|The Risen Christ Speaks|
Bishop Rudolph Graber
|Bishop of Regensburg|
Easter was not always a feast of perfect joy; on the contrary, anxiety, precipitous haste, and fear overshadowed the first Passover when, in that memorable night, the Israelites made preparations to leave Egypt in which they had been enslaved. Anxiety seized upon them: Will the angel of death really pass by their thresholds which they had smeared with the blood of the paschal lamb? Precipitous haste marked all their actions: they had to eat their bread unleavened, “with their loins girt, sandals on their feet, and staff in hand…like those who are in flight”. Their faces revealed their fear: Will the Pharaoh really let us leave unhindered? Will he not rather do all in his power to force us back?
Anxiety, haste and fear also overshadowed the first Christian feast of Easter: Yes, it even began in tears. “But Mary (Magdalene) was standing outside weeping at the tomb.” Only one care filled her soul: “I do not know where they have laid Him.” And with this care were associated anxiety and fear. The disciples and the women were terrified by the empty grave, they were terrified by the angels, they were frightened even by the Risen Christ.
We men are like that, entirely dependent on appearance, on external, on that which momentarily is in the foreground. When the Lord entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, He was greeted joyfully and jubilantly by loud Hosannas, although His followers should have known that He was going to His death. Actually He had foretold it often enough. And so the joy and jubilation preceded the Passion, but on Easter morning sorrow and despair filled the hearts of Christ’s faithful even though He had spoken of His Resurrection on the third day more than once. “We men are so blind, so contradictory in our heart, that we are jubilant when we ought to be alarmed and terrified when there is reason for the greatest joy.” Now, into all this fluctuation of fear and sorrow, of incomprehension and doubt, there flashes the brilliant lightning of the Resurrection morning. It tears asunder all those gray mists which obstructed our sight, and in the luminous clear light of this unique morning we behold thee, Lord, the Risen Christ.
Yes, we desire to gaze upon Thee, the Risen Christ, in seven great tableaux, the seven manifestations which the Gospels report in greater detail. In our souls there still echo the seven last words on the Cross which, from the awful mystery of the Cross, illumined our Christian existence. But the Cross is not the end; it is the gateway to the Resurrection. And so, side by side with the seven last words of Christ Crucified, we want to look at those glorious tableaux of the Risen Christ, for even now our life hungers and thirsts for a glimmer of the Transfiguration. Assuredly, Golgotha is our Salvation, but only because, after it, there rises the glorious Sun of Easter.
But eyes red with weeping cannot bear the light, and especially cannot bear the Easter Sun which blinds even us of the unbelieving, doubting, twentieth century, torn apart spiritually by inner conflict. And thus what had to happen did happen, and is happening. At that time they did not fully recognize the Risen Christ, and today we recognize Him even less. Their failure to recognize Christ immediately after His Resurrection is so peculiar to the Easter accounts in the Gospels that one might suppose they had been written expressly for our time. Over all seven accounts of the appearances of the Risen Christ, which we wish to review, we could write the words of St. John: “Behold the world knew Him not.”
Not only did the world at large fail to recognize the Risen Christ; He did not even show Himself to it…and even His most faithful ones did not recognize Him. Of Magdalene the Gospel of St. John clearly states: “She did not know that it was Jesus”. And, likewise, we read of the disciples on the road to Emmaus: “But their eyes were held, that they should not recognize Him.” When Jesus appeared on the evening of Easter Day, even the Apostles, “startled and panic-stricken, thought that they saw a ghost,” and a week later Thomas, the Doubter, still resists acknowledging the Risen Christ.
Then, at the Sea of Tiberias, when Jesus appears in the morning, “The disciples did not know that it was Jesus”, and some time elapses before the eyes of the beloved disciple recognize the Lord. Even shortly before the Ascension, when on the mount in Galilee, Jesus entrusts His missionary authority to the Apostles, “some still doubted”. All these people had been blinded by the supernatural brilliance of the Sun of the Resurrection; this event was too incomprehensible.
Another light blinds us men of today: The glaring light of the mortal world with its scientific and technical achievements. And we fail so miserably to recognize the Risen Christ, for the crucial question of mankind remains the same for all time: How do we arrive at the understanding which is decisive for eternity? “Now this is everlasting life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Him Whom Thou has sent, Jesus Christ.”
Thus, with this question on our lips, we will approach the manifestations of the Risen Christ, for here, doubtlessly, the accounts which lead to the recognition of God are opened up to us. But then, when we have passed through the gateways, every doubt should be forever dispelled; with the light of the Easter sun on our foreheads we will step out into the world, the workaday world, and, in word and deed, profess full of holy joy: “Vidimus dominum, we have seen the Lord,” and “His glory, the glory of the only-begotten Son of the Father – full of grace and truth.”
The Nations are Dying of Sin
With Christ, the Light came into the world, and the Light is Love, Truth and Life. But men loved the darkness more than the Light, and this darkness is the estrangement from Christ, from His Love, from His Life, His Truth. This darkness is called Sin. In the vocabulary of our languages of today, sin scarcely occurs any longer. If one took the trouble to take the books on philosophy, psychology, pedagogy, conduct, and belletristic works from the shelves of our modern libraries, and read them carefully, you would not find the word “sin”; it has died in the world of our thinking, our opinions and of our decisions. The twentieth century has radically fulfilled Nietsche’s wish: “Let us rid the world of the notion of sin, and then as soon as possible, also of the notion of punishment; there is no greater weed in the world!”
How does mankind of today arrive at this attitude? 1500 years ago, St. Augustine , one of the greatest psychologists of humankind came to this conclusion: The source of all sin is Pride! Pride in the form of autonomy, of auto-legality, of autocracy, of tyranny.
Thus, there is no law outside of man, and therefore also no transgression of His law. There is no God, and therefore also no law of God, no transgression of this law – Sin? Sin is a fossil from that time when men still concerned themselves with religion.
Anti-authoritarian education and behavior is the watchword today. And what will be the consequence? “Darkness”, according to the words of Christ, and that is the death of love, truth and life. What will be the result: A multitude of brutal egoists, of idlers and loafers, of depraved criminals, of rapists, and brutal men of violence…” The people and the nation that does not serve Thee, O Lord, shall perish; the nations shall become wastelands!
April 15, 1977
(Translated by Marie Agnes Matt)