5 Things You Didn’t Know About Easter

Alleluia. Christ is risen!!!

the-resurrection-of-christPaolo Veronese

To kick of the solemn celebration, here are “5 Things You Didn’t Know About Easter” that you can share with your friends at your next cocktail party:

  1. 5 Turns in the Latin Mass. According to Saint Thomas Aquinas, the priest in the old Latin Mass turns around and faces the people in the pews 5 times. Why 5 times? Because Christ appears resurrected exactly 5 times in the Gospels. You can learn more about Thomas Aquinas’s liturgical theology here.
  2. Pagan Easter? Huh? Despite what the “experts” in Time, Newsweek, and the History Channel say, Easter was not a pagan holiday baptized by the Catholic Church. Here’s the whole post that I wrote on this subject using the Venerable Bede as a resource: Was Easter a Pagan Holiday? (Venerable Bede comes to the rescue!)
  3. 5 Scars. Catholic theology makes a big deal over why our Lord Jesus Christ kept his scars after the resurrection. Hint: one of the reasons has to do with those in Hell. Read the full story from Thomas Aquinas and Venerable Bede by clicking here.
  4. 2 Limbos. Traditionally there are 2 Limbos. Thomas Aquinas taught that Christ descended to the Limbus Patrum or “Limbo of the Fathers” to redeem the Old Testament saints who waited for him. The other Limbo according to Thomas Aquinas is the Limbus Infantum or “Limbo of the Infants.” You can read a prior post on Christ’s descent into Hell and how it relates to Limbo by clicking here.
  5. Christ can change his resurrected figure. It seems that Jesus (and Mary – she is also resurrected) can change their appearance for the sake of those with whom they communicate. It is written (Mark 16:12): “After that He appeared in another shape to two of them walking, as they were going into the country.”As Augustine says (De Consens. Evang. iii): “Our Lord could change His flesh so that His shape really was other than they were accustomed to behold; for, before His Passion He was transfigured on the mountain, so that His face shone like the sun.” This explains why Jesus appears differently to some people. It also explains why Mary can look like Our Lady of Guadaulpe and Our Lady of Fatima. 

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Question: Okay, you are pretty smart. The readers of this blog are intellectuals. Which of these 5 did you already know? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Lisa Ann Homic

    Cool, thanks Dr. Marshall

  • Cate

    Wish you didn’t have the link to member’s only content. There are those of us you can’t afford to join, yet desire to learn more about what you have mentioned.

  • Tad

    agree with Cate. In Poland Easter has been called for ages simply “Wielkanoc” which in English means Greatnight. I love this term.Thank you, Dr. Marshall. I was not aware of your interesting details regarding Wielkanoc.

  • Victor

    (((5 Turns in the Latin Mass.)))

    I recall our French priest Father Francis, (Francois) turning around to face the people in the pews while serving Latin Mass in the late fifties and/or early sixties but I never knew that it was five times and if truth be known, sinner vic probably taught that he was saying hello to someone. (lol)

    All kidding aside, our priest was considered a Saint by many of us back then and I’m not just saying this because his spirit through the form of birds paid me a visit on the night that he died. Nowadays some probably still believe that Christ never really Resurrected and as far as they’re con cerned, the apostles of Jesus stole His Body after the soldiers all fell asleep! Right Doctor Marshall? 🙂

    Alleluia. Christ is risen!!!

  • Brencel

    “and Mary – she is also resurrected”

    Mary would have to die first to be resurrected and the Church is not sure that she died; thus Pope Pius XII, in his Apostolic Constitution DEFINING THE DOGMA OF THE ASSUMPTION #44, stated:

    by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.

    Pope Pius refused to state that Mary had died.

    • Brencel,

      Not quite true. If you read the whole text of Pope Pius XII’s Apostolic Constitution, he refers to her death and tomb several times.

