The Resurrection, del Garbo, Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence, Italy.
On the first day of the week,
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb. John 20:1.
On this day of days in the Christian calendar, our Greek Christian brothers and sisters greet each other with Χριστός ἀνέστη! and the response is Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη! or Christ is risen! Truly he is risen! – all so much closer to the occasion than the rather lame “Happy Easter” don’t you think? The word Easter isn’t even Christian in origin, probably the name of a pagan goddess; almost all other European languages base this feast day name on the Jewish feast of the Passover, the time when the Resurrection happened. Hence in French it is Pâques, Italian, Pasqua, Russian, Paskha, Swedish, Påsk, and so on. Sad the early English didn’t do the same! No matter; this is still the turning point of human history, with the conquest of our oldest and strongest foe, death itself. Here was the fulfillment of all the prophecies of a Messiah who will conquer all evil, one who returns to us as supreme victor. And note, not one word of the cataclysmic event is recorded in any of the four gospels, simply an empty tomb, the stone rolled away. Indeed, the original ending of Mark’s gospel concludes with that discovery. It is enough, it would seem, to state simply that he is no longer dead; the tomb is empty, he has risen. This single event gives credence to all of Jesus’ teaching and example. Do as I do, speak as I speak, and eternal life is yours. The pain, betrayal, dishonesty and despair of this life have gone forever. The life Jesus lives, and invites us to do the same, is one of blessedness, the ultimate meaning of which is simply happiness.
Dominican Sisters of Peace, oppeace.org
Now remember that Jesus’ message more often than not began with the expression “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…..” That was usually followed by a parable. The meaning of the initial phrase would seem to be pretty obvious. Do whatever is demonstrated in the parable, and heaven is present now. In a sense, Jesus offers us a taste of what is to come if we follow his teachings, that we can have a foretaste of the eternal happiness of heaven right here and now amid the stresses and strains of daily life. So we are offered a preliminary resurrection moment, perhaps. So, for example, if we follow the parable of the talents, and identify and develop the gifts each of us was given by God at birth, and then use them in the service of God by serving others, there is happiness – blessedness – there which is a foretaste of heaven! Now all the parables put together just about cover most of life’s experiences, so if we follow them religiously, as it were, we walk with God, and the presence of God is a definition of heaven! And today’s crowning event is the proof, if you like, of that teaching. Even death cannot conquer a life lived in the presence of God.
And so today is the Christian event of events, the crowning victory of good over evil, of life over even death. It is the reason Christians are Christian. We follow a person who walked with God, did nothing against God’s will, was condemned and suffered unjustly for doing exactly that, refused to change one iota of his belief or claims and to his dying breath, against all the evidence, believed there was goodness and love in this world. We, following his footsteps as closely as possible, and aided by the presence of his Holy Spirit in prayer and the Eucharist, have every reason to believe we too will achieve life eternal.
Χριστός ἀνέστη! Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη!
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