Gospel of Paschal Vigil

Matthew 28:1-7

And in the end of the Sabbath, when it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalen and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And behold there was a great earthquake. For an Angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and coming, rolled back the stone and sat upon it: and his countenance was as lightening and his raiment as snow. And for fear of him the guards were struck with terror and became as dead men. And the Angel answering, said to the women: Fear not you: for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified: He is not here: for His is risen, as He said. Come and see the place where the Lord was laid. And going quickly, tell ye His disciples that He is risen: and be-hold He will go before you into Galilee: there you shall see Him. Lo, I have foretold it to you.


Verse 1. And in the end of the sabbath, when it began to dawn towards the first day of the week. According to the letter, in the evening of the sabbath, which began to dawn on the first of the sabbath; (or of the sabbaths in the common Greek copies.) This latter translation, which is that of the Rheims Testament, is certainly more according to the letter, and more obscure than it need to be. First, by translating, on the first of the sabbath, where sabbath is taken for a week, as in other places, Luke xviii. 12. Acts xx. 7. and 1 Cor. xvi. 2. It may therefore here be literally translated, on the first day of the week. Secondly, by the evening, is here meant the night: for in the Scriptures, both the Latin and Greek word, which we find in this place, not only signifies that time which we commonly call the evening, but is also put for the whole night itself, and for the time from sunset to sunrise next morning. Thus it is taken in the first chapter of Genesis, where, in the computation of natural days of 24 hours, all the hours in which it was dark, are called vespere, in the Sept. And all the hours in which it was light, are called mane, prwi. et factum est vespere & mane dies unus, i.e. primus. And from the fourth day, on which were created sun and moon, by vespere was understood all the time from the sun setting on such parts of the earth, to its rising to them again: and mane signified all the day, or the hours that the sun appeared to the like parts of the earth. Therefore, the literal and proper sense of the verse is: in the night, i.e. in the latter part of the night of the sabbath, or after the sabbath, towards the morning of the first day of the week. And that in this place is signified the latter part of the night, and not what is commonly called the evening, appears first by the following words, when it began to dawn, or to be light. Secondly, It appears by the other evangelists. S. Mark (xvi. 1.) says, when the sabbath was past … very early in the morning. S. Luke says, (xxiv. 1,) very early in the morning. S. John (xx. 1.) says of Mary Magdalene, that she came in the morning, when it was yet dark. From all which it is plain, that Mary Magdalene, and the other pious women, came to the sepulchre at the end of the night after the sabbath-day, or when it began to be light, and about sunrise on the first day of the week, on our Sunday. — There may indeed be some doubt whether the Latin word vesperè be not an adverb, corresponding to the Greek oye, serò. And then it may be translated with Dr. Wells: late in the night after the sabbath, as it began to dawn towards the first day of the week. But this makes no difference at all as to the sense. And the other Mary, &c. S. Mark says, Mary, the mother of James and Salome. S. Luke also names Joanna, who was wife to Chusa, Herod’s steward. These women had rested the sabbath, and as soon as it was over, i.e. after sunset, they bought spices, and prepared them in the night, in order to embalm the body next morning. Wi.

Verse 2. Behold … an angel. The angel did not remove the stone to afford a passage to Christ when he arose; for Christ most certainly arose before the angel appeared; but he removed the stone to prepare the way for the women, and to shew the soldiers that Christ was arisen. He sat on the stone, that the women might know he had removed it; and, in the second place, that they might not be terrified at the appearance of the soldiers; for he exhorted them not to fear, but to come and see; and lastly, to prevent the soldiers from putting in another body, had they been so disposed. The holy women seem not to have known that there were guards placed near the sepulchre; otherwise they would not have been so solicitous who should roll away the stone for them, as how they should deceive the guards and break the seal. Tirinus. — For an angel of the Lord. This angel, who came to testify Christ’s resurrection, removed the great stone; but Christ was risen before, who according to all the fathers, says Estius, rose, the sepulchre being yet shut. — S. Matthew and S. Mark name but one angel; S. Luke and S. John name two. It may be answered, that the women saw one at one time, and two at another: one upon the stone, out of the monument; (which also frightened the guards) afterwards this angel disappeared, and the women coming near, and looking into the vault, saw two angels, when he that was on the right side said, why seek you him that is living, among the dead? — Another difference to be observed, is, that S. Matthew, Mark and John tell us, that the angel, or angels, sat; and S. Luke, that they stood: they might sit at one time, and stand at another. Besides that in the style of the Scriptures, standing, or sitting, many times imply no more than that they were present there. — In the third place, we take notice that Mary Magdalene seems to have come running to S. Peter, and S. John, as soon as she saw the stone removed, with these words, They have taken away the Lord … and we know not where they have laid him: John xx. 2, we do not there read that she said any thing of the angels. Or perhaps S. Peter and S. John ran away before they heard all that Magdalene had to say. In all these there is no contradiction; and the difficulties rise only from this, that each evangelist does not relate all the circumstances. Wi.