      Here’s an article I did on it: http://taylormarshall.com/2013/08/did-the-virgin-mary-die.html

      • Brencel

        Yes, Dr Marshall, it is clear that Pope Pius XII believed that Mary died, however, that is not what he declared ex-cathedra. We can read all of his Apostolic
        Constitution, DEFINING THE DOGMA OF THE ASSUMPTION, but dogma is not defined by context; as Catholics we must believe the dogma.

        Why the Pope did not say Mary died in his statement of dogma is open to question; the best explanation I have heard is that the Pope intended to state she had died in his definition of the dogma until an orthodox bishop informed him that we cannot definitively state that Mary died. Reading the context in his Apostolic
        Constitution lends credence to this story; but it is just a story as far as I
        am aware.

        There are good arguments for and against Mary’s death. However, the dogma we must believe is “that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin
        Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and
        soul into heavenly glory.” We do not have to believe she died.

        • Agreed, the death of Mary is not necessary to believe for salvation (dogma), but it is taught in a magisterial document and therefore should be the default position of the pious Catholic.

          That Mary fell asleep and that her soul left her body is the teaching of the all the Doctors of the Church: Thomas Aquinas, John Damascene, the Eastern Fathers, Alphonsus Liguori, Francis de Sales, et al.

        • Norman

          Also Brencel- believing that she was assumed doesn’t necessarily mean “death” the way we understand it now, because it’d be the “transition from this life to the next” that all humanity would have experienced if Adam and Eve didn’t initially Fall, or no?… Any thoughts?

          • Norman, yes!

            Her soul left her body and we typically call this death. But her’s was unique. This is why we call it “Dormition.”

        • Cui Pertinebit

          The teachings of the Universal, Ordinary Magisterium are every bit as infallibly true as those solemnly defined by the Extraordinary Magisterium. Furthermore, the unanimous consent of the Fathers has always been regarded as theologically certain, as has the unanimous consent of the theologians and doctors. The death of the Virgin has all of these witnesses.

          The ancient collect for the feast, still used in the Dominican Rite (and others) explicitly states that it was the “festivitas… in qua Sancta Dei Genitrix mortem subiit temporalem” (the feast… on which the Holy Theotokos suffered temporal death). Pope Pius XII quotes this in his bull, as it was also cited by Pope Adrian I. All of the Fathers’ homilies refer to her death, the glorious St. John Damascene’s homilies being first amongst them. St. Gregory of Tours, the earliest source in the West, specifically mentions her death. In fact, there is no authority that so much as questions the idea. Thus, there are *no* good arguments for saying she did not first die.

          Rather, as Dr. Ott correctly states in his Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma:

          “The highest degree of certainty appertains to the immediately revealed truths. The belief due to them is based on the authority of God Revealing (fides divina), and if the Church, through its teaching, vouches for the fact that a truth is contained in Revelation, one’s certainty is then also based on the authority of the Infallible Teaching Authority of the Church (fides catholica). If Truths are defined by a solemn judgment of faith (definition) of the Pope or of a General Council, they are de fide definita.

          “Catholic truths or Church doctrines, on which the infallible Teaching Authority of the Church has finally decided, are to be accepted with a faith which is based on the sole authority of the Church (fides ecclesiastica). These truths are as infallibly certain as dogmas proper.”

