Summary of The Risen Christ: The Forty Days After the Resurrection by Caryll Houselander

The Risen Christ: The Forty Days After the Resurrection by Caryll Houselander, Scepter Publishing, New York: 2007. Kindle Edition. 

Chapter 1: Resurrection

Our Christ-life is the life of the Risen Christ” (5). “He came back from the long journey through death, to give us his Risen Life to be our life, so that no matter what suffering we meet, we can meet it with the whole power of the love that has overcome the world (cf. John 16:33)” (7).

“We are the resurrection, going on always, always giving back Christ’s life to the world” (8).

In every life, there are many secret resurrections. In our sin, we are the tombs in which Christ lies dead, but at the first movement of sorrow for sin, he rises from the dead in us, the life of the world is renewed by our sorrow, the soul that was in darkness radiates the morning light” (8).

“Our Lord has told us how we are to lead the Risen Life, and he has shown it to us. In his last discourse to the apostles, he has told us. In the forty days on earth after his Resurrection, he has shown us. It is to be a life of love, love that creates, love that fills us the measure of each life with joy” (10).

“Yet, now in his glorified body, he remained in the same little district, he hid his splendour, he kept the wounds of his Passion, he walked and talked and ate with men. He seemed as intent on persuading them to realize that he was human as he had been before on proving that he was divine, and instead of appearing in dazzling light all over the world, he sent other people to carry the news of his Resurrection, people who were still afraid, who still had the stains of their tears on their faces, who were still broken by the grief and horror of Calvary” (12).

The ultimate miracle of Divine Love is this, that the life of the Risen Lord is given to us to give to one another. It is given to us through our own human loves. It is no violation of our simple human nature. It is not something which must be cultivated through a lofty spirituality that only few could attain; it does not demand a way of life that is abnormal, or even unusual; it is not a specialized vocation. It is to be lived at home, at work, in any place, any circumstances. It is to be lived through our natural human relationships, through the people we know, the neighbours we see… So it is that we, sinners, wranglers, weaklings, provided only that we love God, are sent to give the life of the Risen Christ to the whole world, through the daily bread of our human love” (14).

Chapter 2: As I Have Loved You

“If what Christ chose to do as the ultimate expression of his love, as his way to reach all men and to lift them up to his heart, was to die on the cross, then surely the children and the saints are right in making their way of love quite literally like his” (21).

Chapter 3: The Hidden Glory

“It is an amazing fact that Christ’s Risen Life was a hidden life. His glory was hidden during the forty days between the Resurrection and the Ascension; his glory is hidden in his Risen Life now” (26).

“The forty days, the hidden life in Nazareth, the hidden life in the world today, have a likeness which is a revelation of the consistency of Christ. He is “the Way”; the Way does not change; we are helped by this consistency to recognize him in his hidden life in ourselves” (26).

“After his Resurrection, Christ showed himself to his friends five times, which are recorded. But what was he doing, where was he during the rest of the forty days? We may guess that he visited many unknown people; he may have gone to the slums of Jerusalem, the prisons, the cave of lepers. He may have been suddenly among children, playing with them, not recognized for who he was, but not questioned either. But this is guesswork. St. John simply tells us that “there are many other miracles Jesus did in the presence of his disciples, which are not written down in this book…” (John 20:30)” (27).

“We must look for Christ in one another… We shall perceive Christ in others only if we realize that he is hidden in his Risen Life; that we can discern him only with the eyes of faith… He says to us, as he said to St. Thomas: “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have learned to believe” (John 20:29)… We must learn to see Christ in others with the eyes of faith, because the whole orientation of our will, in which is the secret of peace, will depend upon whether we act as if we did see Christ in them or not” (30-31).

If we see everyone in our life as “another Christ” we shall treat everyone with the reverence and objectivity that must grow into love, and as a matter of sheer logic we shall accept whatever they bring to us, in the way of joy or sorrow or responsibility, as coming from the hand of Christ; and because nothing comes from his hand that is not given for our ultimate happiness, we shall gradually learn that the things they do, the demands they make, are all part of God’s plan for us” (32).

“Perhaps it is most difficult of all to realize, or to believe, that the Risen Christ is hidden in our own lives. Difficult not only for others, but for ourselves” (33).

“The only condition for finding and recognizing the Risen Christ today is that we love him: not power, chance, or virtue, but only love” (34-5).

