Christ is Risen! Indeed! He IS Risen!
On that Friday, as Christ died on the Cross, the Disciples as a group fell apart. Peter denied even knowing Him, Judas, the traitor, hung himself, the rest of the Apostles hid, except for John, the beloved Disciple, who stood with the Theotokos and the women at the foot of the Cross. It was Joseph of Arimathea who went to Pilate and begged for Christ’s body – and laid it in his own tomb, a new tomb. It was one which had never been used as a tomb before – and would never be used as one again.
Saturday, the Disciples huddled fearfully, hiding from the authorities. The women wept and grieved. Another night passed. Then the women took the herbs, spices and wrappings to prepare His body for burial. The stone covering the entrance was not there. They entered, and found only an empty cavity. The scanty shrouding cloths were folded on the rocks, a bit away, was the head covering. They ran out and encountered someone whom Mary Magdalene thought was the gardener and greeted him as a gardener. But it was not the gardener. He said, “Mary!” Her eyes were opened as were the eyes of all of the women. They wanted to embrace him, but he warned them off. He told them to go tell the Disciples.
It was to women whom He first appeared. They ran to tell the Disciples, but they did not believe the women. After all, they were hysterical women, weren’t they? They must have been seeing things! But they hadn’t. They had seen the Lord!
Christ appeared to the Disciples on several occasions, even breaking bread with them on more than one occasion. He reassured them and sent them out to convert the world. And they went out to do just that – by ones, twos and threes. They journeyed to Jerusalem, Phillipi, Samaria, Joppa, Caesarea, Damascus, Antioch (where they were first called Christians), Tarsus, Cyprus, Paphos, Lystra, Iconium, Laodicea, Colossi. They founded churches in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, and Philadelphia – the Churches listed in the Revelation of St. John. Paul went to Miletus, John went to the island of Patmos, where he wrote down the visions he received. The Apostle Apollos of the 70 preached at Ephesus. They went to Athens, Corinth, Thessalonica, Berea, Macedonia, Melita, and Rome. Thomas went into Mesopotamia (Iran / Persia) and Afghanistan and even as far as India. Andrew, as far as Scandinavia. Joseph of Arimathea went to Great Britain. Peter, too, went to Britain. Simon the Zealot went to Egypt and on into Mauritania and all Libya. James, son of Alphaeus, went to Ireland. Everywhere they went, they planted Churches.
Throughout these early journeys, the Church and Christians were persecuted by the authorities. Thousands of Christians were martyred. Stephen was the first martyr, followed soon by James, the brother of the Lord and then uncounted others. They died rather than deny Christ. They suffered indescribable tortures – yet were joyful as they were tortured for the sake of Christ.
So ended the first century of Christ’s Church – His Body here. His Bride, pure and undefiled.
[To be continued]