          Now, being as the Pope, while exercising his extraordinary infallibility, consulted all the bishops and cited the ancient teaching of the Church on all these points in his official bull, demonstrating that the infallible Magisterium of the Church was here confirming a fact of revelation taught unanimously by the Church through time, it is clear that the death of the Virgin Mary is *de fide,* and that we are sure of this because it is to be held fide divina (God revealed her Assumption in sight of the Apostles), fide catholica (because the Church, through her teaching, has always vouched for this fact) and fide ecclesiastica (because the Infallible teaching authority of the Church has decided on it, when all the bishops of the world were consulted and the Pope cited the constant Tradition of the Fathers and Doctors on precisely the matter in question). It is not a mere matter of a “sententia communis,” here. I would thus disagree with Dr. Marshall, when he says that you don’t have to believe this to be saved. Denial of the doctrine, at this point, is heresy; it is to contradict the unanimous teaching of the Fathers, the Doctors and the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church as they were re-iterated and exposited in the very bull that was specifically addressing the Church’s teaching on this topic. I would encourage you to examine your conscience, and to ask why you feel a need to disagree with all the Saints, Fathers, Doctors, Popes, Liturgical Rites, and, in other words, every fount of doctrinal authority in the Catholic Church, in your private belief that the Virgin never died. Because this is an extremely arrogant attitude to take towards the divine sources of Catholic revelation, and I truly do hope that you will submit to them with Catholic faith and humility.

          I will never understand where some Catholics get the idea that a doctrine is not “fully and finally official” until it has a solemn ex cathedra definition. Shall the Pope define ex cathedra that Christians should pray?No. Most doctrines have been believed on the authority of the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church, and when this is explicit, official and unanimous, those doctrines are absolutely certain.

          • Brencel

            We do not know why, but in defining the Dogma of the Assumption
            Pope Pius XII left the question of Mary’s death open; therefore to state that
            the Magisterium had already defined infallibly that Mary had died is going a step too far and is an insult to the Pope.

          • Cui Pertinebit

            Learn your faith. The Magisterium is not “the Pope.” The Pope can exercise a peculiar form of extraordinary magisterium when he wants to solemnly define a doctrine or refute an heresy.

            But “the magisterium” is much bigger than the Pope, and there are oodles and oodles of infallible doctrines that have not received specific, solemn definitions.

            The Pope did not “leave the question open;” his own bull cited the constant and universal tradition of the Church, that the Virgin Mary suffered “temporal death” that her body stayed in the tomb for three days (like Jesus) and only then rose again. This teaching is fully infallible and is found in the infallible Ordinary Magisterium of the Church, which consists of many more things than merely Papal pronouncements.

          • Brencel

            You say “the magisterium” is much bigger than the Pope, yet the
            Church’s teaching on papal primacy as stated in Lumen Gentium #22 states:

            “But the college or body of bishops has no authority unless it is understood together with the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter as its head. The pope’s power of primacy over all, both pastors and faithful, remains
            whole and intact. In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and
            pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power. The order of bishops, which succeeds to the college of apostles and gives this apostolic body continued existence, is also the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church, provided we understand this body together with its head the Roman Pontiff and never without this head.(27*) This power can be exercised only with the consent of the Roman Pontiff.”

            In addition, a papal bull is not infallible dogma which is
            why within the bull the Pope stated when he was defining dogma.

          • Cui Pertinebit

            Look, what you say is true but is irrelevant to the point we’re discussing. The cure for your problem at this point, is learning how to simply pay attention, read carefully, and think clearly. Obviously the magisterium has no authority to teach anything at all, if it is out of communion with the Pope or is fighting against the Pope. In fact, at that point it is not even the “magisterium.” The term implies union with the Pope.

            The point still stands, and is actually proven by what you quoted: the magisterium is bigger than the Pope, even if it obviously must work with the Pope. Who doesn’t know that? The point is that the magisterium, in union with the Pope, has always taught that when the Fathers and Doctors teach in harmony on a topic – in this case that the Virgin Mary died – their teaching is absolutely correct and theologically certain… infallible, even. So, when you deny the teaching of all the Fathers and Doctors (and magisterium, including Papal bulls that are infallible and Papal bulls that are not, and the sections of Papal bulls that are and are not infallible), you deny the Magisterium, of which the Pope is head. It is just as impious to deny this part of the magisterium, as it is to deny the solemn definition of the Pope. May the Blessed Virgin, “quae temporalem subiit mortem,” as Pope Pius IX affirmed, intercede for you and offer you the grace to submit to the teaching authority of the Church, which has unanimously held and taught in a theologically certain way, that she did in fact die before her glorious assumption.

