ASK FATHER: Why do we say that Christ rose “again” when He only rose one time?

From a reader…


Why does is “ on the third day He rose AGAIN “. Why the word again?
Every Sunday I wonder…….

Okay… that’s a little scrambled, but I get the sense of the question.

I have received questions similar to this one several times, so I will drill into the matter anew… again… um…

In the Creed of the Mass we say resurrexit.  This is translated “rose again”.   So why “again” if He only rose from death once.

Remember that, although many in Rome and elsewhere seem to have no comprehension of this, LATIN is the official language of the Roman Rite.

The Latin used in the Creed is founded on Greek texts/symbols.  A “symbol” is term for a profession of Faith such as the Creeds we recite.

The “again” confusion is understandable in this age when English is devolving.  If you “rise again” you must have already previously risen.  But we know our Lord rose only once.  So is the English translation heretical?

In the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed which we say or sing during Mass, Latin resurrexit is a compound of re– and surgo. The prefix re– conveys the “again” part.

In English, “again” can mean more than mere repetition. Check a good dictionary of English and you will find “again” as “anew” without the concept of repetition.

In our Creed, “He rose again” means “He rose anew”.

So, resurrexit does not mean Jesus rose twice or more. He returned to life “anew”.

Picture a kid who falls while riding his bike.  He gets up again and rides off.  That “again” doesn’t mean that he repeatedly gets up before riding off.  That “again” means “anew”.

“Rose again” for resurrexit is acceptable.

However, in our Latin liturgical worship we also use simple surgo, surrexit for the Lord “rose”.  At Easter, and in the Octave, Holy Church sings “Surrexit Christus spes mea… Christ, my hope, has arisen” in the sequence Victimae paschali laudes.

I hope that helps.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. HvonBlumenthal says:

    As in:

    “I fell down and got up again.”

  2. Legisperitus says:

    It’s important to understand the etymology of again in English. It’s more or less a cognate of the modern German word entgegen. In its original Old English form, the word was ongean, an adverb meaning “in the opposite direction, back, to or toward a former place or position.” The understanding of again has shifted over time to mean what it means now (repetition of an action), but the original meaning of again remains frozen in the English text of the Apostles’ Creed, which was translated many centuries ago. It literally means “He rose back from the dead,” to His former place among the living.

    All this goes to show how translating a prayer from a dead language into a living language can, in the long run, work “agin” you (“against” being the prepositional meaning of the Old English ontgean, which is still preserved as agin in some Northern English and Southern American dialects; as the prefix gain- in the modern word gainsay; and in the word “against” itself).

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  4. Orual says:

    Yes, that helps a great deal!

  5. abdiesus says:

    @HvonBlumenthal, I saw what you did there! ;D

  6. abdiesus says:

    @HvonBlumenthal, woops I miss-read what you wrote, what I read was:

    “I get knocked down, but I get up again!” from the 90’s era song Tubthumping

  7. Not says:

    I loved the explanation Father Z. I can’t help but think it was inspired by Pope Francis and his “Lead Us not into temptation…”. comments. ”


  8. Not says:

    Pardon my dry sense of humor.

  9. The Cobbler says:

    Hmm, so I’ve been wrong all these years in taking the “surrect” in “resurrect” to be “on”/”upon” and “stand”, and interpreting it as “stand up”, thus “stand up again” – which I had assumed was a fanciful way of saying come back to life after having lain down in death. I’ll have to go check out “surgo”.

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