The Heavenly Easter
Addresses Delivered on the Catholic Hour by the Very Rev.  Fulton J. Sheen,
published by Keep the Faith.

[Address delivered on April 21, 1935]

. . . For my subject I am going to speak about two words found in St. Paul: one, "emptying;" the other word, "filling." St. Paul speaks of Christ "emptying Himself," and also of the Church as being the "fullness of Christ." These words can both be applied to the historical life of Our Lord, in the sense that Good Friday was the "emptying" of His Divine Majesty and Easter Sunday its "filling up" in the glory of the Resurrection. But I am going to correlate the Cross and the Crown not in relation to those three days, but to the great Divine plan, which embraces time and eternity, the Good Friday of creation and the Easter Sunday of Heaven.

First of all, the history of God emptying Himself. All goodness empties itself in the sense that it tends to diffuse and to communicate its goodness. The sun is good, and it empties itself in light and heat; the flowers are good, and they empty themselves in the riotous colors of their petals and the perfume of their silken chalices; animals are good, and they empty themselves in the generation of their young; man is good and he empties himself in the communication of thoughts, and above all else by sacrifice, born and begotten of unselfish love. Now God is Perfect Goodness, for He possesses within Himself the fullness of Life, of Truth, and of Love in the amiable society of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Being goodness itself, we should therefore expect Him to diffuse and communicate His goodness.

That process by which Divine Love opened the Fountains of the God-head and poured them out is called by St. Paul the emptying of God------not an emptying in the sense that He lost what he gave, for He no more lost His Perfection by giving than we lose anything by loving our friends . . . Rather, He emptied Himself in the sense that others began to share that which before was unshared.

Divine Love did not empty Itself all at once. Only progressively through the ages did Love pour Itself out in ever increasing draughts until He had given all. he permitted creatures furtive glances behind the curtain of His Divinity, for the complete vision if given all at once would have been too great for man, as a bright light sometimes blinds rather than illumines. The first outpouring of the chalice of Divine Love was at the beginning of time. Love could not contain the torrents of Its Power and Goodness, and He emptied Himself of Them and told Them to nothingness: That was Creation. Love could not keep the secrets of His Heart so He emptied Himself of them and told them to men: That was Revelation. Love tends to become like the one loved; God loved man, and so he emptied Himself and was found in the form and habit of man: That was the Incarnation. Love also gives itself to the one loved, and if need be suffers and dies, for greater love than this no man hath that he lay down his life for his friends: That was Redemption.

Love by its very nature tends to unity, not only in the flesh but in the spirit. Unity in the flesh was the Incarnation in the flesh was the Incarnation. The final emptying of Divine Love came when He poured out not His Blood on the Cross, but His Spirit on the Church on the Day of Pentecost. That was the Birth of His Mystical Body.

There was nothing more that Divine Love could do. he had emptied Himself of His Power and Wisdom in Creation, of His Secrets in Revelation, of His Majesty in the Incarnation, of His Body and Blood in the Redemption, and of His Spirit in the Church. Well indeed might Love say: "What more can I do for My Vineyard than I have done? From the Chalice of My Love I have poured forth even the last drop. I have kept back nothing . . . Truly might St. Paul say: He emptied Himself.

But now let us look at the other side of the picture. All love is reciprocal. I love and I am loved. The love which spends itself is to be loved in return, for every emptying implies a filling. The emptying of the river calls for filling of the ocean: The emptying of the valleys demands the fullness of the mountains: the emptying of the strength, youth, and life blood of parents is filled by the charms and radiance of the children. Everywhere the story is the same. The Cross cries out to the grace, the humiliation to the exaltation, and the Good Friday to the Easter Sunday . . . If then love is fecund and productive; if love by its very nature cries out for love in return, then surely the Divine Love that empties Itself must be filled. The downward course of His Love striking the mirror of our hearts must be reflected back again in Heaven. Then, like the planets which travel in orbits, the Divine Love that was sent out to the circle of this universe would once more return to its starting point filled with the myriad loves of creatures it met on the way. If God has emptied Himself of Divine Love then He should be filled with it in the hearts of men; if He has poured forth then He should be replenished; if He has drained His Chalice, then it should be filled again. And at this point begins the history of the filling; or the story of how man loved God because God first loved men. If the story of the "emptying" of God stretches in History from the Creation to the Descent of the Holy Ghost, then the story of the filling reaches from the Descent of the Holy Ghost to the final glorification of the Kingdom of Heaven, or the return of Prodigal Love back again to the Father's House. In a word, the growth of the Mystical Body of Christ is the story of the "filling up" of Christ to His full stature in the glory of the celestial Jerusalem.