Verse 4. he guards were struck, &c. Fear and astonishment seized upon them, because they had not that charity for our Redeemer, of which he is so deserving; and they became petrified, like statues, at the thought that the crucified Jesus was arisen from the sepulchre. For these men guarded the sacred tomb, actuated more by passion and cruelty than by any sentiment of love and duty. Rabanus.

Verse 5. It is not yours to fear, who love Jesus Christ: let those rather fear, who through hatred have crucified Jesus. All such, if they do not repent of their wickedness, must have to undergo the greatest extremities of pain. S. Chrys. hom. xc. — Those miscreants fear, because they have not charity, but fear not you; for I know you seek him that was crucified, who is risen, as he promised you. These affectionate women sought Jesus among the dead, who was then among the living. The recent storm of calamities had nearly overwhelmed their faith, and the weight of temptations had so enfeebled their understanding, that they came to seek the Lord of heaven as one dead among the dead. S. Jerom. — The angel blushes not to style Jesus the crucified; for this is now the height and perfection of all good. By these glad tidings he endeavoured to expel their fears, speaking with a smiling countenance, as the messenger of the most joyful news. S. Chrys. hom. xc.

Verse 6. He is risen, as he said. This is to put them in mind of what they ought to have remembered, and believed. — S. Luke is more particular; and tells us the angel said: remember how he spoke to you, when he was yet in Galilee, that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again. Wi. — By this the angel give them to understand, that if they would not believe him upon his own testimony, they should at least on the testimony of their Redeemer’s promises, who had frequently assured them that on the third day he should rise again. S. Chrys. hom. xc.

Verse 7. Into Galilee. It is not without reason that the angel informs the women that he will go before them into Galilee; for Galilee is interpreted a transmigration, or a passage. O happy women, who merited the glorious ministry of announcing to a sunk and distressed world the triumphant resurrection of our Redeemer. But thrice happy those souls, who in the day of judgment shall deserve to sing in everlasting canticles, the joy you now conceive in your breasts at the happy resurrection of Jesus. Ven. Bede. — Moreover, the disciples being Galileans, it was natural for them to return to Galilee, after the festival week of the Passover. V.


2036: The historicity of the Resurrection

From the Decree of the Holy Office, "Lamentabili" July 3, 1907

36. The resurrection of the Savior is not properly a fact of the historical order, but a fact of the purely supernatural order, neither demonstrated nor demonstrable, and which the Christian conscience gradually derived from other sources.

Note: the above statement is condemned by the Church.

Catena Aurea

1. In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. 2. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. 3. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: 4. And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. 5. And the angel answered and said unto the women, "Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. 6. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7. And go quickly and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you."

Pseudo-Chrys., Hom. de Resur., iii: After the mockings and scourgings, after the mingled draughts of vinegar and gall, the pains of the cross, and the wounds, and finally after death itself and Hades, there rose again from the grave a renewed flesh, there returned from obstruction a hidden life, health chained up in death broke forth, with fresh beauty from its ruin.

