The Lord has risen, Alleluia! The Word, Alleluia, has returned after being absent for forty days. Rejoicing is again permitted. I love the way that the gospel writers describe the resurrection. They write it as they had witnessed it. Their description is not as a light suddenly being flicked from off to on. They do not write in the language of a twenty-first century scientist. They do not write in the style of a mystery writer, or fiction writer either. They write more as a first century follower of Christ recording their memories, and observations, and emotions , in a journal or diary. They give an account of their lives, of what they saw and felt, what they discussed, and what they wanted to remember. Their description of the resurrection is fleeting and flickering as a candle flame. Their witness of that resurrection is different from our celebration. They witness a Christ who could not be confined to death, we celebrate that same Christ they taught us about. For them Christ’s resurrection was difficult to describe but important to record, while for us it occurs on a specific day that is known well in advance. We think we know what will happen, they had no idea what was to occur.
The Easter vigil tries to capture that Easter experience witnessed by the first disciples. It begins in darkness outside the church, and slowly in the light of the Old Testament , begins to illuminate the church with a light being passed from one Paschal candle to the candles of the disciples. Each account and illumination brings a greater light to the church. Darkness is then conquered by the light. Light conquered darkness, and the New Testament unfolds out of the Old. On Christmas, Jesus Christ is born. On Easter, might what we experience be considered the birth of Christianity? It is on this day that our faith in Jesus Christ burst into the light. We celebrate Jesus Christ the only begotten Son of God, that Son which could not be confined or defeated by death, but lives for eternity and eternity has neither a beginning nor end.
One of the blessings of living in the northern woodlands is the Easter celebration illuminated by the season of spring. Here though still cold, the snow has begun to recede and the smallest flickers of life are beginning to appear. The sounds of birds calling are beginning to become more prevalent, and wild life is beginning to dash about. Warm fronts are winning their battle against the cold. Winter has not yet let go its grip, but it is obvious a major change is occurring. The changing of seasons here does not occur in an instant or a day. The seasons unfold gradually, and spring eventually triumphs over winter. Interesting how many symbols of nature are part of the Easter experience. The egg and the symbol of life bursting from a tomb. The rabbit as a sign of spring and again of life. They are symbols of nature that light has gained victory over darkness. The early disciples also had their symbols of Christ’s resurrection. They saw the stone rolled away. They saw the shroud removed and the face veil set aside. Symbols of their Lord gaining victory over death. They recognized him at breakfast in Galilee. Galilee is where they became fishers of men. They recognized Him in the breaking of bread at a common meal. They recognize Him on the river Jordan and the seas of Galilee, baptismal sights, sites, and waters. They recognize in those places in those places that Jesus Christ has conquered death, that He has truly risen. Their account of the resurrection, is it as difficult to describe as light gaining victory over darkness, of winter giving way to spring. Truly witnessed though difficult to capture with words is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
As a final thought, look at the resurrection illuminated by the seasons. Seasons reoccur after all, we witness the same season many times over a lifetime. We approach Easter the same way too. It is a resurrection that is illuminated through experience and understanding. Its light grows brighter with time. It is the victory of light over darkness, the victory of Jesus the Christ. It is a resurrection every year I have the privilege of experiencing anew. Its light grows brighter just as it did for those first disciples encountering their risen Lord…