On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures
The Nicene Creed, lines 20-21
At this glorious time of year where our emphasis is set squarely on the Resurrection of Christ, it is important to dig into questions of our faith that may otherwise go unattended. Many of the questions we should be asking, but don’t, can have the effect of undercutting our faith relationship with God precisely because they are unanswered.
In an effort to bolster our faith walk, I would love to hear what questions you might have so we can address them for everyone. For instance, I was asked last Sunday why, in the Nicene Creed, we say that Jesus was “raised again from the dead.”
The Nicene Creed, or more accurately The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, was adopted at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 and was amended with final revision at the First Council of Constantinople in 381. For brevity’s sake, we refer to the final form simply as the Nicene Creed.
The Nicene Creed is, perhaps, the influential creed of the Christian faith. It was formed by the whole body of the church at subsequent ecumenical councils and was the first creed to obtain universal authority in the church. It states the accepted understanding of the Trinity and, for the first time, emphasizes the union of the Holy Spirit. The Nicene Creed is the defining statement of belief for mainstream Christianity and is part of the profession of faith required at certain services of the church.
The Creed, found on page 358 of the Book of Common Prayer, states:
The Nicene Creed
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
The question I received was regarding lines 20 and 21 of the formatted version found on page 358 of the BCP,
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
And the question is specifically about the phrase, “rose again.”
This line was likely lifted whole clothe from the St. Paul’s Letter to the Thessalonians 4:14, For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. To understand the theological significance of the line we don’t need to go much deeper than linguistic usage.
In our usage, again usually means “an additional time,” or “a second time,” but historically it has been used to mean “a continuation of a prior event.” Historically, again has also been used to denote “a return to” or “repeat a previous condition.” For example, in historic literature, from The Merchant of Venice, Portia speaks of one who “swore he would pay him again when he was able” (I:ii). This is not indicating that Portia had paid and would pay twice, but that Portia would pay “in return” for services rendered.
In the same way, “rose again” in the Nicene Creed does not mean “rose a second time,” but that Jesus rose anew to a previous condition—life. Jesus was alive before; then for a while He was dead; now He is once again alive.
So, the theological significance of this phrase is simply the proclaimed truth that Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, who became flesh and dwelt among us, who was Crucified and died for us to pay for our sins, rose from the dead to live again to give us eternal life.
Peace in Him,
“Why seek ye the living among the dead?” Luke 24:5
This proclamation, given by the Angel on Easter Morning, has been echoed in the hearts of true believers for almost two millennia. As the church grew from the fledgling band of witnesses, the truth of the Risen Life of Christ has been explained and extolled to guide and encourage believers and seekers alike.
As you begin your new year in the Risen Lord, hear the witness of those who lived close to the first blessed morning.
"Yesterday I was crucified with Him; today I am glorified with Him; yesterday I died with Him; today I am quickened with Him; yesterday I was buried with Him; today I rise with Him. But let us offer to Him Who suffered and rose again for us— you will think perhaps that I am going to say gold, or silver, or woven work or transparent and costly stones, the mere passing material of earth, that remains here below, and is for the most part always possessed by bad men, slaves of the world and of the Prince of the world. Let us offer ourselves, the possession most precious to God, and most fitting; let us give back to the Image what is made after the Image. Let us recognize our Dignity; let us honour our Archetype; let us know the power of the Mystery, and for what Christ died."
St. Gregory the Theologian - Homily on Pascha
"By His Resurrection, Christ conquered sin and death, destroyed Satan's dark kingdom, freed the enslaved human race and broke the seal on the greatest mysteries of God and man."
St. Nikolai Velimirovic
"Now all things have been filled with light, both heaven and earth and those beneath the earth; so let all creation sing Christ’s rising, by which it is established."
St. John of Damascus - Paschal Canon
"But He who descended into the regions beneath the earth came up again; and Jesus, who was buried, truly rose again the third day. And if the Jews ever worry thee, meet them at once by asking thus: Did Jonah come forth from the whale on the third day, and hath not Christ then risen from the earth on the third day? Is a dead man raised to life on touching the bones of Elisha, and is it not much easier for the Maker of mankind to be raised by the power of the Father? Well then, He truly rose, and after He had risen was seen again of the disciples; and twelve disciples were witnesses of His Resurrection, who bare witness not in pleasing words, but contended even unto torture and death for the truth of the Resurrection. What then, shall every word be established at the mouth of two of three witnesses, according to the Scripture, and, though twelve bear witness to the Resurrection of Christ, art thou still incredulous in regard to His Resurrection?"
