Words of the Saints: St. Thomas on the Resurrection

We find that many arose from the dead, such as Lazarus [Jn 11:1-44], the son of the widow [Lk 7:11-16], and the daughter of the Ruler of the synagogue [Mk 5:35-43]. But the resurrection of Christ differed from the resurrection of these and of all others in four points.

(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” [Jn 10:18]. 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 Spirit; He cried out with a loud voice [Mt 27:50], 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” [Mt 27:54]. By that 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” [Ps 3:6]. Nor can this be contrary to these words, “This Jesus God raised again” [Acts 2:32], 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” [Rom 6:4]. The others, however, were raised to that life which they had before, as 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” [Mt 28:52]. The Apostle declares that “Christ is risen from the dead, the first fruits of those who sleep” [1 Cor 15:20]. 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?” [Lk 24:26]. And this is to teach us how we also may arrive at glory: “Through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God” [Acts 14:21].

(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” [Nicene Creed], 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.
From Expositio in Symbolum Apostolorum

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