And these are the stages of the "filling." The love of God that emptied itself in Creation is filled as the Church lays hold of material things, breathes over them the words "Praise ye the Lord," and thus makes them pay tribute to the Creator. The gold in the bowels of the earth, the wheat in the field, the grapes in the vineyard, the trees of the forest, cannot of themselves thank God, but the Church by putting gold in the Chalice, wheat and grapes in her Mass, wood in the crucifixes, thus "fills up" unto God the very Love that He once poured out in their creation.

The love of God that emptied Itself of His secrets in Revelation, is filled up by the faith of the Church in the 800,000,000 [at the time of this talk] Catholics throughout the world who chant her Credo and profess unto death that they believe every truth Christ teaches "because He can neither deceive nor be deceived."

The Love that emptied itself in the Incarnation by God becoming man, is now filled and returned by the Church, by whose Sacraments men become adopted sons of the Father partaking of the Nature of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Love that emptied itself in the outpouring of the Spirit of God on the day of Pentecost is now filled up by the Church, by the incorporating to that Spirit of millions and millions of souls who for twenty centuries have lived the life of the One Body, have been vivified by the same Spirit, and have been obedient to the one Head.

If you would know the extent of the growth of the fullness of Christ in His Mystical Body, then think of how much a human organism grows from the moment of conception. In the course of its life millions and millions of cells have been unified and vivified by the soul which came into the original cell at the moment of its origin. But even that is an inadequate picture of the growth of the Mystical Body of Christ, for the soul of man leaves the body, but the Holy Ghost never leaves the Church. There is no adequate human analogy for what St. Paul calls the fullness of Christ, which is the Church. There is no way of adequately measuring the amount of faith, of hope, and of love that has been returned by the Church to God since the day of Pentecost. But since the Church is a living personality, because it has the same Soul, the same Head, the same Mind, the same Heart, the same Life now as it had 1900 years ago, she can tell us of her growth and fullness in the first person.

And these are the words of the Church on the fullness of Christ: "On the day of Pentecost there were twelve cells in my Body besides the Blessed Mother who was left to be my mother and nurse during infancy. My Body first began to grow within the nursery of Judaism where I had my birth; but within a few short years I had incorporated unto myself even the Gentiles who knew no God but Caesar. My Spouse, Christ, had told me that I would be hated as He was hated, and while still an infant there were other Herods who would have slain me in Rome, as they would have slain Him in Bethlehem. I have had but few moments of peace. From the outside I was attacked by the sword; from the inside I was abused by false brethren. And yet neither persecution nor error has stopped my growth. The sword strengthened my courage, and error sharpened my intellect. In a century I had grown until I filled the Roman empire, and then beyond its outposts I sent forth missionaries to the barbarians who helped me grow unto that fullness I had when I crowned Charlemagne in the year 800. My Body grew in age and grace and strength and in the twelfth century of my existence, like Christ in His twelfth year, I was instructing the Doctors of the world in the temples of the medieval universities. In the sixteenth century I lost some cells of my Body, as I had lost some before in the errors of the Gnostics and Pelagians. And yet after each loss there carne new strength, for my lot, like that of my Spouse Christ, is to be ever rising from the tomb where men leave me as dead. And so I chastened myself at the Council of Trent and brought myself into subjection, and now at this very hour the twelve cells whom I numbered in my Body on Pentecost have grown to 800 million souls in every corner of the globe.

