Thoughts from the Early Church
Commentary by Cyril of Alexandria
After eight days Jesus came in and stood among them.
By his miraculous entry through closed doors Christ proved to his disciples that by nature he was God and also that he was none other than their former companion.
By showing them his side and the marks of the nails, he convinced them beyond a doubt that he had raised the temple of his body, the very body that had hung upon the cross.
He had destroyed death’s power over the flesh, for as God, he was life itself.
Because of the importance he attached to making his disciples believe in the resurrection of the body, and in order to prevent them from thinking that the body he now possessed was different from that in which he had suffered death upon the cross, he willed to appear to them as he had been before, even though the time had now come for his body to be clothed in a supernatural glory such as no words could possibly describe.
The peace of Christ, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds. We have only to recall Christ’s transfiguration on the mountain in the presence of his holy disciples, to realize that mortal eyes could not have endured the glory of his sacred body had he chosen to reveal it before ascending to the Father.
Saint Matthew describes how Jesus went up the mountain with Peter, James, and John, and how he was transfigured before them. His face shone like lightning and his clothes became white as snow. But they were unable to endure the sight and fell prostrate on the ground.
And so, before allowing the glory that belonged to it by every right to transfigure the temple of his body, our Lord Jesus Christ in his wisdom appeared to his disciples in the form that they had known. He wished them to believe that he had risen from the dead in the very body that he had received from the blessed Virgin, and in which he had suffered crucifixion and death, as the Scriptures had foretold. Death’s power was over the body alone, and it was from the body that it was banished.
If it was not Christ’s dead body that rose again, how was death conquered, how was the power of corruption destroyed?
It could not have been destroyed by the death of a created spirit, of a soul, of an angel, or even of the Word of God himself. Since death held sway only over what was corruptible by nature, it was in this corruptible nature that the power of the resurrection had to show itself in order to end death’s tyranny.
When Christ greeted his holy disciples with the words: Peace be with you, by peace he meant himself, for Christ’s presence always brings tranquility of soul.
This is the grace Saint Paul desired for believers when he wrote: The peace of Christ, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds.
The peace of Christ, which passes all understanding, is in fact the Spirit of Christ, who fills those who share in him with every blessing.
(Commentary on Saint John’s Gospel 12: p. 74, 704-705)
Cyril of Alexandria (d.444) succeeded his uncle Theophilus as patriarch in 412. Until 428 the pen of this brilliant theologian was employed in exegesis and polemics against the Arians; after that date it was devoted almost entirely to refuting the Nestorian heresy.
The teaching of Nestorius was condemned in 431 by the Council of Ephesus at which Cyril presided, and Mary’s title, Mother of God, was solemnly recognized.
The incarnation is central to Cyril’s theology. Only if Christ is consubstantial with the Father and with us can he save us, for the meeting ground between God and ourselves is the flesh of Christ. Through our kinship with Christ, the Word made flesh, we become children of God, and share in the filial relation of the Son with the Father.
**From Saint Louis University