The Stone Rolled Away. Exegesis on John 20:2

    

The first day of the week (that is, the Lords day) comes Mary Magdalene, very early in the morning, and sees the stone taken away from the sepulcher.

For He arose while both stone and seals lay over Him; but because it was necessary that others should be fully satisfied, the tomb was opened after the Resurrection, and thus what had come to pass was confirmed. This then was what moved Mary. For being entirely full of loving affection towards her Master, when the Sabbath was past, she could not bear to rest, but came very early in the morning, desiring to find some consolation from the place. But when she saw the place, and the stone taken away, she neither entered in nor stooped down, but ran to the disciples, in the greatness of her longing; for this was what she earnestly desired, she wished very speedily to learn what had become of the body. This was the meaning of her running, and her words declare it.

They have taken away, she says, my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him.

Do you see how she knew not as yet anything clearly concerning the Resurrection, but thought there had been a removal of the body, and tells all simply to the disciples? And the Evangelist has not deprived the woman of such praise, nor thought it shame that they should have learned these things first from her who had passed the night in watching. Thus everywhere does the truth-loving nature of his disposition shine forth. When then she came and said these things, they hearing them, draw near with great eagerness to the sepulcher, and see the linen clothes lying, which was a sign of the Resurrection. For neither, if any persons had removed the body, would they before doing so have stripped it; nor if any had stolen it, would they have taken the trouble to remove the napkin, and roll it up, and lay it in a place by itself; but how? They would have taken the body as it was. On this account John tells us by anticipation that it was buried with much myrrh, which glues linen to the body not less firmly than lead; in order that when you hear that the napkins lay apart, you may not endure those who say that He was stolen. For a thief would not have been so foolish as to spend so much trouble on a superfluous matter. For why should he undo the clothes? And how could he have escaped detection if he had done so? Since he would probably have spent much time in so doing, and be found out by delaying and loitering. But why do the clothes lie apart, while the napkin was wrapped together by itself? That you may learn that it was not the action of men in confusion or haste, the placing some in one place, some in another, and the wrapping them together. From this they believed in the Resurrection. On this account Christ afterwards appeared to them, when they were convinced by what they had seen. Observe too here again the absence of boastfulness in the Evangelist, how he witnesses to the exactness of Peter’s search. For he himself having gotten before Peter, and having seen the linen clothes, enquired not farther, but withdrew; but that fervent one passing farther in, looked at everything carefully, and saw somewhat more, and then the other too was summoned to the sight. For he entering after Peter, saw the grave-clothes lying, and separate. Now to separate, and to place one thing by itself, and another, after rolling it up, by itself, was the act of some one doing things carefully, and not in a chance way, as if disturbed.

5. But do thou, when you hear that your Lord arose naked, cease from your madness about funerals; for what is the meaning of that superfluous and unprofitable expense, which brings much loss to the mourners, and no gain to the departed, or (if we must say that it brings anything) rather harm? For the costliness of burial has often caused the breaking open of tombs, and has caused him to be cast out naked and unburied, who had been buried with much care. But alas for vainglory! How great the tyranny which it exhibits even in sorrow! How great the folly! Many, that this may not happen, having cut in pieces those fine clothes, and filled them with many spices, so that they may be doubly useless to those who would insult the dead, then commit them to the earth. Are not these the acts of madmen? Of men beside themselves? To make a show of their ambition, and then to destroy it? Yea, says some one, it is in order that they may lie safely with the dead that we use all these contrivances. Well then, if the robbers do not get them, will not the moths get them, and the worms? Or if the moths and worms get them not, will not time and the moisture of putrefaction destroy them? But let us suppose that neither tomb-breakers, nor moths, nor worms, nor time, nor anything else, destroy what lies in the tomb, but that the body itself remains untouched until the Resurrection, and these things are preserved new and fresh and fine; what advantage is there from this to the departed, when the body is raised naked, while these remain here, and profit us nothing for those accounts which must be given? Wherefore then, says some one, was it done in the case of Christ? First of all, do not compare these with human matters, since the harlot poured even ointment upon His holy feet. But if we must speak on these things, we say, that they were done when the doers knew not the word of the Resurrection; therefore it says, As was the manner of the Jews. For they who honored Christ were not of the twelve, but were those who did not honor Him greatly. The twelve honored Him not in this way, but by death and massacre and dangers for His sake. That other indeed was honor, but far inferior to this of which I have spoken. Besides, as I began by saying, we are now speaking of men, but at that time these things were done with relation to the Lord. And that you may learn that Christ made no account of these things, He said, You saw Me an hungered, and you fed Me; thirsty, and you gave Me drink; naked, and you clothed Me (Matthew 25:35); but nowhere did He say, “dead, and you buried Me”. And this I say not as taking away the custom of burial, (that be far from me,) but as cutting short its extravagance and unseasonable vanity. But, says some one, feeling and grief and sympathy for the departed persuade to this practice. The practice does not proceed from sympathy for the departed, but from vainglory. Since if you desire to sympathize with the dead, I will show you another way of mourning, and will teach you to put on him garments which shall rise again with him, and make him glorious. For these garments are not consumed by worms, nor wasted by time, nor stolen by tomb-breakers. Of what sort then are these? The clothing of alms-doing; for this is a robe that shall rise again with him, because the seal of alms-doing is with him. With these garments shine they who then hear, Hungering ye fed Me. These make men distinguished, these make them glorious, these place them in safety; but those used now are only something for moths to consume, and a table for worms. And this I say, not forbidding to use funeral observance, but bidding you to do it with moderation, so as to cover the body, and not commit it naked to the earth. For if living He bids us have no more than enough to cover us, much more when dead; since the dead body has not so much need of garments as when it is living and breathing. For when alive, on account of the cold, and for decency's sake, we need the covering of garments, but when dead we require grave-clothes for none of these reasons, but that the body may not lie naked; and better than grave-clothes we have the earth, fairest of coverings, and more suited for the nature of such bodies as ours. If then where there are so many needs we must not search for anything superfluous, much more where there is no such necessity, is the ostentation unseasonable.