St. Cyril of Jerusalem - Excerpt on the Resurrection
"Let God's people then recognize that they are a new creation in Christ, and with all vigilance understand by Whom they have been adopted and Whom they have adopted. Let not the things, which have been made new, return to their ancient instability; and let not him who has 'put his hand to the plough' forsake his work, but rather attend to that which he sows than look back to that which he has left behind. Let no one fall back into that from which he has risen, but, even though from bodily weakness he still languishes under certain maladies, let him urgently desire to be healed and raised up. For this is the path of health through imitation of the Resurrection begun in Christ, whereby, notwithstanding the many accidents and falls to which in this slippery life the traveller is liable, his feet may be guided from the quagmire on to solid ground, for, as it is written, 'the steps of a man are directed by the Lord, and He will delight in his way. When the just man falls he shall not be overthrown, because the Lord will stretch out His hand'."
St. Leo the Great - "On the Lord's Resurrection"
"As, then, Jonah spent three days and as many nights in the whale's belly, and was delivered up sound again, so shall we all, who have passed through the three stages of our present life on earth -- I mean the beginning, the middle, and the end, of which all this present time consists -- rise again. For there are altogether three intervals of time, the past, the future, and the present. And for this reason the Lord spent so many days in the earth symbolically, thereby teaching clearly that when the fore-mentioned intervals of time have been fulfilled, then shall come our resurrection, which is the beginning of the future age, and the end of this."
St. Methodius of Olympus - "On the Resurrection"
"Having seen the Resurrection of Christ, let us worship the Holy Lord Jesus, the only sinless one. We worship your Cross, O Christ, and we hymn and glorify your holy Resurrection. For you are our God, we know no other but you, we name you by name. Come all the faithful, let us worship the holy Resurrection of Christ; for behold through the Cross, joy has come in all the world. Ever blessing the Lord, we hymn his Resurrection. For having endured the Cross for us, he has destroyed death by death." Anonymous, 5th-6th Century
"O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep."
St. John Chrysostom - Paschal Sermon
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26
Alleluia! Alleluia! He Is Risen!
Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?” Matthew 21:23
On Tuesday of our Holy Week, Jesus taught the disciples about faith (Matthew 21:19-22) and was later confronted in the Temple. “By what authority”, they ask Jesus, “Who gave you this authority?”, they inquired, but they already knew. Tuesday of Holy Week, for many of us, is just the day before the Wednesday in Holy Week, and if you are not planning on participating in the Stations of the Cross on Wednesday night, it is just the day two days before Maundy Thursday.
Each Day in Holy Week holds a significant opportunity for us to draw closer to Christ. By reading, reviewing, and contemplating the events which led up to the Crucifixion we are better able to understand and experience the Via Dolorosa—the Way of the Cross.
Monday is already a thing of the past, but I include it here in case you want to split up today and dedicate a portion to Monday’s readings.
Holy Week Observance
I am just beginning to realize how much you love me. Your son, Jesus was humble and obedient.
He fulfilled your will for him by becoming human and suffering with us. I ask you for the desire to become humbler so that my own life might also bear witness to you. I want to use the small sufferings I have in this world to give you glory.
Please, Lord, guide my mind with your truth. Strengthen my life by the example of Jesus.
Help me to be with Jesus in this week as he demonstrates again his total love for me. He died so that I would no longer be separated from you. Help me to feel how close you are and to live in union with you. Amen.
The Cleansing of the Temple: Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:12-19, Luke 19:45-48.
God of love,
My prayer is simple: Your son, Jesus, suffered and died for me. I know only that I cannot have real strength unless I rely on you. I cannot feel protected from my many weaknesses until I turn to you for forgiveness and your unalterable love. Help me to share this strength, protection, and love with others. Amen.
The Fig Tree: Matthew 21:19-22
The Temple Debates: Matthew 21:23-23:39.
Also: Mark 11:27-14:2, Luke 20:1-22:2, John 12:37-50.
God of such unwavering love,
How do I "celebrate" the passion and death of Jesus? I often want to look the other way and not watch, not stay with Jesus in his suffering. Give me the strength to see his love with honesty and compassion and to feel deeply your own forgiveness and mercy for me. Help me to understand how to "celebrate" this week. I want to be able to bring my weaknesses and imperfections with me as I journey with Jesus this week, so aware of his love. Amen.
The Betrayal of Jesus: Matthew 26:6-16, Mark 14:3-11, Luke 22:3-6.
Do you invite me to share in the glory of the resurrection? Please stay with me as I struggle to see how accepting the crosses of my life will free me from the power of the one who wants only to destroy my love and trust in you. Help me to be humble and accepting like your son, Jesus. I want to turn to you with the same trust he had in your love. Save me, Lord. Only you can save me. Amen.
