Newsletter

Kolbe Report 4/23/22

Download MP3

Dear Friends of the Kolbe Center,

Christ is risen! Alleluia!

In traditional Catholic theology, the principle of lex orandi, lex credendi (the “law of praying is the law of believing”) holds that theological doctrines enshrined in the ancient liturgical prayers of the Church testify to the truth of those doctrines because in the sacred liturgy “the Holy Spirit is the teacher of the People of God” (CCC, 1091). One of the most tragic consequences of the denial of the literal historical truth of the sacred history of Genesis is the way that it impoverishes our understanding and participation in the Mysteries of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In this newsletter we will see how the acceptance of the literal and obvious sense of “day” in Genesis One as a 24-hour day illuminates some of the most beautiful mysteries of the Easter season—mysteries that remain hidden or, at least, much less visible, when separated from the sacred history of Genesis.

The Sacred Liturgy Teaches the True Meaning of “Day” in Genesis One

One of the most powerful arguments for a literal interpretation of “day” in Genesis 1 is the testimony of the sacred liturgy.  The Catholic Church contains some 22 Churches with at least eight different liturgical traditions, and all of them incorporate a rhythm of worship based on a literal interpretation of “day” in Genesis One.  Fundamental to the liturgical rhythm of the whole Church is the principle that the liturgical day begins in the evening and lasts until the following evening.  This rhythm can be traced back to Jewish liturgical practice, but it is firmly rooted in God’s revelation to Moses in Genesis One: “There was evening and there was morning, one day.”  This is explicitly stated in Byzantine Daily Worship, the official prayer book of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, which explains that “Ecclesiastical day begins at sunset in accord with Genesis: ‘. . . and there was an evening and morning, the first day.’ Therefore Vespers, or the Order of the Evening, is the first hour of the Holy Office.”

The tradition of beginning the new day with evening prayer or Vespers is a continual, daily memorial of the primordial division of time into 24 hour days, beginning in the evening, and a reminder that God established the rhythm of day and night and of the week, primarily for our spiritual benefit.  In the Maronite Liturgy, the day-night cycle is explicitly traced back to the first day of Creation when God created the light:

Lord God, our Creator, all living things adore You, and every creature exalts Your only Son.  Through You all things came into being.  On the first day, by Your command, you separated light from darkness; the resplendent day appeared in the world, which You had made out of love for Adam, image of Your majesty and sign of Your eternal love (from First Sunday after Epiphany, Ramsho (Evening), Sedro (part of the Hoosoyo).

This memorial of the creation of light on the first day—the first Sunday—of the world went hand in hand with the cyclical commemoration of creation week.  Both the structure of the liturgical week and of the liturgical year linked specific acts of creation during creation week to their fulfillment on the same day in post-creation historical time.

The writings of the Fathers express their conviction that it was appropriate to gather for solemn worship on Sunday not only because it was the day of the Resurrection, but also because it was “the first day of creation.”  Indeed, the Gospel of John calls Sunday “the first day of the week” for this very reason (John 20:19).  Writing in the second century, St. Justin Martyr described the Sunday observance of the early Church:

The day of the sun is the day on which we all gather in a common meeting, because it is the first day, the day on which God, changing darkness and matter, created the world; and it is the day on which Jesus Christ our savior rose from the dead.   For he was crucified on the day before that of Kronos [Saturn]; and on the day after that of Kronos, which is the day of the Sun, He appeared to His Apostles and disciples, and taught them these things which we have also submitted to you for your consideration (emphasis added).

According to St. Gregory the Theologian, fourth century Patriarch of Constantinople:

Just as the creation begins with Sunday (and this is evident from the fact that the seventh day after it is Saturday, because it is the day of repose from works) so also the second creation begins again with the same day [i.e. the day of the Resurrection] (emphasis added).

The strong link between the original creation and the “new creation in Christ” also stands revealed in the ancient Liturgy of Antioch.  According to the 1994 Catechism, the Syriac Office of Antioch includes the following prayer:

When we ponder, O Christ, the marvels accomplished on this day, the Sunday of your holy Resurrection, we say: “Blessed is Sunday, for on it began creation” (emphasis added) (Fanquith, The Syriac Office of Antioch, Vol. VI, first part of Summer, 193 B. (CCC, 1167).