Chapter 4: Revealing Christ’s Love

“Christ never forced his love on anyone… In the five recorded incidents of Christ appearing in his Risen Body, he allowed each of those to whom he showed himself to discover that it was he in their own way, through their own medium. His approach to them, always exquisite in courtesy, miraculous in humility, was in each case one that showed his intimate knowledge of each one individually. He knew which would be the most natural way for that person to respond to his love, and what each needed to lift his or heart from the sorrow or shame which was crushing it and restore it to the joy that would enable it to enter into communion with him” (36-37).

“Why we, who are members of Christ’s body on earth, his Church, are so, is a great mystery… But the fact remains that God has chosen us for the tremendous destiny of love, and if the wonder and the joy of it is ours, so too is the responsibility of it. That responsibility is to prove to those who are still unaware of it that Christ has risen from the dead and that he is in the world now. We have to prove Christ to the world, and we have to prove him to the world by our own lives” (40-41).

Christ “knew what was in man”: that is the secret of his method; he knew and loved every man, objectively and individually, as a separate person, a unique person; he respected their otherness, their independence, even their slowness, their limitations, which were all part of the experience which was to bring them to the realization of his love” (41-42).

“Christ’s example shows us so clearly and simply how to practice his objective love, how to learn what is in the hearts of others. First, we must realize everyone separately and approach each one differently” (43-44).

We tend to use methods like apologetics “and we tend to use them like a sledgehammer with which we deal blow upon blow upon the head of the unfortunate victim of our apostolic zeal, as if we could stun him into belief, and convert him by concussion” (42). We tend to give the impression that we have all the answers and are no longer seeking, that we have a formula for everything, that we hold feeling in contempt and live only by acts of will. But this is not true. We are still seeking God.

“To those who come to Christ through their minds, through study, and through considering the problems of today, suffering above all, we should be ready to discuss their thoughts with them, not in order to score points against them in argument, but to help them to clarify their own ideas, to form their own conclusions – this, with the gentleness of Christ, that they, like the disciples on the road, may feel their hearts burning within them as the mystery of the Redemption begins to shine on their minds” (44).

“Not only by words or acts can we show Christ to men, but also by the quality of our love. Sometimes in denying ourselves its immediate delight—“Do not cling to me thus” (Jn 20: 17); sometimes in the humility which causes us to put ourselves into the hands of the loved one: “Let me have thy hand; put it into my side” (Jn 20: 27). Sometimes by serving, lighting the fires, cooking the food, in the simplicity of the Risen Christ. Sometimes by forgiving, with his forgiveness that heals because it asks only for love: “Simon, son of John, dost thou love me?” (Jn 21: 17)” (44).

Chapter 5: The Personality of Christ

“Christ in his humanness wanted joy. He chose to suffer completely and to the end, but he also wanted absolute joy; he wanted to receive it and he wanted to give it… It is a great part of our Christ-life to increase joy in the world, just as it is. First of all in our own lives, for joy must be a reality, something as deep and still and pure as water in a hidden well, under the ground. The forced smile of the amateur Christ is blasphemy. We cannot increase joy unless we “put on” Christ’s personality, and our own joy actually is his… First of all its increase must begin in ourselves; we must grow in wisdom as Christ did, by deepening our understanding of the sacramental life, through the very substance of every day. Until there is nothing we see or touch that is not charged with wonder for us, though it is something as familiar as the bread on the table. And there is nothing that we do, though it be no more than filling a glass with water for a child, which does not sweep the loveliness of God’s sacramental plan through our thoughts, like a great wave of grace washing them clean from sin and the sorrow that is inseparable from it” (53-54).

Chapter 6: The Prayer of the Body

Thanks to the Incarnation, which has given a sacramental quality to our flesh and blood, “our bodies play an enormously important part in our life in the Risen Christ” (56).

In the Liturgy, which is the prayer of the Body, all our actions and words and all that we experience is charged with the redeeming power of Christ’s love… making life a liturgy.

The Liturgy is the expression of Christ’s love, his prayer in his Mystical Body, into which our own prayer is gathered and integrated. It is not subject, as our personal prayer is, to moods. It never fails, day after day, from the rising of the sun to its setting, in age after age, to adore God, to express sorrow for sin, to praise and thank God, to offer sacrifice, to petition for peace. It is the perfect expression of every individual, the voice of the inarticulate lifted in a hymn of love. At the same time, it is the chorus of the whole human race made one in communion with Christ” (59-60).

