While society makes much of Easter Day and largely from the perspective of bunnies and chocolate and springtime, it is for Christians the first day of 50 in which we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter is the Feast of the Victory of our God, the Festival of Gladness, the Spring of Souls, “our joy that hath no end” (205, Common Praise). As often as we gather, we greet one another saying, “Alleluia! Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!”
Our joy in the Resurrection is rooted in the message of an angel to some women who come to anoint the body of the crucified Lord. Seeing that the stone is rolled away, the tomb is empty and the grave clothes are lying there in a heap, they hear that angel say, “He is not here, he has risen”. (Luke 24:5) The angel goes on to say, “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over…and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” (Luke 24:6)
Our joy in the Resurrection is also grounded in numerous accounts of the Lord’s appearing to his followers. Each one is marked by a greeting, a deep communion of hearts, and then a commission.
Mary Magdalene hears him call her by name. As her mourning is turned into joy, the Lord commissions her as Apostle to the Apostles.
Jesus shows the disciples his hands and side, and they are glad. As he speaks a word of peace, he also says, “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21)
Thomas is invited to touch the wounds of Jesus and to believe and doubt no more. In an instant, he leaves the gloomy haunts of sadness and knows himself to be among the others who would bear witness to the Resurrection.
Peter is given opportunity to undo his denial of Jesus in a three-fold confession of love and with that confession, he is commissioned by the Risen Lord to shepherd the Church.
A couple of disciples heading for Emmaus are unknowingly accompanied by Jesus. He opens the Scriptures and teaches them all the things concerning the Messiah. Then he breaks bread at the inn, and their hearts burn within them as they go back to Jerusalem to tell the others.
These are the stories we hear throughout these 50 days of Easter. And then of course, there are the stories of countless others of whom the Risen Lord says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe”. (John 20:29) I am glad to be numbered in that company, as indeed I am sure you are. I am deeply conscious too of the truth that we have been drawn into this company by a host of others who have touched our lives through the example of their own faith and devotion to the Lord. Many of them walk with us and yet many more have gone before us. Let us not forget that these are their festal days too!
Our joy in the Risen Lord is sustained by his very presence in every Eucharist. We taste the Living Bread and know his promise that “whoever eats this bread will live forever”. (John 6: 51) We drink the Wine of Resurrection and our thirst is quenched. Like those first disciples who rejoiced in their moment of a joyous communion with Him, so do we. We know too that as he sent them into the world to bear witness to his resurrection so he send us. This commission to be ambassadors of his liberating word, his reconciling love, his gospel of life immerses us in the joys and struggles of the world. It calls us to the task of ushering in a new order marked by compassion, justice, and peace for all people, a new era marked by a deeper reverence for our common home the Earth itself.
The Resurrection is such a Holy Mystery, as is our life within it, that I am ever grateful that Easter is indeed for us not one, but 50 days!
Let us then rejoice and be glad for “Christ the Lord is risen, our joy that hath no end.” (205, Common Praise)
Archbishop Fred Hiltz
The Anglican Church of Canada
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