, Samaria believed. Let members be added; let the building be raised upon the foundations: For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid: which is Christ Jesus (I Cor. iii. II). Let the Jews rage! Let them be filled with jealousy. Let Stephen be stoned. Let Saul hold the garments of those who stone him: Saul the future Apostle Paul! Let Stephen be put to death; let the Church in Jerusalem suffer persecution. And from there let the burning brands go forth, and increase, and flame out! For in a manner the brands were kindled in the Church at Jerusalem by the Holy Spirit: where they had but one heart and one soul for God. And when Stephen was stoned the whole Body suffered persecution: the brands were scattered, and the world caught fire.
Then following after these happenings, the raging Saul receives letters from the Chief Priests, and, burning with fury, breathing slaughter, thirsting for blood, he begins his journey, to seize as many as he can and bring them bound to punishment, and sate himself with the blood he has shed. But where is God? Where is Christ? Where is He Who crowned Stephen? Where but in heaven? May He now look down on Saul, and laugh at him as he rages, and call to him from the heavens: Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? I am in heaven: you are on earth: yet you are persecuting Me! My Head you do not touch: but you are crushing My members. Why are you doing this? What do you gain? It is hard for thee to kick against the goad (Acts ix. 5). Kick as you will: you but torment yourself. So put aside your rage; take hold of your sanity. Put aside your evil purpose: look for good counsel.
At the words he was thrown to the ground. Who was thrown to the ground? The persecutor. See! At a word he is laid low. Why are you on this journey? Whom do you rage against? Those you pursued you will now follow; for those you persecuted you will now suffer persecution. He rises up a preacher who was thrown down a persecutor. He has heard the voice of the Lord. He was blinded: but only in the body, that his soul might receive light. He was led to Ananias; he was instructed in many things. He was baptized; and came forth an Apostle. Speak now: preach, preach Christ, spread the Gospel, O good ram! so long a wolf! Behold him; take note of him who once raged cruelly: But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world (Gal. vi. 14).
Spread the Gospel: spread with your tongue what you have conceived in your heart. Let the Gentiles hear you! Let the Gentiles believe! Let the Gentiles blossom forth! Let the Spouse be born to the Lord, empurpled with the blood of martyrs! And from her how many come? How many members adhere to the Head, and now hold fast to Him, and believe? They were baptized, and yet others shall be baptized, and after us yet others shall come!
Then, I say, at the end of the world the stones will adhere to the foundation, living stones, holy stones, so that the whole edifice may be built up from that Church, yes, from this very Church which now sings the new canticle, while the house is a-building; for so has it the psalm thus named: When the House was Built after the Captivity. And what does it say? Sing ye to the Lord a new canticle; sing to the Lord all the earth (Ps. xcv. I ).
How great a House! And when will it sing the new canticle? While it is being built. And when will it be dedicated? At the end of the world. Its foundations have already been dedicated: because He ascending into heaven dieth no more. When we also have risen, and shall die no no more, then shall we be dedicated.
Turning then to the Lord our God, the Father Almighty, let us as best we can give thanks with all our hearts, beseeching Him that in His Goodness He will mercifully hear our prayers, and by His grace drive evil from our thoughts and actions, increase our faith, guide our minds, grant m His holy inspirations, and bring us to joy without end, through His Son our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
St Augustine of Hippo