Sermon by St. Gregory the Pope
Dearly beloved brethren, the portion of the Holy Gospel which hath just now been read in your ears, is exceeding simple on the face of it, which is its historical sense; but the mystic sense, which underlieth that other, requireth from us a little searching. Mary Magdalene came unto the Sepulchre when it was yet dark. The historic sense telleth us what was the hour of the day; the mystic sense, the state of her understanding who sought. Mary Magdalene sought for him, by whom all things were made, and whom she had seen die, as concerning the flesh; she sought for him, I say, in the grave, and finding him not, she believed that he had been stolen away. Yea, it was yet dark, when she came unto the sepulchre. Then she ran and told the disciples, but they who had loved him most, namely Peter and John, did outrun the others.
So they ran both together, but John did outrun Peter, and came first to the Sepulchre, but yet took he not upon himself to go in first. Then cometh Peter following him, and went in. What, my brethren, what did the racing of these Apostles signify? Can we believe that the description given by the deepest of the Evangelists is without a mystic interpretation? By no means. John had never told how that he did outrun Peter, and yet went not into the Sepulchre, if he had not believed that his hesitation veiled some mystery. What signifieth John but the Synagogue? or Peter, but the Church?
Neither must ye take it as strange that the elder Apostle should represent the Church, and younger the Synagogue: for although the Synagogue was first to worship God, yet the herd of Gentiles is in the world older than the Synagogue, as witnesseth Paul where he saith: That was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural. By Peter, then, who was the elder, is signified the Church of the Gentiles; and by John, who was the younger, the Synagogue of the Jews. They run both of them together, for from the time of her birth until now (and so will it be until the end), the Church of the Gentiles hath run in a parallel road and manywise a common road with the Synagogue, albeit not with equal understandings. The Synagogue came first to the Sepulchre, but she hath not yet entered in; for, though she hath received the commandments of the law, and hath heard the Prophets tell of the Incarnation and Passion of the Lord, she will not believe in him who died for her.