          • Brencel

            Sad that you are no longer publishing my replies with no explanation.
            Is there some reason I am missing?

          • The explanation is posted above. If you include a link in your comment it will go to moderation. We call it “comments purgatory.”

          • Brencel

            Thank you.

  • ed

    I was familiari with #2 and #5; perhaps not for the precise reasons you have given. But the other 3 are new to me.

  • Art

    How dogmatic is the teaching on the Limbo of the Infants? I ask this because baptism by desire exists, that we hope all will be saved (not that it will come to pass, mind you), and that no prayer is ever wasted.

    • Limbo is not Dogma. Do you even know what Dogma is?

    • Cui Pertinebit

      The Council of Trent and the rest of the Church’s Tradition recognizes the existence of Limbo. I would say that it is probably a certain truth to be believed on “fide ecclesiastica.” At a minimum, it seems to be a truth “ad fidem pertinens” (pertaining to the Faith) which is “theologice certa” (theologically certain). The attempt to get away from Limbo a few years back, seems to have been little more than a desire to get away from the “terminology” which expressed a “narrow view of salvation” in these very open times.

      But, that was a completely unofficial move that contradicts all Tradition. So, the Church’s teaching on Limbo will remain what it always has been and always will be.

  • Colleen Sheehy

    My little ones in CCD asked me about Mary as Our Lady of Guadalupe, specifically about her Aztec appearance. One of the children said – “Hey, she came to tell St Juan Diego that she’s his mom! Of course she had to show him there’s a family resemblance!” My class concluded that when she went to Japan she looked like the folks she taked to there, and if/when she goes to Africa, she’ll do the “family resemblance” thing there as well. Leave it to Our Mother to think of details like that.

  • Wayne Topp

    #5 also gives more “flesh” to the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist does it not? It becomes a very simplistic way of dealing with the problem (“well, Jesus is God and He can appear in any form he chooses”), but the fact is, it is referenced quite clearly in scripture that he has already appeared in a different form. So, not only did he say the words, “This is my body” and the words made it so, but the physical reality of his presence here today in the simple bread and wine we use at the altar can also be explained in this way, no?

  • John

    *off otherwise, wonderful article!

  • Norman

    Awesome Dr. Marshall, I appreciate your blogs and in particular your ability to simplify it.
    I was just talking about Mary changing shape yesterday (as BEAUTIFULLY demonstrated in the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in D.C) which made me realize that it seems as though PART of Kant’s philosophy could be on to something, ever feel like ponder-blogging about a simple Catholic response to Kant?

    • I “kan’t” do it, because I kan’t stand Kant.

      I would think that he would say that it is the mind that projects the different forms – that it receives the phenomena differently through the lens of culture and ethnicity.

      I think the opposite is happening here. Juan Diego saw her the way he saw her because she objectively appeared that way to him.

  • Matthew the Wayfarer


  • Cui Pertinebit

    And these men are mistaken; the Magisterium does agree that the Virgin Mary died. Every Magisterial statement affirms it in an ordinary way (even if it does not “solemnly define it”), including Munificentissimus Deus. You, and they, are arguing that the mere fact that her death was not included in the one, Extraordinary Magisterial definition, somehow denies or undermines the fact that it is certainly put forward as the doctrine of the Church in every other Magisterial document – the Liturgy, Papal Bulls, the Doctors and Fathers of the Church, etc.

    If you can produce even one magisterial document that calls the doctrine into question or expresses a different doctrine, I would be amazed.