The First Creation Foreshadows the Second Creation

These testimonies to the parallel between the first Sunday of the world and the Sunday of the Holy Resurrection illuminate a mystery of profound significance for all Christians—namely the precise time of Our Lord’s glorious Resurrection and the related mystery of Our Lord’s appearance to Our Blessed Mother after His glorious Resurrection before He appeared to St. Mary Magdalen and to the Holy Apostles.  The testimony of St. Gregory of Nyssa on this point deserves special attention because he was named “Father of Fathers” by the Seventh Ecumenical Council.  Of the precise time of Our Lord’s Resurrection he writes:

Examine the time of the Resurrection and you will find the truth in what I tell you.  So when did it take place?  “When it grew dark on Saturday.” Matthew shouts out.  This is the time of the Resurrection as clearly shown in the Gospel; this is how long the Lord remained in the depths [of Hades].  That is, while it was deep in the evening (the evening was the beginning of the night, on which the day of Sunday began...), it was then the earth quake occurred, it was then the angel with the shining garments rolled the stone from the tomb . . . Matthew the Great alone, of all the Gospel writers, declared the hour with preciseness saying that the hour of the Resurrection was Saturday evening (Gregory of Nyssa, On the Three-day Period of Our Lord Jesus Christ’s Resurrection, Leiden 1967, Gregorii Nysseni opera, vol 9, p. 289) quoted in Haris Skarlakidis, Holy Fire: The Miracle of the Light of the Resurrection at the Tomb of Jesus, p. 267).

To understand why St. Gregory of Nyssa, the Father of Fathers, could be so confident of the time of Our Lord’s glorious Resurrection, we must look at the language of St. Matthew in the light of Genesis 1 with the help of researcher Haris Skarlakidis:

According to the Jewish law, the coming of the new day was in the evening, at nightfall.  This tradition existed since, according to Genesis, God created first the night and then the day.  Consequently, for the Jews, the “daybreak” of the new day corresponded in time to the evening. . . Therefore, the phrase ἐπιφωσκούσῃ εἰς μίαν σαββάτων translates as “when Sunday had begun” and indicates the time after the setting of the sun on Saturday evening.  The same phrase is found in another place in the New Testament, in the Gospel of Luke.  Luke specifies the time of Christ’s burial with the phrase: kai emera enparaskeuns , kai sabaton epephosken, i.e., “it was the day of Preparation, and Saturday was beginning” (Luke 23:54).

In other words, Christ’s burial took place after the setting of the sun, after the Sabbath day had begun (according to the Jewish calendar).  This is exactly what the Evangelist Matthew confirms.

The phrase in Luke “Saturday was beginning” and the phrase in Matthew “when Sunday began” use the same verb (epiphosko) and specify the same time (the evening), with the difference of one day.  This means that Christ’s burial and his resurrection took place at the same hour, the first hour after the setting of the sun (at round 7:00 p.m.), with the difference of one day, of course.

Summarizing everything mentioned above, we draw the conclusion that Christ’s resurrection took place on Saturday evening and that Matthew’s phrase Opse de sabaton, te epiphoskouse eis mian sabaton should be translated as “On Saturday evening, when Sunday had begun.”

It is interesting that the correct translation of the verse we have just put forward is backed up by all the ancient translations of the New Testament, such as the Latin translation by St. Jerome.  [St. Jerome’s translation says “Vespere autem sabbati quae lucescit in primam sabbati venit Maria Magdalene et altera Maria videre sepulchrum” . . . “When the evening of Saturday came, during which shone [began] the first day of the week.”] Jerome, who was a friend of Gregory [of Nyssa’s] . . .  writes in one of his letters to the faithful woman from Gaul, named Hedibia, the following:

You first ask why Matthew says that Our Lord rose on the evening of the Sabbath” . . . and St. Mark, on the contrary, said that he arose in the morning . . . [we] must affirm that Matthew and Mark have both told the truth, that Our Lord rose on the evening of the Sabbath, and that he was seen by Mary Magdalene in the morning of the first day of the following week {Sunday] (Jerome, Ad Hedibiam, Letter 120,  ch. 12, Question 3, PL  22.987.