The Last Supper: Matthew 26:17-35
Jesus Prays: Matthew 26:36-46
Also: Mark 14:12-72, Luke 22:7-71, John 13:1-18:27.
You gather me in this upper room with your son, to be fed by your love. At that supper, Jesus told us to "love one another" and I know that is the heart of his gift, his sacrifice for me. I ask that I might find the source of my own heart, the meaning for my own life, in that Eucharist. Guide me to the fullness of your love and life. Amen.
Arrested and Crucified: Matt 27:1-61, Mark 15:1-47, Luke 23:1-56, John 18:28-19:42
Your son has suffered so much, shed so much blood. I was born with so many faults, and my nature is so full of weakness, and yet your son Jesus has died on the cross. For me. I know your grace has the power to cleanse me of my many sins and to make me more like your Son. Thank you for your goodness and love for me. I ask you, Father, to watch over me - always. Amen
The lost day: Matthew 27:62-66
My Lord, today all is silent. You have given Your precious life for the salvation of the world. You died a horrific death, poured out all Mercy from Your wounded Heart, and now You rest in peace in the tomb as the soldiers keep vigil.
Lord, may I also keep vigil with You as You sleep. I know that this day ends with Your glorious triumph, Your victory over sin and death. But for now, I sit quietly mourning Your death.
Help me, dear Lord, to enter into the sorrow and the silence of this Holy Saturday. Today no Sacraments are celebrated. Today the world waits in mourning in anticipation of the glory of new life!
As I keep vigil, awaiting the celebration of Your Resurrection, fill me with hope. Help me to look forward to the celebration of Your Resurrection, but also to look forward to the hope of my own share in the new life You won for the world. I entrust my whole being to You, dear Lord, as You lay lifeless and still. May Your rest transform the brokenness of my own soul, my weaknesses, my sin, and my frailty. You are glorious and You bring the greatest good out of Your apparent defeat. I trust in Your power to do all things and I entrust my life to You. Jesus, I trust in You.
From the Byzantine Matins of Great & Holy Saturday:
“Today the one who holds all creation in his hand
is himself held in the tomb,
a rock covers the One who covered the heavens with beauty,
Life has fallen asleep,
Hades is seized with fear,
and Adam is freed from his bonds.
Glory to your work of salvation;
through it you have accomplished the eternal Sabbath rest,
and You grant us the gift of your holy resurrection. Amen.”
The eighth word of Jesus from the Cross was YOUR name.
Dear Creator Family,
Yesterday I knelt before a life-size Crucifix of Christ, not hanging high on a wall, distant and inaccessible, or cloistered in a niche, revered and hollowed for centuries, but just five feet in front of me above a small altar in a humble chapel.
During my prayer, I looked up at the bloodied, abused face of Christ, and my eyes fell to a centuries-old, "anonymous address to Christ," reproduced on a placard leaning against the wall, it read…
Lord Jesus, on this earth of ours, a land sprinkled with human sweat, a land bathed in blood, a land traversed by love and hatred, your Cross was planted, an instrument of violence that made you an image of pain.
Rejected by crowds, abandoned by friends, confused with criminals, stripped of your dignity, tortured in body and soul, you have descended to the bottom of the abyss of suffering and annihilation, where it seems that even God is far away.
Yet your arms, nailed to the cross, remain open to welcome everyone. Yet your mouth speaks only words of forgiveness and promises of happiness. Lord Jesus, and promises of happiness.
Lord Jesus, your story continues in the daily litany of betrayal, refusal, infidelity, of abuse, of revenge, of hatred, around the world.
Before your cross, which stands before the world, new, but in truth, the same stories unfold propelled by those who do not know you.
We feel more acutely the tragedy of the poor peoples of the world who bear the weight of sin and corruption, in them, your passion still continues.
The outrageous destructions, the daily crimes, the suffering inflicted on the weak and the helpless, lift high the Cross and bear you Crucified yet again.
After the last blow of the spear, after the last action of war, after the last gratuitous violence against the innocent, we implore you for all men and especially for those who use the power of weapons to offend, to humiliate, to impose their will upon others.
Let their eyes be opened to the evil committed, the devastating consequences of their actions, on those who mourn, on the ruined lives, and on the despair of the people.
Break through to their hearts that they may recognize your features in the disfigured faces of the oppressed. That the blood of each victim is your blood that fell from your Cross. Make them know that YOU are the brother of every creature that suffers.
Centuries ago, or today; the Guanche people, or the Ukrainians; there will always be those who will not accept the sacrifice of Christ and who choose the self over peace.
Perhaps if we are able to do more, someone may be saved.
Look into the abused, bloodied face of Christ and ask, "what last measure can I give to honor the sacrifice he gave to me?"
Et Crucifixus Christus,
Father Bill Burk†