Aug., de Cons. Ev., iii, 24: Concerning the hour when the women came to the sepulchre there arises a question not to be overlooked. Matthew here says, “On the evening of the Sabbath.” What then means that of Mark, “Very early in the morning, the first day of the week?” [Mark 16:2] Truly Matthew, by naming the first part of the night, to wit, the evening, denotes the whole night in the end of which they come to the sepulchre. But seeing the Sabbath hindered them from doing this before, he designates the whole night by the earliest portion of it in which it became lawful for them to do whatever, during some period of the night, they designed to do. Thus, “On the evening of the sabbath,” is just the same as if he had said, On the night of the sabbath, i.e. the night which follows the day of the sabbath, which is sufficiently proved by the words which follow, “As it began to dawn towards the first day of the week.” This could not be if we understood only the first portion of the night, its beginning, to be conveyed by the word, “evening.” For the evening or beginning of the night does not “begin to dawn towards the first day of the week,” but only the night which is concluded by the dawn. And this is the usual mode of speaking in Holy Scripture, to express the whole by a part. By “evening” therefore he implied the night, in the end of which they came to the sepulchre.

Bede, Beda in loc.: Otherwise; It may be understood that they began to come in the evening, but that it was the dawn of the first day of the week when they reached the sepulchre; that is, that they prepared the spices for anointing the Lord’s body in the evening, but that they took them to the sepulchre in the morning. This has been so shortly described by Matthew, that it is not quite clear in his account, but the other Evangelists give the order more distinctly. The Lord was buried on the sixth day of the week, and the women returning from the sepulchre prepared spices and ointments as long as it was lawful to work; on the sabbath they rested, according to the commandment, as Luke plainly declares; and when the Sabbath was past and the evening was come, and the season of labour returned, with zealous devotion they proceeded to purchase such spices as they yet lacked, (this is implied in Mark’s words, “when the sabbath was past,” that they might go and anoint Jesus, for which purpose they come early in the morning to the sepulchre.

Jerome: Or, otherwise; This apparent discrepancy in the Evangelists as to the times of their visits is no mark of falsehood, as wicked men urge, but shews the sedulous duty and attention of the women, often going and coming, and not enduring to be long absent from the sepulchre of their Lord.

Remig.: It is to be known that Matthew designs to hint to us a mystical meaning, of how great worthiness this most holy night drew from the noble conquest of death, and the Resurrection of Our Lord. With this purpose he says, “On the evening of the Sabbath.” For whereas according to the wonted succession of the hours of the day, evening does not dawn towards day, but on the contrary darkens towards night, these words shew that the Lord shed, by the light of His resurrection joy and brilliance over the whole of this night.

Bede, Beda Hom. Aest. i: For from the beginning of the creation of the world until now, the course of time has followed this arrangement, that the day should go before the night, because man, fallen by sin from the light of paradise, has sunk into the darkness and misery of this world. But now most fitly night goes before day, when, through faith in the resurrection, we are brought back from the darkness of sin and the shadow of death to the light of life, by the bounty of Christ.

Chrysologus, Serm. 75 [ed. note: The Sermons of S. Peter of Ravenna, surnamed Chrysologus, are quoted in the Catena under the name, Severianus.]: Because the sabbath is illuminated, not taken away, by Christ, Who said, “I am not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfil it.” [Matt 5:17] It is illuminated that it may lighten into the Lord’s day, and shine forth in the Church, when it had hitherto burnt dim, and been obscured by the Jews in the Synagogue.

It follows, “Came Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary,” &c. Late runs woman for pardon, who had run early to sin; in paradise she had taken up unbelief, from the sepulchre she hastes to take up faith; she now hastens to snatch life from death, who had before snatched death from life. And it is not, They come, but “came,” (in the singular,) for in mystery and not by accident, the two came under one name. She came, but altered; a woman, changed in life, not in name; in virtue, not in sex. The women go before the Apostles, bearing to the Lord’s sepulchre a type of the Churches; the two Marys, to wit. For Mary is the name of Christ’s mother; and one name is twice repeated for two women, because herein is figured the Church coming out of the two nations, the Gentiles and the Jews, and being yet one. Mary came to the sepulchre, as to the womb of the resurrection, that Christ might be the second time born out of the sepulchre of faith, who after the flesh had been born of her womb; and that as a virgin had borne Him into this life present, so a sealed sepulchre might bring Him forth into life eternal. It is proof of Deity to have left a womb virgin after birth, and no less to have come forth in the body from a closed sepulchre.

