I’ll confess that I get a little emotional at the Easter Vigil. It is one of the few times every year that I can feel confident even before the Mass begins that the liturgy is going to truly be a celebration. The freedom to proclaim ‘Alleluia’ again after a drawn out Lent and a somber Good Friday overwhelms me with joy, even when there are no baptisms or confirmations taking place. The flame, the bells, and the change from darkness to light only augment the experience. The excitement this can generate may help us enter into the joy of each disciple’s first encounter with the Risen Lord, but we must remember that this is only one part of the Easter experience.
Easter joy is real, but so is the Easter sorrow of Mary Magdalene when she thinks that Jesus’ body has been stolen. So is Easter confusion as Cleopas and his companion fail to recognize Jesus on the way to Emmaus, even though they are face to face with him. Thomas famously experiences Easter doubt, and the disciples gathered in the upper room on the day of Pentecost are huddled in Easter fear until the Holy Spirit comes upon them. All of the Resurrection accounts begin with those who experience the absence of the dead Jesus—only through divine intervention to they come to enjoy the presence of the Risen Christ. Easter had already begun when the disciples spent all night fishing without anything to show for it; they entered into Easter anew when the disguised Jesus told them to try one last time and led them to haul in a huge catch.
Easter was not experienced once and for all by every single disciple at the same time, but rather the mystery of Easter gradually unfolded itself through distinct revelations experienced by each individual disciple at distinct moments in time, both then and now. Many of us need to experience Resurrection several times before its reality finally takes hold of us.
Roman occupation was no less brutal three days after the Resurrection than it had been three days before it. What Christ revealed through his rising however, and what the Holy Spirit confirmed at Pentecost was that the powers of this world do not have the final say, even over life and death.
About 250 people died in the bombing in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. Three of them were current students of Marist schools, and several others were either graduates or the parents of students. While we can pray and believe in faith that they have experienced Resurrection, we know that such consolation is much farther away for the living who mourn them. Even those of us who live far removed from dramatic violence still have loved ones who suffer illness, financial burdens that don’t let up, or wounded relationships that still haven’t healed.
So what has Easter changed after all?
This has been a complicated Easter so far—we celebrate Resurrection while also grieving the deaths of those who were celebrating with us. The “ear candy” this week is a 2002 David Bowie song that depicts transformation in an unsettling way: This is presented most poignantly by the contradictory lines sung one after the other, “And nothing has changed, everything has changed.” Yet amid the somber melody and lyrics, hope is also expressed, even if in a tentative and longing way. This week’s “brain food” is a reflection by an author living in southern India regarding how to respond to the tragedies that continue to challenge us.
Ear Candy: “Sunday” by David Bowie
Brain Food: “Notre Dame, Sri Lanka, and the Christian Faith: Making Light Shine in Dark Places” by Vijay Jayaraj
Come back next Saturday for a new post!