Grace and peace to you,
As this video is being released, it is sundown, at the end of Holy Saturday. It is the Vigil of Easter and the first celebrations of Easter begin now. . .with new fire, light, and exultation.
Again this year, most of us, including me, are not able to be in all the places we want to be, or with all the people we want to be with, as we celebrate Easter. We have online offerings, thank God, and some have our loved ones with us to pray and celebrate at home. We’re almost through this pandemic but this third wave is still very dangerous. So, we wait a bit longer, and we remain vigilant a bit longer. Remaining vigilant is part of keeping vigil, on this night. Keeping “awake” to all of the danger and possibility. . . keeping careful watch.
Sometime in the darkness of the night leading into Sunday morning, Jesus was raised up from the dead. Released from the grip of real death. Liberated from the tomb. He had descended to the dead, our creeds proclaim, perhaps to deliver the good news to them first. He descended to the lower places, to the profound depth of the depths. And then he was raised up to life, never to die again.
It was an empty tomb, an empty cave, that did the talking that morning. Along with the messengers who directed the disciples to turn, to turn towards his new presence. The first inclination, in the confusing dark of such an early morning, the first response, is to “run away”! This event did NOT make sense. They ran away quickly from the tomb – with great fear and great joy – “terror and ecstasy” had gripped them.
The resurrection story – is a narrative of shock and amazement, of disorientation. One of the things that makes these stories so believable is that sense of unexpectedness – the disciples didn’t come to the empty tomb and say, “Well, of course he’s alive; just like he said.” As Rowan Williams has preached about ten years ago: “They arrive never having really believed that their Lord would return from death, and now they find themselves in a disturbing new world where anything is possible; and so bright is the light in this new morning that even the familiar face of Jesus becomes unrecognizable. But they were ‘filled with joy’ when they saw Jesus among them. They have been jolted out of the rut of what is usual and predictable – and joy springs on them without warning.
What was it like for those first few hours after the empty tomb had been found, after Mary Magdalene had delivered her breathless message? It must have been a period of alarming uncertainty, half hope, half terror; which of us would really rejoice at the prospect of a miracle that would make us rethink most of what we had taken for granted? But into that chaos, steps a figure before whose face ‘the questions fade away’ – and joy arrives, irresistibly. The world is even more dangerous and strange than before, the future is now quite unimaginable; but there is nothing that can alter the sheer effect of that presence.” (RW, Canterbury Easter 2011)
And as St. John Chrysostom preached about 1620 years ago:
“Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?
Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits
of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be Glory and Power
forever and ever. Amen!”