The thesis of St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Jerome that Our Lord rose from the dead immediately after sunset, the beginning of Sunday, the first day of the week, and the first day of the New Creation, raises another question: How can we reconcile the accounts of the Gospel writers with respect to the timing of the visits of the holy women who visited Our Lord’s tomb before and after the Resurrection?  The Church historian Eusebius saw an apparent contradiction between St. Matthew’s Gospel, which could (and as we have seen, should) be interpreted as saying that two women visited the tomb right after sunset on Holy Saturday and the other Evangelists, since St. Luke says that the myrrh-bearing women went to the tomb a little before daybreak on Sunday when it was still dark, and St. Mark says that they went to the tomb on Sunday morning.  Once again, St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Jerome provide the answer.  In the words of St. Jerome:

These holy women . . . since they could not endure Christ’s absence, they ran to the tomb, not once, not twice, but again and again, throughout the night, but especially after the earthquake. (St. Jerome, Ad Hedibiam, Question 4, PL 22.988.)

The myrrh-bearing women went to the tomb to anoint the Body of Our Lord without expecting His Resurrection, but the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Mary Magdalen are not described as Myrrh-bearing women.  Skarlakidis explains that St. Cyril of Alexandria identifies the visits of the women mentioned by St. Matthew and St. John as one event:

If we carefully examine the account of St. John the Evangelist, we will see that it does not necessarily refer to the end of the night.  On the contrary, it could very well refer to the beginning of the night.  John says: “Early in the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance” (John 20:1)

This mystery of the Lord’s Glorious Resurrection soon after sunset on Holy Saturday, the beginning of the first day of the week, goes hand in hand with another mystery—that of our Blessed Mother’s privilege of being the first Witness of the Holy Resurrection.  That Our Lord appeared first to Our Lady has been the testimony of Sacred Tradition from the beginning, as affirmed by St. John Chrysostom, St. Ephraim the Syrian, St. Ambrose of Milan, St. Romano the Melodist, and Patriarch Sophronius I of Jerusalem. In one of his hymns, St. Romanos the Melodist portrays Christ on the Cross telling His Mother, “Be brave, Mother, since You will be the first to see Me [risen] from the tomb”; and in his Triodion St. Sophronius addresses the Blessed Virgin Mary:

When you saw the Sun rising from the hidden places of Hades as a pillar of light, illuminating the reaches of the universe, you, All-pure Daughter, were flooded with divine joy.

The prayer of St. Sophronius underscores the truth that Our Lord Jesus Christ did indeed rise “as He promised,” as soon as the third day began after sunset on Holy Saturday.  But it also underscores His singular relationship with His Blessed Mother and His desire to be united to Her at the first possible moment that accorded with the Will of His Father and the fulfillment of all righteousness.  This, in turn, foreshadows the future fulfillment of these types in the history of His Church.  In other words, when the Church undergoes her Passion and appears to be dead and buried, it will be those who are consecrated to Our Lord through the Blessed Virgin Mary who will first experience the light of Christ in the darkness and who will help to usher in the glorious restoration of the Church in the era of peace promised by Our Lady of Fatima.

The knowledge of these things appears radiantly clear in the light of the sacred history of Genesis, but it remains obscure against the backdrop of a “mythical” Genesis.  How sad that religious men and women whose lives ought to be most intimately united to the sacred rhythms of Creation Week and Holy Week now for the most part see no connection between their sacred schedules of prayer and work and the actual work of God in the beginning by which He established them.

Yours in Christ through the Immaculata, in union with St. Joseph,

Hugh Owen

P.S. I have received an invitation to appear on Guadalupe Radio Network, a big EWTN radio affiliate, to discuss "Catholic Rejection of Theistic Evolution" on Tuesday, April 26, from 7:35-7:55 a.m. EST.  Catholic Drive Time is broadcast LIVE across 52 radio stations in major US markets like DC, Dallas, Buffalo, and Houston, but also across the Stations of the Cross Network. Please tune in to the live interview at www.GRNonline.com/CDT and pray for me.

P.P.S. We have decided to hold our 2022 annual leadership retreat at the headquarters of the Apostolate for Family Consecration in Bloomingdale, Ohio, again this year, from Sunday, August 28, until Saturday, September 3. For more information or to obtain a registration form, please email me at howen@shentel.net.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button