Jerome: “And, behold, there was a great earthquake.” Our Lord, Son at once of God and man, according to His two-fold nature of Godhead and of flesh, gives a sign one while of His greatness, another while of His lowliness. Thus, though now it was man who was crucified, and man who was buried, yet the things that were done around shew the Son of God.

Hil.: The earthquake is the might of the resurrection, when the sting of death being blunted, and its darkness illuminated, there is stirred up a quaking of the powers beneath, as the Lord of the heavenly powers rises again.

Chrys.: Or the earthquake was to rouse and waken the women, who had come to anoint the body; and as all these things were done in the night-time, it was probable that some of them had fallen asleep.

Bede: The earthquake at the Resurrection, as also at the Crucifixion, signifies that worldly hearts must be first moved to penitence by a health-giving fear through belief in His Passion and Resurrection.

Chrysol., Serm. 77 et 74: If the earth thus quaked when the Lord rose again to the pardon of the Saints, how will it quake when He shall rise again to the punishment of the wicked? As the Prophet speaks, “The earth trembled when the Lord rose again to judgment.” [Ps 76:8] And how will it endure the Lord’s presence, when it was unable to endure the presence of His Angel? “And the Angel of the Lord descended from heaven.” For when Christ arose, death was destroyed, commerce with heaven is restored to things on the earth; and woman, who had of old held communication to death with the Devil, now holds communication to life with the Angel.

Hil.: This is an instance of the mercy of God the Father, to supply the ministry of heavenly power to the Son on His resurrection from the grave; and he is therefore the proclaimer of this first resurrection, that it may be heralded by some attendant token of the Father’s good pleasure.

Bede: Forasmuch as Christ is both God and man, therefore there lack not amidst the acts of His humanity the ministrations of Angels, due to Him as God. “And came and rolled back the stone;” not to open the door for the Lord to come forth, but to give evidence to men that He was already come forth. For He who as mortal had power to enter the world through the closed womb of a Virgin, He when become immortal, was able to depart out of the world by rising from a sealed sepulchre.

Remig.: The rolling back of the stone signifies the opening of Christ’s sacraments, which were covered by the letter of the Law. For the Law having been written on stones, is here denoted by the stone.

Chrysol., Serm. 74: He said not ‘rolled,’ but “rolled back;” because the rolling to of the stone was a proof of death; the rolling it back asserted the resurrection. The order of things is changed; The Tomb devours death, and not the dead; the house of death becomes the mansion of life; a new law is imposed upon it, it receives a dead, and renders up a living, man. It follows, “And sat thereon.” He sat down, who was incapable of weariness; but sat as a teacher of the faith, a master of the Resurrection; upon the stone, that the firmness of his seat might assure the stedfastness of the believers; the Angel rested the foundations of the Faith upon that rock, on which Christ was to found His Church. Or, by the stone of the sepulchre may be denoted death, under which we all lay; and by the Angel sitting thereon, is shewn that Christ hath by His might subdued death.

Bede: And rightly did the Angel appear standing, who proclaimed the Lord’s coming into the world, to shew that the Lord should come to vanquish the prince of this world. But the Herald of the Resurrection is related to have been seated, to shew that now He had overcome him that had the power of death, He had mounted the throne of the everlasting kingdom. He sate upon the stone, now rolled back, wherewith the mouth of the sepulchre had been closed, to teach that He by His might had burst the bonds of the tomb.

Aug., de Cons. Ev., iii, 24: It may disquiet some, how it is that according to Matthew though the Angel sate upon the stone after it had been rolled back from the sepulchre, whereas Mark says that the women having gone into the sepulchre, saw a young man sitting on the right hand. Either we may suppose that they saw two, and that Matthew has not mentioned him whom they saw within, nor Mark him whom they saw without the sepulchre; but that they heard from each severally what the Angels said concerning Jesus. Or the words, “entering into the sepulchre,” [Mark 16:5] may mean entering into some enclosed place, which probably there might be in front of the rock out of which the sepulchre was hewn; and thus it might be the same Angel whom they saw sitting on the right hand, whom Matthew describes as sitting on the stone which he had rolled back.

