38. Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country. (Luke, 7: 11 to 17).
39. The fact of the return to corporeal life of an individual really dead would be contrary to the laws of nature, and consequently miraculous. Now it is not necessary to go over this order of facts in order to explain the resurrections performed by Jesus.
If among us the appearance of death sometimes deceives our most celebrated physicians, accidents of this nature must have been much more frequent in a country where no precaution in regard to it was taken, and where burials were immediate. * In all probability, in the two cases cited above, the disease was syncope or lethargy. Jesus himself tells it positively of the daughter. “The child,” said he “is not dead but asleep.”
With the fluid power which Jesus possessed, there is nothing surprising in the fact that the vivifying fluid, directed by a strong will, should have reanimated the benumbed senses; that he should have been able to recall the spirit to the body which it was ready to leave, as the perispiritual connection was not broken. For men of that time, who believed a person dead when he ceased to breathe, there were resurrections, and they have been able to affirm it in good faith; but they were in reality cures, and not resurrections in the true acceptation of the word.
* A proof of this custom is found in Acts, 5: 5 to 10. When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6. Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.7About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8Peter asked her, "Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land? “Yes," she said, "that is the price." 9Peter said to her, "How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also." 10At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband.
40. The resurrection of Lazarus, whatever they may say, disaffirms nothing in regard to this principle. He was, they say, for four days in the sepulcher. But it is well known that some attacks of lethargy last eight days or more. They add that he smelt badly, which is a sign of decomposition. This allegation proves nothing more, as with some persons there is partial decomposition of the body before death, which is attended by a disagreeable odor. Death arrives only when the organs essential to life are attacked.
And who could be able to know if a disagreeable odor attended him? It was his sister Martha who said it; but how did she know? Lazarus having been buried four days, she could suppose it, but have no certitude of it. *
* The following fact proves that decomposition sometimes precedes death: In the convent of bon-Pasteur, founded at Toulon by the Abbot Marin, chaplain of the convict-prison for repentant females, was found a young woman who had endured the most terrible suffering with the calmness and impassibility of an expiatory victim. In the midst of the pain she seemed to smile, as if in a celestial vision. Like St. Theresa, she asked to suffer more. Her flesh was in shreds; the gangrene gained upon her limbs. By a wise foresight the doctors recommended the burial of the body immediately after decease. Strange enough! Hardly had she rendered the last sigh than all work of decomposition arrested itself, the death-like exhalations ceased, and during thirty-six hours she remained exposed to the prayers and veneration of the community.