(Editor’s Note: Below are three Easter sermons from three great saints, St. John Chrysostom [lived from 347 to 407]; St. Augustine [lived from 354 to 430]; and St. Thomas Aquinas [lived from 1225-1274]. The text of St. John Chrysostom’s sermon is from Catholic News Agency. The text of St. Augustine’s sermon is from www.vatican.va. And the text of St. Thomas Aquinas’ homily is from saintwiki.com.)
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An Easter Sermon
From St. John Chrysostom
Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God? Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival! Is there anyone who is a grateful servant? Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!
Are there any weary with fasting? Let them now receive their wages! If any have toiled from the first hour, let them receive their due reward; if any have come after the third hour, let him with gratitude join in the Feast! And he that arrived after the sixth hour, let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss.
And if any delayed until the ninth hour, let him not hesitate; but let him come too. And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour, let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, as well as to him that toiled from the first. To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows. He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor. The deed He honors and the intention He commends.
Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord! First and last alike receive your reward; rich and poor, rejoice together! Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!
You that have kept the fast, and you that have not, rejoice today for the Table is richly laden! Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one. Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith. Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!
Let no one grieve at his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free. He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hades when He descended into it. He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh. Isaias foretold this when he said, “You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below.”
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?
Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!
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An Easter Sermon
From St. Augustine
The beauty of the unchangeable Creator is to be inferred from the beauty of the changeable creation:
“Question the beauty of the earth, question the beauty of the sea, question the beauty of the air, amply spread around everywhere, question the beauty of the sky, question the serried ranks of the stars, question the sun making the day glorious with its bright beams, question the moon tempering the darkness of the following night with its shining rays, question the animals that move in the waters, that amble about on dry land, that fly in the air; their souls hidden, their bodies evident; the visible bodies needing to be controlled, the invisible souls controlling them; question all these things.
“They all answer you, ‘Here we are, look; we’re beautiful.’
“Their beauty is their confession. Who made these beautiful changeable things, if not one who is beautiful and unchangeable? Finally in man himself, in order to be able to understand and know God, the creator of the universe; in man himself, I repeat, they questioned these two elements, body and soul. They questioned the very thing they themselves carried around with them; they could see their bodies, they couldn’t see their souls. But they could only see the body from the soul. I mean, they saw with their eyes, but inside there was someone looking out through these windows.
“Finally, when the occupant departs, the house lies still; when the controller departs, what was being controlled falls down; and because it falls down, it’s called a cadaver, a corpse. Aren’t the eyes complete in it? Even if they’re open, they see nothing. There are ears there, but the hearer has moved on; the instrument of the tongue remains, but the musician who used to play it has withdrawn.
“So they questioned these two things, the body which can be seen, the soul which cannot be seen, and they found that what cannot be seen is better than what can be seen; that the hidden soul is better, the evident flesh of less worth. They saw these two things, they observed them, carefully examined each one, and they found that each, in man himself, is changeable. The body is changeable by the processes of age, of decay, of nourishment, of health improving and deteriorating, of life, of death.
“They passed on to the soul, which they certainly grasped as being better, and also admired as invisible. And they found that it too is changeable; now willing, now not willing; now knowing, now not knowing; now remembering, now forgetting; now frightened, now brave; now advancing toward wisdom, now falling back into folly. They saw that it too is changeable. They passed on beyond even the soul; they were looking, you see, for something unchangeable. So in this way they arrived at a knowledge of the God who made things, through the things which he made.”
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An Easter Sermon
From St. Thomas Aquinas
“He must rise again from the dead” (St. John 20:9).
In these words five things are to be noted. Firstly, the infinite goodness of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Secondly, His delightful beauty. Thirdly, His wonderful love. Fourthly, the joyful solemnity of God. Fifthly, the fervent charity of the women.
On the first head it is to be noted, the goodness of Jesus; for Jesus is interpreted Saviour, since He wished to die that He might save by His death, and show His infinite goodness. Truly today for three reasons the Saviour appeared — (1) Because He saved us today from those demons whom He despoiled today: Col. 2:15, “Having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly.” (2) Because today He saved us from death, which He vanquished today: “Hath overcome death,” &c. (Collect). 1 Cor. 15:54, “Death is swallowed up in victory.” For today Christ victoriously rose, having conquered death. (3) Because He saved us from hell, which he unchained today: Psalm cvii. 16, “He hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder.”
On the second head it is to be noted, the beauty of Him Who rose, which is expressed by the word Nazarene as applied to Christ, which signifies a flower among flowers whose beauty remains: Cant. 2:1, “I am the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley.”
But there were in Christ three kinds of flowers — (1) red flowers, (2) black, (3) white. The red flowers are drops of blood; the black, the stripes of the wounds; the white, the splendours of the glorified Body. Of the third and first, Cant. 5:10, “My Beloved is white and ruddy.” Of the second, 1 Peter 2:24, “By Whose stripes ye were healed.” Jesus was altogether blooming, because girt with roses — that is, with drops of blood; adorned with violets that is, with the stripes of wounds; entrenched with lilies — that is, with the splendours of the glorified Body: Cant. 2:12, “The flowers appear on the earth.”
On the third head it is to be noted, the charity of Him rising again “from the dead”: Matt. 28:5, “Jesus Who was crucified.” The death of Christ was such an inestimable love of charity as no mere man was able to conceive of: Eph. 3:18, “The Love of Christ which passeth knowledge” (John 15:13), “Greater love hath no man than this.”
For three reasons especially He wished to die the death of the Cross — (1) That He might show manifestly to all that He both truly died, and from this death truly rose again. For it was patent to all that He was really dead when the Cross raised on high showed Him, on it, dead: Acts 10:39, “And we are witnesses of all things which He did…Whom they slew and hanged on a tree.” (2) That as the Tree had produced the fruit of death, so the Tree having produced the fruit of this life might quicken all: “Who by the wood of the Cross wrought salvation for the human race” (S. Greg. Mag.) (3) That as the Devil had overcome man by the Tree, so He might similarly, by the Tree, triumph.
On the fourth head is to be noted, the festivity of this present day: Matt. 28:6, “He must rise again,” “He is risen.” The Resurrection of the Lord has made for us this day of solemnity and joy: Psalm cxviii. 24, “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”
Three events have made this day to be solemn — (1) The sending of an Angel from Heaven: Matt. 28:2, “The Angel of the Lord by descending from Heaven.” (2) The earth, by leaping for joy: Matt. 28:2, “There was a great earthquake.” (3) Hell, by restoring the Saints: Matt. 27:52, 53, “Many bodies of the Saints which slept arose and came out of the graves.” So that the heavens, the earth, and Hades all finished their testimony to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
On the fifth head is to be noted, the devoted love of the women: Matt. 28:5, “Cometh Mary Magdalene”; “Ye seek Jesus.” These holy women teach us to seek Jesus according to His own promise, if we wish to find Him. Jesus is to be sought for in a threefold manner — firstly, in faith; secondly, in hope; thirdly, in charity. (1) Reasonably he seeks Him by faith, who seeks the light of His truth. (2) Earnestly he seeks Him in hope, who looks for the glory of His Majesty. (3) Fervently they seek Him in charity, who long for the sweetness of His goodness. These are the three Marys who came to the sepulcher.
O Lord Jesus! Make us to seek Thee and to find Thee. Amen.