Chrysologus remarks on how frightened the disciples were, for they had locked the doors; their minds were darkened with grief; yet still the Lord came to them – as he will to us. St Gregory the Great comments that the one who had entered the closed womb enters now the closed room. He stands before them, St Gregory of Nyssa reminds us, as true God, with, as St Cyril comments, death banished. In his greeting he breathes on them a spirit of tranquillity and shares with them the Holy Spirit; He is the peace of God and His Spirit perfect peace. Irenaeus notes that the wounds he showed them reveal that it was a resurrection of the body, not simply the spirit; the wounds now, St Leo tells us, bring healing to our wounds; He is human and divine. The disciples are glad in him.
Jesus now commissions them, in love, to spread his message of peace and repentance; they follow not their own will, St Cyril reminds us, but that of Christ. They, like him, St Gregory comments, will suffer persecution. St Gregory of Nazianzus remarks on how He is preparing them to receive more and more of the Spirit. He gives it to his disciples now, but also at Pentecost. This, St Cyril comments, is the second breathing of the Spirit, the first, in Genesis, having been stifled by our fall; this breathing inspires the disciples to be bold and to suffer for his sake. This Spirit, which is, as St Cyril comments, the breath of God, is, St Athanasius tells us, the Son’s to give. They are given the spiritual power to remit sins; their authority is directly from God; their unity, and that of the Church that grew from them is traced back, St Cyprian writes, to the one Lord who bound them all together.
Theodore of Mopsuestia comments that forgiveness is given by the Spirit to all of Christ’s Apostles, who receive his authority. The Church is allowed to bind and loose, St Ambrose writes; heresy cannot do this. They can, Origen reminds us, forgive only that which God will forgive. The Spirit, St Cyril writes, bestows on them the transformative power of ordination and provides them with the divine strength they will need for their mission. But to those to whom is given such great power, there comes also, as St Gregory the Great wrote, tremendous responsibility.
Here Christ establishes His Church, which, through faith, is with us, as He promised it would be – to the ending of the age.