Written on: May 5, 2014
Easter is a season, not just a day – a season celebrating life coming out of death: resurrection. At Orthodox Christian Churches and at the Roman Catholic parish I attend in Camden whenever I can, three times the priest shouts: Christ is risen! And we respond joyfully: Indeed He is risen!
All our life we work at believing this essential mystery of our faith and the corresponding truth that follows, namely, that our death, too, will ultimately lead to new life. What a hope! What a promise! All of us who have lost loved ones know when we see that lifeless body in the casket how hard it is to imagine we will somehow one day be reunited. In these post-modern times, it may seem to the “enlightened” that the idea of resurrection from the dead or life after death is pure myth. And yet . . .
In this hemisphere, the Easter season brings so many natural signs of that possibility. After a snowy cold winter, we are seeing all that seemed dead and gone after the snow melted now rising, budding, flowering with new life. Even the weeds are testifying to the possibility of life after death. All those seeds that were buried break open and push up out of the “tomb” of earth, showing that dying is not the end. The life cycle of the caterpillar/butterfly is another parallel to what Christians believe about death and life. That caterpillar entering into the cocoon seems to be enduring death – letting go of life as she knew it. Yet, we know that what emerges is a new creature – a beautiful symbol of the transformation we hope will be ours after we enter into the final cocoon of our lives.
There are smaller resurrection experiences of our lives, too – times when everything seemed dark and lost; times when days of sadness seemed to be forever. And then one day we found ourselves able to hope again, to love again, to get up and try again, in a sense, to be alive again. It might be the experience of reconciliation with a loved one after a hateful, spiteful silence or hurt. It could be finding the way back from grief after a necessary and agonizing period of mourning.
Sometimes, a whole family or community has to come to understand what the Christian scriptures recount the angels said to those who looked for Jesus in the tomb – “Why are you looking for Jesus among the dead? He is not here. He is risen!” Witness the young man addicted to prescription drugs or crack cocaine whose family and friends finally see him in recovery — they no longer look for him “among the dead”. The village that suffered for years the fear and hopelessness of war-ravaged streets can relate to the scriptural Thomas’ reluctance to believe. Afraid to trust after all the horrors they have seen, they need to touch the wounds, articulate the anguish – so as to believe finally in the possibility of peace and reconciliation.
During these 50 days of Easter season, we Christians hear again the stories of Jesus’ appearances to his friends after he rose from the dead. We know the stories and the characters – Peter and John; Mary Magdalene; the faithful women; the two walking home from Jerusalem to Emmaus; the disciples who went fishing – and we pray for a deeper faith in this Jesus who we hear is risen and still with us. We try to recognize all the ways that God shows us in nature and in the universe, in relationships and experiences, that something vibrant and hope-filled can follow suffering and even death. We proclaim our belief and ask God to help us in times of unbelief — Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!
Sr. Eileen White is a frequent contributor to From A Faith Perspective published in the Bucks Courier Times. She ministers at Dawn’s Place, a home for women who have been victims of Human Trafficking.