     "But in the course of my life of 1900 years, like the life of a human body, some of my cells have died and been replaced by others-----but I have remained the same, because my soul is the abiding Spirit of God. Some of my members have been gathered into the Church Triumphant, where they enjoy blessedness with my Spouse Christ; others of my members who, while they were with me in the Church Militant, sinned and atoned not, are now gathered in Purgatory which is the Church Suffering where they wash their baptismal robes clear for the Spotless King in the glory of Heaven. How much longer I shall live on this earth, how much time awaits the consummation, I know not. But when the number of the elect is completed, when the seats vacated by the fallen Angels are filled, when I shall have grown to my full stature, then shall the end come; then shall the Church Militant on earth and the Church Suffering in Purgatory be gathered into the unity of the Church Triumphant in Heaven, on the glorious Easter that shall never end because there is no Time with God but only Eternal Love. And would you know the fullness of Christ; would you know the final end of the Mystical Body of Christ; would you know what will happen on that Easter Day when Christ the Head and I His Body are united in Heaven? Then listen to my words as I set them down through John in the Apocalypse:

        "I saw a new Heaven and a new earth. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem coming down out of Heaven from God prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice from the throne saying: Behold the tabernacle of God with men, and He will dwell with them. And they shall be His people; and God Himself with them shall be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and death shall be no more, nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more, for the former things are passed away . . . And he shewed me the holy city of Jerusalem coming down out of Heaven from God, having the glory of God, and the light thereof was like to a precious stone as to the jasper stone, even as crystal. And it had a wall great and high, having twelve gates, and in the gates twelve Angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. On the east, three gates; and on the north, three gates; and on the south, three gates; and on the west, three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them, the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb . . . And the building of the wall thereof was of jasper stone: but the city itself pure gold, like to clear glass. And the foundations of the walls of the city were adorned with all manner of precious stones . . . And the twelve gates are twelve pearls, one to each . . . and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. And I saw no temple therein. For the Lord Almighty is the temple thereof and the Lamb. And the city hath no need of the sun, nor of the moon, to shine in it. For the glory of God hath enlightened it, and the Lamb is the lamp thereof."

"And I saw a great multitude which no man could number of all nations, and tribes, and peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne, and in sight of the Lamb, clothed with white robes and palms in their hands: And they cried with a loud voice saying: Salvation to our God, Who sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb. And all the Angels stood round about the throne, and the ancients, and the four living creatures: and they fell down upon their faces, and adored God, saying: Amen. Benediction and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, honor and power and strength to our God for ever and ever. Amen."

    Such is the end and destiny of the Church which St. Paul describes as the fullness of Christ. It was born of the emptying of God's love; it is filled by all the Virgins and Martyrs, confessors and pontiffs, saintly mothers and fathers, devoted husbands and wives, sacrificing missionaries and apostolic priests, simple children who never grew wise with the false wisdom of the world, and all members of Christ's Mystical Body who filled up once again with Love the Divine Chalice, which Love drained in making and redeeming us. Thus the end of the Chapter of Time will be when the Mystical Body of Christ, which is His Church, will have grown to its fullness, just as the glory of the physical body of Christ came when it had reached its fullness in its Good Friday and Easter Sunday; the end of history will come at the moment when Love which came down from Heaven in an Emmanuel disguised in lowliness, becomes transfigured in its fullness as the Church, the glory of the Great Original, the Lamb of God Who taketh away the sins of the world: Evil will end when the last Baptized child, hewn from the great quarry of humanity, shall be shaped and squared and cut for service in the great living Temple whose architect is Love------which is God.


13. Enter ye in at the narrow gate:
for wide is the gate and broad is the
way that leadeth to destruction: and
many there are who go in thereat.

14. How narrow is the gate and strait
is the way that leadeth to life: and few
there are that find it! . . .

21. Not every one that saith to me, Lord. Lord,
shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven: but he
that doth the will of My Father Who is in Heaven,
he shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven.

       Though the Holy Ghost does not guide the different sects, He does not refuse the grace of assistance to the members of these sects; He enlightens them and urges them on to enter the Church that is guided by Him. They should therefore become Catholics. Moreover, CHRIST HIMSELF by giving the Catholic Church the RIGHT and the POWER to receive ALL mankind into its membership, OBLIGES ALL not only to believe the teaching of the Catholic Church, but ALSO TO JOIN IT.