Reading : Saint John 20 v 1
Christ is Risen. Alleluia, Alleluia! The Lord is Risen indeed.
The Church’s ancient proclamation captures something of the joy and the excitement of this day. But, make no mistake, the Resurrection is not some sort of clap-happy event, a happy ending to an otherwise sad and bitter tale. No. The joy and the excitement of Easter are born out of the Passion and Death of Christ. “Now from the grave wake poetry again”, as Dante puts it, signaling that sense of new birth and the re-orientation of our souls to God that follows upon the contemplation of death. No Passion. No Resurrection. The intensity of the Passion gives rise to the joyfulness of the Resurrection, to the music of human redemption played out in human lives.
The Resurrection is a bodily event. But it gives rise to a new understanding of everything. There is, we might say, a resurrection of the understanding. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is, as I am fond of saying, radical new life. Radical is the right word, actually. It refers to the root of things, the radix. The Resurrection goes to the root of all life itself. That root is the reciprocal love of the Son for the Father in the bond of the Holy Spirit.
The God who creates ex nihilo - out of nothing - recreates out of the greater nothingness of sin and death. The Cross makes visible that greater nothingness. The full force of sin and evil are revealed in the crucified Christ. The greater nothingness is the vanity of our wills as against everything that is good - against one another in the human community, against the good order of creation, and, ultimately, against God himself. But the Cross also makes visible the far greater love of God both for us and in itself.
If the message of Good Friday is that God is dead, then the message of Easter is that death is conquered, death is dead. “Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more;/death hath no more dominion over him”. Christ is risen from the dead never to die again. The meaning of death itself is changed. The tomb is not only empty; it has become the womb of new life. The unending life of the Resurrection is accomplished in and through the darkness and the silence of death. But now, Christ is Risen! There is music and light, poetry and life.
The Cross is the visible sign. The Resurrection is its invisible reality. We see Christ crucified. We look on him whom we have pierced. We behold him dead. But his rising to life again - that is something hid from our eyes. Like creation itself, we know it only by its effects. We see only after the fact, as it were. We know it by Word - by the understanding of Faith and not by sense experience.
We proclaim the Resurrection only by way of the Word of witnesses in the witness of the Scriptures. There is the silent witness of the empty tomb. There is the salutation of the angels. There is the message of Mary Magdalene and, above all else, there is the witness of the Risen Christ. His Resurrection is something which he wants us to know. He is the Word made flesh now risen from the dead. “A spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have”. The bodily reality of Christ is more, not less and so the Resurrection for us is more and not less.
The Christian doctrine of the Resurrection of the Body affirms, in the strongest possible way, the reality of our humanity, soul and body. We are soul and body. The body is not nothing, to be cast off and treated with contemptuous disdain. It is not everything, to be sure, rather our bodies are something and they belong to the distinctiveness of our individuality. They are part and parcel of who we are. We are not disembodied spirits. We are not soulless bodies. We are souls with bodies. What we shall be cannot be said with any degree of certainty - death is, after all, on the other side of individual experience - but it is enough to say that “we shall be like [Christ]”, indeed, more than enough. His Resurrection shows us the form of our resurrection. We shall be more and not less than ourselves. The body is not and cannot be left out of the equation of redemption. Salvation is accomplished in the body; “caro est cardo salutis” – “the flesh is the hinge of salvation” (Tertullian).
The greater point is that the God who made us for himself has restored us to himself. We have our end in God but only through the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. That ‘end’ is also our life here and now. We live the Resurrection in the body of Christ, the Church. We are identified with him in his Death and Resurrection. His Death and Resurrection become the pattern of our lives - the constant dying to ourselves and the continual living to God. This is our song.
For in that he died, he died unto sin once:/but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.
Jesus the Son of God has given his life for us so that his life might live in us. That life is the life of the Resurrection. It is about “living unto God”. It is the life that has taken death into itself and overcome it. Death has been transformed into a way and not an end. Out of the grave comes life and music.
By the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, not only are we made adequate to the life of God, we also participate in the life of God now. The radical meaning of Christ’s Resurrection is that the life of God lives in us. We arise to walk in the ways which he has prepared for us to walk in, the ways of service and sacrifice, the ways of prayer and praise, the ways of joy and gladness. In a way, it is what our liturgy celebrates, namely, the music of God in us, God making his music through us, the music of the resurrection. “Now from the grave wake poetry again”.
Rise heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him mayst rise:
Nowhere, perhaps, is that made clearer for us than in the baptism of Lindsay Marie Sangster. Her baptism is a strong reminder of our identity in Christ through his death and resurrection. We are joined to him and we live from him in his love for the Father. It means rebirth, a being born anew into life with God. Lindsay’s baptism on Easter Day provides the occasion for the renewal of our baptismal vows, the renewal of our life with God.
The Resurrection does not extinguish the past confusions of our lives but redeems the past of sin and sorrow into the way of salvation. The things of sin and sorrow are an integral part of the music of our redemption. Again, it is what Jesus shows us in his risen body. The wounds of his crucifixion, the marks of our sinfulness, are not erased; they are transformed into the marks of glory, and even into the notes of joy. As Herbert puts it,
The crosse taught all wood to resound his name,
Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.
(George Herbert, Easter)
The point is that Christ makes musical harmony even out of the discords of our hearts and lives. In him, poetry and music arise even out of the grave of human sin and death. The Resurrection would place our lives in the love of the Son for the Father in the bond of the Holy Spirit; it is the life which shall not end, provided we live it, provided we let Christ’s music sing in us. His is all the music on this day.
Christ is Risen. Alleluia, Alleluia! The Lord is Risen indeed.
Father Ed Bakker