“Now it will be in the power of the Trinity and the majesty of the Liturgy that we do the things which before seemed only effort and boredom.  Every step to the office, or to and fro in the home, will be a counted, preordained step, like the numbered steps in the sanctuary. We shall kneel in sorrow for sin and in adoration, whether we kneel to scrub the floor or to fasten the little child’s shoe. In its simplest terms, the way to restore our souls in this prayer of the Body is to slow down our pace to the pace of the Liturgy, to prune our minds to its huge simplicities. This, starkly simple though it is, is a life’s work” (62).

Chapter 7: Work

To live the Christ-life, we must see ourselves, not first of all as workers, but as co-makers with God in which we share in “the Creator’s joy in making a new world that is to cradle Christ” (73). In today’s modern world, this idea of being a maker is almost forgotten. Perhaps the only kind of man who still experiences the joy that work should be is the artist, and even then only the artist who has almost miraculously preserved his integrity. We are called to see ourselves as artists in which everything we do is an act of creative love in which Christ is made new.

“What connection is there between these two men, the somber, menacing worker of today, and the radiant young man in the garden of tombs, whose every heartbeat renews the love dormant in all men? The answer is that the Christ who lives on in the life of every worker is potentially that same Christ who rises daily, hourly from the dead; potentially at least in every worker is the joyful Son of God, to whom all work was, and is, what God intended it to be, adoration or contemplation that makes all things new” (67).

Chapter 8: The Crown of Thorns

“Christ says that both He and we are the identical light, light of the world (cf. John 8:12; Mt 5:14-16). We are not only given the hands of Christ to work with, and the heart of Christ to love with, but the mind of Christ to illuminate the world with. His plan of love is consistent through and through; through our personal lives we are to give his love to one another, through the sacraments we are to give his life to one another, through his light in us, we are to give his mind to one another” (79).

We must see everything in life as he sees it, with his mind, through his eyes, in his light. If we start to see with Christ’s eyes, we “will learn that there is glory in suffering because Christ has transformed it and given it the power of his love” (80), that poverty and persecution is a blessing, that man “has crowned Christ with thorns, and [that] man is the one with Christ who must necessarily wear his crown” (80). And we will also see the little and lovely and happy things all around us, seeing in everything an example or a symbol of his Father’s love. This new vision must begin at home, where we are over-familiar with the simplicities that ought to lift our heart and mind to God.

“This was Christ’s motive in all his thinking; he did not point to flowers and birds only because they are intrinsically lovely, but because if we would only begin to think, we would come to the inevitable conclusion that we are far more dear to God than they are, and can trust him unhesitatingly for all that we need” (82).

“Thinking with Christ’s mind today is, as it was two thousand years ago, putting on the crown of thorns. The mind will be wounded, will suffer, will labor in thought again—but the mind will be crowned. And when the light of the world dawns in the darkness within the thorn-bound, bowing head of the Christman today, and shines out from it like the rising sun, waking the world from the dreams of the night to the reality of the morning, then he who wears it will be able to cry out exultantly with the Russian poet Nekrasov: “. . . there are times, there are ages, when nothing is more desirable, nothing more beautiful than the crown of thorns” (82-3).

Chapter 9: Rest

Rest is “so essential to our life in the Risen Christ” (86) because “the Christ life in us follows a natural law of growth” (88). Just as “nature is made in the image of Christ’s life and Christ chose to submit himself to his own law” (88), so too must we submit to the seasons of Christ’s life in us. During the “blessed winters of the spirit” (89), we must rest, deliberately refusing to be anxious when we are dry in prayer and when we do not feel the indwelling of Christ. We must peacefully accept this cold season of “emptiness” as we allow Christ’s seed to grow imperceptibly and as we prepare for the new influx of life in the springtime.

We too must accept the season of spring in our lives, for “joy is the predominating thing in the Christ-life” (83, see John 15:11), a joy that is the fruit of transforming suffering through the power of Christ’s love.

Christ told His apostles that it was better for them that He should go (see John 16:7), that they would no longer see Him nor feel His presence. Instead, they must wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit in order to live the Christ-life (see Luke 24:49). This preparation for the coming of the Spirit, who is the source of our joy, is the same today as it was two thousand years ago: “the still, quiet mind, acceptance, and remaining close to the Mother of God, resting in her rest while the life of the world grew within her toward the flowering of everlasting joy” (92).


  1. Denise Wharton says:

    Hi Richard, I love Caryll Houselander she is one of my favorite authors. Hope all is well with you. I think of you often and keep you in my prayers too. When is your ordination? Peace and Joy, Denise

    Sent from my iPhone


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