6. But the lookers-on will laugh, says someone. Most certainly if there be any laughter, we need not care much for one so exceedingly foolish; but at present there are many who rather admire and accept our true wisdom. For these are not the things which deserve laughter, but those which we do at present, weeping, and wailing, and burying ourselves with the departed; these things deserve ridicule and punishment. But to show true wisdom, both in these respects and in the modesty of the attire used, prepares crowns and praises for us, and all will applaud us, and will admire the power of Christ, and will say, Amazing! How great is the power of the Crucified One! He has persuaded those who are perishing and wasting, that death is not death; they therefore do not act as perishing men, but as men who send the dead before them to a distant and better dwelling-place. He has persuaded them that this corruptible and earthy body shall put on a garment more glorious than silk or cloth of gold, the garment of immortality; therefore they are not very anxious about their burial, but deem a virtuous life to be an admirable winding-sheet. These things they will say, if they see us showing true wisdom; but if they behold us bent down with grief, playing the woman, placing around troops of female mourners, they will laugh, and mock, and find fault in ten thousand ways, pulling to pieces our foolish expense, our vain labor. With these things we hear all finding fault; and very reasonably. For what excuse can we have, when we adorn a body, which is consumed by corruption and worms, and neglect Christ when thirsting, going about naked, and a stranger? Cease we then from this vain trouble. Let us perform the obsequies of the departed, as is good both for us and them, to the glory of God: let us do much alms for their sake, let us send with them the best provision for the way. For if the memory of admirable men, though dead, has protected the living, (for, I will defend, it says, this city for Mine Own sake, and for My servant David’s sake [2 Kings 19:34]), much more will alms-doing effect this; for this has raised even the dead, as when the widows stood round showing what things Dorcas had made, while she was with them (Acts 9:39). When therefore one is about to die, let the friend of that dying person prepare the obsequies, and persuade the departing one to leave somewhat to the needy. With these garments let him send him to the grave, leaving Christ his heir. For if they who write kings among their heirs, leave a safe portion to their relations, when one leaves Christ heir with his children, consider how great good he will draw down upon himself and all his. These are the right sort of funerals, these profit both those who remain and those who depart. If we be so buried, we shall be glorious at the Resurrection-time. But if caring for the body we neglect the soul, we then shall suffer many terrible things, and incur much ridicule. For neither is it a common unseemliness to depart without being clothed with virtue, nor is the body, though cast out without a tomb, so disgraced, as a soul appearing bare of virtue in that day. This let us put on, this let us wrap around us; it is best to do so during all our lifetime; but if we have in this life been negligent, let us at least in our end be sober, and charge our relations to help us when we depart by alms-doing; that being thus assisted by each other, we may attain to much confidence, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, dominion, and honor, now and ever and world without end. Amen.

Comments
Fr. Demetrios Carellas4/29/2019 5:38 am
CHRIST IS RISEN!

Please forgive me, but I do not see how anyone of us in this world can gave "ratings" to the Spiritual-filled teachings of our Church Fathers. To my poor efforts to offer teachings on what the holy Fathers teach, yes, rate me --- and be critical, so that I can learn to be a better proclaimer of their soul-benefiting words. But to rate the Fathers themselves? Please, do not do that.
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