“This Most Holy Night”
For us, Easter Eve is the Great Service of Easter, as Easter is the Great Feast of the Christian Year (my, my… look at all those capitalized words!). The long liturgy, with its many parts and meanings, would take far too long to summarize here, and would inevitably fall too far short of its subject. Perhaps it is proper instead to think about this feast is the words of two passages from the many Scriptures read last night.
Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
From the Gospel according to Luke:
Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.
The Resurrection of Christ is God's universal triumph over the power of death – what St. Paul elsewhere calls “the last enemy.” Through dying and rising with Christ in baptism, we share in that triumph. Each Easter is a fresh proclamation of this central truth of the Christian faith. There can be no compromise in this matter. Any form of “Christianity” which seeks to undermine, play down, or relegate to insignificance the Resurrection is a betrayal of all that which is truly “Good News” in the Gospel. Anything less than the Apostolic witness of Resurrection is a horrid clinging to death.
And it is to this which the angels in St. Luke’s account point: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Each time we try to conform the Gospel, the Church, its worship and teaching and practice to anything less than the total triumph of Christ as witnessed in the Gospel, we are “looking for the living among the dead.”
The Resurrection is not merely a “physical” event, like resuscitation. Nor is it a purely “spiritual” event, akin to an intellectual or emotional “epiphany.” It is not “natural” in the terms of our fallen nature, neither is it “supernatural,” in the sense of being a breaking of “rules” of the natural order. It is a supra-natural event, one in which the true nature of humanity is restored and revealed. The joy of Easter comes in large part from this fact: God in Christ has allowed us to assume our true dignity and purpose, making it both a physical and a spiritual event – because the complete human is both a physical and spiritual being in continuous communion with the Holy Trinity, not a partial being yoked to death.
With the Exultet, the Baptisms, the Proclamation of the Resurrection, and the first Eucharist of Easter, we are immersed – quite literally – into this reality. It will be our joy and care to contemplate this Paschal “fact” for the Great 50 Days of Easter. May the Light of the Risen Christ be our guide in this season… and for the rest of our lives.
Alleluia, Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!