Chrysol., Serm. 75: The splendour of his countenance is distinct from the shining of his raiment; his countenance is compared to lightning, his raiment to snow; for the lightning is in heaven, snow on the earth; as the Prophet saith, “Praise the Lord from the earth; fire and hail, snow and vapours.” [Ps 148:7] Thus in the Angel’s countenance is preserved the splendour of his heavenly nature; in his raiment is shewn the grace of human communion. For the appearance of the Angel that talked with them is so ordered, that eyes of flesh might endure the still splendour of his robes, and by reason of his shining countenance they might tremble before the messenger of their Maker.

Chrysol., Serm. 77: But what means this raiment where there is no need of a covering? The Angel figures our dress, our shape, our likeness in the Resurrection, when man is sufficiently clothed by the splendour of his own body.

Jerome: The Angel in white raiment signifies the glory of His triumph.

Greg., Hom. in Ev., xxi, 4: Or otherwise; “Lightning” inspires terror; “snow” is an emblem of equity; and as the Almighty God is terrible to sinners and mild to the righteous, so this Angel is rightly a witness of His resurrection, and is exhibited with a countenance as lightning, and with raiment as snow, that by His presence He might terrify the wicked, and comfort the good; and so it follows, “And for fear of him the keepers did shake.”

Raban.: These who had not the faith of love were shaken with a panic fear; and they who would not believe the truth of the resurrection “become” themselves “as dead men.”

Chrysol., Serm. 75: For they kept watch over Him with a purpose of cruelty, not with the solicitude of affection. And no man can stand who is forsaken by his own conscience, or troubled with a sense of guilt. Hence the Angel confounds the wicked, and comforts the good.

Jerome: The guards lay like dead men in a trance of terror, but the Angel speaks comfort not to them, but to the women, saying, “Fear not ye;” as much as to say, Let them fear with whom unbelief abides; but do ye who seek the crucified Jesus hear that He has risen again, and has accomplished what He promised.

Chrysol., Serm. 77: For their faith had been bowed by the cruel storm of His Passion, so that they sought Him yet as crucified and dead; “I know that ye seek Jesus which was crucified;” the weight of the trial had bent them to look for the Lord of heaven in the tomb, but, “He is not here.”

Raban.: His fleshly presence, that is; for His spiritual presence is absent from no place. “He is risen, as he said.”

Chrys.: As much as to say, If ye believe me not, remember His own words. And then follows further proof, when he adds, “Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”

Jerome: That if my words fail to convince you, the empty tomb may.

Chrysol., Serm. 76: Thus the Angel first announces His name, declares His Cross, and confesses His Passion; but straightway proclaims Him risen and their Lord. An Angel after such sufferings, after the grave acknowledges Him Lord; how then shall man judge that the Godhead was diminished by the flesh, or that His Might failed in His Passion. He says, “Which was crucified,” and points out the place where the Lord was laid, that they should not think that it was another, and not the same, who had risen from the dead. And if the Lord reappears in the same flesh, and gives evidence of His resurrection, why should man suppose that he himself shall reappear in other flesh? Or why should a slave disdain his own flesh, seeing the Lord did not change ours?

Raban.: And this glad tiding is given not to you alone for the secret comfort of your own hearts, but ye must extend it to all who love Him; “Go quickly, and tell his disciples.”

Chrysol., Serm. 77: As much as to say, Woman, now thou art healed, return to the man, and persuade him to faith, whom thou didst once persuade to treachery. Carry to man the proof of the Resurrection, to whom thou didst once carry counsel of destruction.

Chrys.: And, behold, he shall go before you, that is, to save you from danger, lest fear should prevail over faith.

Jerome: Mystically; “He shall go before you into Galilee,” that is, into the wallowing style [marg. note: volutabrum] of the Gentiles, where before was wandering and stumbling, and the foot had no firm and steady resting-place.

Bede: The Lord is rightly seen by His disciples in Galilee, forasmuch as He had already passed from death to life, from corruption to incorruption; for such is the interpretation of Galilee, ‘Transmigration.’ Happy women! who merited to announce to the world the triumph of the Resurrection! More happy souls, who in the day of judgment, when the reprobate are smitten with terror, shall have merited to enter the joy of the blessed resurrection!

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