A Breach in the Enemy’s Lines

From “Holy Saturday” in The Pastoral Sermons (1952)

I think we do well, at Eastertide, to remember our dead. No, do not exclaim that I am a kill-joy, clouding your festival with sad thoughts. True, it is life, not death, that is uppermost in our thoughts; the spring air; the crisp, clean associations of the Easter liturgy, heal the mind with hopes of renewal. But consider, when you see our Lord represented as rising from the tomb with a banner in his hand, it is the symbol of a military penetration; he, the Victor, in rolling back the stone has made a breach in the enemy’s lines, for what? So that the army of his redeemed may pour through at his heels. Or, if you will use St. Paul’s metaphor, his is the first birth out of death; for he has opened the barren womb of extinction, not for himself only, but so as to be the first-born out of many brethren. Vidi aquam [“I saw water”] — our Lord’s Resurrection is the opening of the springs; the full river has yet to flow. It broadens out, reaches its fulfillment, in ours.

To be sure, our bodies must await the day of judgment, buried in their native earth; only himself and his blessed Mother escape altogether from the primal curse. But heaven, from hour to hour, is being peopled with the spirits of just men made perfect, like the hedgerows yonder, that are silently bursting into bud. And shall we give no thought to those other spirits that are still in prison, thwarted growths, the Gardener bestowed such pains on? Now, when the very air seems charged with paschal grace, it is but common charity that we should want to share it with them; now, while the spring grass is fresh over their graves, it is but seasonable that the memory of them should be renewed. More souls, this Easter morning, looking up to see the stone rolled away from their dungeon door, and a risen Master standing there in the daylight to welcome them: “Rise up quickly, and come with me! Winter is over now, the rain has passed by” (Song of Songs, 2:21).

Ronald Knox (1888-1957) was an English Roman Catholic priest, theologian, and fiction writer, one of the most influential figures in mid-twentieth century English Catholicism. Originally an Anglican priest, he was the Roman Catholic chaplain at Oxford for many years, and became a well-known apologist, preacher, and writer of detective fiction. His article “Holy Saturday” was originally printed in the Tablet on April 12, 1952.

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