From “Warfare the Condition of Victory,” Parochial and Plain Sermons (1838)

For forty days after his resurrection our Savior Christ remained below, at a distance from the glory which he had purchased…The history of the two disciples at Emmaus was a figure or picture of the condition of the eleven. Their eyes were holden that they should not know him, while he talked with them for three years; then suddenly they were opened… They had not known him all through his ministry. Peter, indeed, had confessed him to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God; but even is shown to be inconsistent… They did not understand at that time who and what he was.

But after his resurrection it was otherwise: Thomas touched his hands and his side, and said, “My Lord and my God.”…What a time must that forty days have been, during which, while he taught them, all his past teaching must have risen in their minds, and their thoughts then must have recurred in overpowering contrast to their thoughts now. his manner of life, his ministry, his discourses, his parables, his miracles, his meekness, gravity, incomprehensible majesty, the mystery of his grief and joy; the agony, the scourge, the cross, the crown of thorns, the spear, the tomb; their despair, their unbelief, their perplexity, their amazement, their sudden transport, their triumph — all this was in their minds; and surely not the least at that awful hour, when he led his breathless followers out to Bethany, on the fortieth day.

“He led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them and carried up into heaven.” Surely all his history, all his dealings with them, came before them, gathered up in that moment. Then, as they gazed upon that dread divine countenance and that heavenly form, every thought and feeling which they ever had had about him came upon them at once. He had gone through his work; theirs was to come, their work and their sufferings.

He was leaving them just at the most critical time. When Elijah went up, Elisha said: “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof.” With a like feeling, might the apostles now gaze up into heaven, as if with the hope of arresting his ascent. Their Lord and their God, the light of their eyes, the stay of their hearts, the guide of their feet, was taken away…

Such are some of the feelings which the apostles may have experienced on our Lord’s ascension… There was no sorrow in the apostles, in spite of their loss, in spite of the prospect before them, but “great joy,” and “continual praise and blessing.” May we venture to surmise that this rejoicing was the high temper of the brave and noble-minded, who have faced danger in idea and are prepared for it?…

For Christ surely had taught them what it was to have their treasure in heaven; and they rejoiced, not that their Lord was gone, but that their hearts had gone with him. Their hearts were no longer on earth, they were risen aloft… “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” Matt. 6:21…

Strengthened, then, with this knowledge, they were able to face those trials which Christ had first undergone himself, and had foretold as their portion. “Whither I go,” he had said to St. Peter, “you cannot follow me now, but you shall follow me afterwards.” And he told them, “They shall put you out of the synagogues, yes, the time comes, that whosoever kills you will think that he does God a service,” (John 16:2). That time was now coming, and they were able to rejoice in what so troubled them forty days before. For they understood the promise, “To him who overcomes, will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Rev. 3:21).

It will be well if we take this lesson to ourselves, and learn that great truth which the apostles shrank from at first, but at length rejoiced in. Christ suffered, and entered into joy; so did they, in their measure, after him. And in our measure, so do we…

I suppose it is a long time before any one of us recognizes and understands that his own state on earth is in one shape or other a state of trial and sorrow; and that if he has intervals of external peace, this is all gain, and more than he has a right to expect. Yet how different must the state of the church appear to beings who can contemplate it as a whole, who have contemplated it for ages, as the angels! …

They have seen, again and again, in numberless instances, that suffering is the path to peace; that they that sow in tears shall reap in joy; and that what was true of Christ is fulfilled in a measure in his followers. Let us try to accustom ourselves to this view of the subject. The whole church, all elect souls, each in its turn, is called to this necessary work. Once it was the turn of others, and now it is our turn.

St. John Henry Newman (1801-1890) was among the most widely influential English theologians of the nineteenth century. One of the principal leaders of Anglicanism’s Catholic revival at Oxford in the 1830’s, he became a Roman Catholic in 1845, and was an Oratorian for the remainder of his life. He was made a cardinal shortly before his death and was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church in 2019. His Parochial and Plain Sermons, first published in 1863, were written in his years as an Anglican priest, while serving as vicar of Oxford’s Church of Saint Mary the Virgin. His feast day on the Roman Calendar is October 9 and he is commemorated on other days on the liturgical calendars of several Anglican Churches.