    The truth of the matter is amply demonstrated by the fact, that every Catholic is bound to believe that women may not be ordained to the priesthood, even though there has never been a solemn definition from the Extraordinary Magisterium of the Church, specifically affirming that only men may be ordained and condemning the contrary proposition. This is because the Ordinary Magisterium has always taught that only men may be ordained, in an ordinary way, and the Church tells us that this ordinary teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium, is itself infallible. The same Ordinary Magisterium has always taught that the Blessed Virgin “suffered temporal death” before her Assumption. If you don’t believe that, why do you believe that women can’t be priests? Or, perhaps you are a very thorough modernist, and do think the question is still “open,” simply because the Pope hasn’t issued a solemn definition.

    • Brencel

      Everyone else, including Pope Pius XII, appear to be wrong. Pope Pius XII left his definition of Mary’s assumption open on the question of her death, even though he believed she died. The fact the Pope believed Mary died, yet
      refused to insist on this in his ex-cathedra definition, makes it clear that he
      did not believe her death was certain. Therefore Pope Pius XII obviously did
      not believe the Magisterium had infallibly defined that Mary died. Perhaps the
      Pope was better informed than some on this issue?

      • Cui Pertinebit

        You’re repeating yourself at this point, and are clearly making no effort to engage the line of thought. I had felt a moral obligation to offer a spiritual work of mercy, and to help a brother realize that the Ordinary Magisterium also teaches infallibly, and has given us infallible teachings on many points (like the impossibility of ordaining women, the immorality of homosexual acts, the moral excellence of contemplative prayer, etc.), without ever once defining such things solemnly from the Extraordinary Magisterium. The fact that they were not included in solemn definitions does not mean that the question is “open” on them; neither is the question “open” on the death of the Virgin. The clear, consistent and unquestioned teaching of all magisterial documents mentioning the topic, and of all Fathers and Doctors writing on the topic, and of all liturgical texts mentioning the topic, is that the Blessed Virgin died. The Traditional Roman Breviary, as also the Monastic Breviary, has in its 5th lesson (quoting St. John Damascene):

        Ex qua enim omnibus vera vita manavit, quomodo illa
        mortem gustaret? Sed cedit legi latae ab eo quem genuit; et ut filia
        veteris Adam, veterem sententiam subiit…

        (Now, how did she, from whom true life flowed out to all men, taste of death? She nevertheless yielded to the Law, which was established by Him, Whom she begat [i.e., Christ], and, as a daughter of the Old Adam, she submitted to the ancient sentence…)

        This is the official liturgy of the Church, whose teaching on this point, as I said, is confirmed in every other organ of the Church’s teaching authority whenever the topic is mentioned. I am simply warning you, soberly, in the Lord: you treat the Magisterium of the Church contemptuously, and have actually lost the virtue of faith, when you act as though the consistent teaching of the Church on this point could be wrong. And, as the Church also teaches us, when we deny one teaching of the Church, and overthrow the Infallible teachings of the Magisterium on one point, we overthrow the entire Church. This loss of faith in the Church on one point of her teaching, therefore, progresses to the entire loss of faith, if we do not repent and seek grace from God to believe what the Church proffers to us in her infallible Ordinary and Extraordinary Magisterium. This is the only reason I warn you: your approach to this topic puts you in a state of disbelief of the Church, which will only get worse. For my part, the testimony of the Breviary alone – where the Church deliberately selects the teachings that most accurately and succinctly express her belief – would be enough. I cannot imagine reading the Breviary’s clear teaching of our Lady’s death, and then speaking as if it were a matter of debate.

        In any case, the point, is that the same Ordinary Magisterium that has taught clearly on all the other topics (divorce, holy orders, contemplative prayer), has taught just as clearly on this one. To say that this issue is still “open” because it hasn’t been solemnly defined, is to say that all the other issues are “open.” But now that we are simply repeating ourselves, and failing to engage in a substantive way, it is morally wrong to continue arguing.

        I ask your forgiveness for disputing so pointlessly on a thread dedicated to our Lord’s Resurrection. I won’t argue any further; I simply ask you in the Lord: have a care for yourself and your soul, and beware sitting in judgment upon the Church’s Ordinary Magisterium. God go with you and give you light. Christ is risen!