During the Night
The Easter Vigil
Rosary Monastery, St. Ann’s
23 April 2011
“And there, coming to meet them, was Jesus.”
I can remember as a young man in seminary, 22 or 23 years old, being very much perplexed by the insistence of one of my scripture professors hammering home again and again in class that the appearances of the Risen Christ were more important than the fact that the women and Peter and John saw the empty tomb early in the morning on Easter Sunday, saw and believed… I never really understood his insistence.
I guess it must have been one of those academic/professorial things, like dissecting frogs in biology class. There are certainly lessons to be learned from looking at the parts, but a frog is a frog when it’s alive and hopping around with all of its parts. Any child could tell you that the empty tomb was a great surprise and terribly important, but the whole message comes through as we have it from the Gospel: “And there, coming to meet them, was Jesus.” Empty Tomb and Risen Christ: no child would ever separate them; together they tell the story; together they make that good news which is more than just one alleluia worth.
Sadly, we really can, just like the absent minded professor of the comedy, get out of touch or miss the bigger picture of things. Our Lenten penance and our meditation on the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ in this Holy Week are meant to bring us to the joy of this night, to the tenuous light of the Easter candle, to the simple but oh so profound joy, exultation really, of learning that the tomb is empty “And there, coming to meet them, was Jesus.”
The strife is ore, the battle done, now is the victor’s triumph won…. Alleluia, as the old Easter hymn goes. Easter must be seen for what it is in all its glory: more than a remembrance or recalling, Easter is an actual victory and victory celebration. Easter is now and it is everything, because in the Resurrection of Jesus the whole scene changes, the script for the play of humanity is definitively rewritten, not so much for the sake of a new and happy ending, but as a launch into that which is beyond time.
The world around us is way too much here and now. Maybe that’s why in terms of sentiment even for Christians (and I say this sadly), maybe that’s why even for Christians Easter takes a sentimental second place to Christmas and the Baby in the manger. Our faith in the Son of God become man like us in all things but sin, offered up upon the Cross for our salvation, risen gloriously on the third day, breaking the bonds of Hell, this is our faith! It is anything but everyday, anything but a recipe for healthy and happy living. The world, the universe, everything but everything is changed because Jesus has won for us the victory over sin and death. Alleluia, He is Risen as He said! Alleluia!