Thoughts from the Early Church

Commentary by Guerric of Igny

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. (Ps 118:26)

“Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection.” Christ is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep and the firstborn from the dead. His resurrection, which is the prototype of all others, has guaranteed the rising of our souls in the first resurrection and of our bodies in the second, for he offers his own risen body to our souls as sacrament and to our bodies as exemplar. Even for our souls Christ’s single resurrection has prepared a twofold grace: through the living out of the paschal mystery in our daily lives we rise from the death of sin, and by our joyful celebration of the paschal feast today especially we rouse ourselves from the torpor of sleep. Slothful and halfhearted indeed must that person be who does not feel a thrill of joy, a sense of new life and vigor, at the glad cry: “The Lord is risen!” For myself, when I looked upon the dead Jesus I was overwhelmed by despairing grief, but in the living God, as scripture says, my heart and my flesh rejoice. It is with no mean profit to faith, no slight dividend of joy, that Jesus returns to me from the tomb, for I recognize the living God where only a little while ago I mourned a dead man. My heart was sorrowing for him as slain, but now that he is risen, not only my heart but my flesh also rejoices in the confident hope of my own resurrection and immortality.

“I slept and I arose,” Christ says. Awake then, my sleeping soul, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light! As the new sun rises from below, the grace of the resurrection already casts its radiance over the whole world, a radiance reflected in the eyes of those who have watched for him since daybreak, a dawn that ushers in the day of eternity. This is the day that knows no evening, the day whose sun will never set again. Only once has that sun gone down, and now once and for all it has ascended above the heavens, leading death captive in its train.

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.” And you also, if you watch daily at the threshold of wisdom, fixing your eyes on the doorway and, like the Magdalen, keeping vigil at the entrance to his tomb, you also will find what she found. You will know that what was written of wisdom was written of Christ: “She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her. Anyone who rises early to seek her will have no trouble; he will find her sitting at his gates.” While it was still dark Mary had come to watch at the tomb, and she found Jesus whom she sought standing there in the flesh. But you must know him now according to the spirit, not according to the flesh, and you can be sure of finding his spiritual presence if you seek him with a desire like hers, and if he observes your persevering prayer. Say then to the Lord Jesus, with Mary’s love and longing: “My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks for you.” Make the psalmist’s prayer your own as you say: “O God, my God, I watch for you at morning light; my soul thirsts for you.” Then see if you do not also find yourselves singing with them both: “In the morning fill us with your love; we shall exult and rejoice all our days.”

Sermon on Easter 3, 1-2: PL 185, 148-149

Guerric of Igny (c. 1070/80-1157), about whose early life little is known, probably received his education at the cathedral school of Tournai, perhaps under the influence of Odo of Cambrai (1087-92). He seems to have lived a retired life of prayer and study near the cathedral of Tournal. He paid a visit to Clairvaux to consult Saint Bernard, and is mentioned by him as a novice in a letter to Ogerius in 1125/1256. He became abbot of the Cistercian abbey of Igny, in the diocese of Rheims in 1138. A collection of fifty-four authentic sermons preached on Sundays and feast days have been edited. Guerric’s spirituality was influenced by Origen.

**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson