Q. Thank you for your column, which helps me to understand the nuances of our faith. Here is my question: In both the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed, we say that Jesus “rose again” from the dead; the word “again” puzzles me — did Jesus rise twice? (McFarland, Wis.)
A. Every week, several questions are submitted from readers across the country to be answered in this column. Given the space limitations, I am forced to select only one or two. When making that choice, I try to gauge which ones might be on most people’s minds. The problem, of course, is that there is a built-in bias: I see things through the prism of my own mind. If an issue has never occurred to me, I can’t imagine how it could be creating a problem for anyone else. And so for months, I have resisted responding to the question you have raised, simply because the word “again” in the creed never struck me as odd. But since several readers have now mentioned it, I concede that the use of the word does merit an explanation.
If you look at any dictionary, you’ll find that the first and most common meaning of “again” is “once more,” which suggests repetition and prompts the logical question, “When did Jesus ever rise before?” But another meaning — acceptable and often used — is “anew”; and so we say, “The man tripped and fell, but he got right up again,” or “I woke up during the night, but I rolled over and went back to sleep again.”
So Jesus rose only once, on Easter Sunday. He lived once, he died once, and now he lives again.
Q. I was married outside the church in 1979. In 2003, I was divorced. I am a practicing Catholic and attend Mass regularly. Is it all right for me to receive holy Communion? And if I were to remarry, could I be married in the church? (Hope, Ark.)
A. I would guess that you continued to attend Mass even after your 1979 marriage, and that was the right choice. Far too often, someone who has been married outside the church gives up going to Mass at all, feeling that it is pointless since they have separated themselves from participating fully. But being present at the Eucharist, besides offering comfort and guidance in life’s challenges, can also prompt people to regularize their status in the church so as to be eligible to take Communion.
If you have not done so yet, you should first receive the sacrament of penance. Tell the priest of your 1979 marriage outside the church, as well as any other serious matters since the time of your last confession. Then, having been forgiven, you would by all means be welcome to receive holy Communion.
If you are contemplating remarriage, you should meet with a priest to fill out a short questionnaire regarding your 1979 marriage. The priest would then submit this paperwork to your diocesan marriage tribunal for a determination of what is called technically the “Absence of Canonical Form” — i.e., a decision that the 1979 marriage ceremony did not “count” in the eyes of the Catholic Church. This normally has a very short turnaround, a few weeks maybe — not the full-scale annulment process, since your 1979 ceremony never was recognized by the church as valid. Having done this, you would then be free to be married in a Catholic ceremony, with a Mass if you so choose.
Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org and 40 Hopewell St., Albany, N.Y. 12208.