Br. Luke Ditewig assures us that Jesus Christ comes; the question is not “if” but “how.” In what “surprising yet ordinary” ways have you noticed God calling your name? How might looking for God in the ordinary make you more aware of God’s presence already taking place in your life?
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Alleluia! Christ is Risen!
CHRIST IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!!
The psalmist says that “weeping may spend the night, but joy comes in the morning!” (Ps. 30:5) And there is no more joyous morning for Christian people than this morning, the morning of Resurrection!
Through Lent and Holy Week, we have symbolically passed through a “night of weeping” in which we followed Jesus on the Way of suffering and death so that we might share with him the joy that comes on this morning! We are disciples of this Way that he both lived and taught – the way of dying and rising. We have identified ourselves with him, and with this Way – and we have found it to be the Way that leads to Life!
Click here to view a gallery of images from the Great Vigil of Easter 2012.
Today is the glorious culmination of these days of Holy Week. Today, our Lord Jesus Christ has been raised gloriously from the dead. Alleluia!
It was still very early in the morning, Luke tells us, with just the first streaks of dawn, when Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the other women, came to the tomb in order to carry out the last offices of love for their beloved Jesus, and to embalm his body with their spices.
The year was 1922. The place Kiev, in the Soviet Union. There was to be a great anti-religious rally to be addressed by the revered Soviet politician and orator Nikolai Bukharin. Thousands had arrived to listen to his words. He stood up and spoke for over an hour – preaching atheism, pouring scorn on those who believed in God. Finally he sat down, and the chairman asked if there were any questions. There was silence.
But then, a man stood up near the back. He was elderly, with a beard, and dressed in the robes of an Orthodox monk. Slowly he made his way to the front, passing row upon row of people, until he reached the front, and climbed up slowly onto the stage, and turned to the silent, expectant crowd.
“Something strange is happening.”[i] Something strange is happening. We hear those words read at the mid day service here at the monastery on Holy Saturday at the culmination of Holy Week as we sit in this bare chapel wondering what is next. We have shouted our hosannas and screamed our crucify; we have been over powered by the scent of the nard used to anoint the feet of the Lord in that home at Bethany and we have shared in the meal of bread and wine and watched as our feet have been washed; we have followed the crowd as it made its way through Jerusalem on its way to Calvary and there we watched Him die. With the disciples we saw him hastily buried by Joseph and Nicodemus. And then we waited; lost, afraid, despairing and bewildered until we heard those first alleluias on Easter Day. Yes, something strange indeed is happening. And something strange continues to happen.
First there was word from two of the Mary’s that his body was missing and then the breathless Magdalene arrived to tell us that she has seen him alive. Peter and John confirmed this strange news and it was too wild a story to take it all in when suddenly Cleopas bust into the room breathless from his six mile walk telling us that they too had seen the Lord.
“Look upon him and be radiant, and let not your faces be ashamed.” Psalm 34:5
At the Easter Vigil, during the pre-dawn darkness, we announce Christ’s resurrection by first kindling a New Fire, lighting the great Paschal Candle, and proclaiming repeatedly: “The light of Christ!” “The light of Christ!” “The light of Christ!” Fire is a powerful symbol. Fire provides warmth for the body and a hearth for food. Fire provides light, and without electricity, fire and light are both alike. In the scriptures, the symbols of fire and light are often used interchangeably. The psalmist writes, “Your word is a lantern to my feet and a light upon my path.”[i] And, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?”[ii] For the people of Israel during the years of Exodus, the glory of the Lord, shone in the Shekinah: a pillar of fire which guided the people by night.[iii] In the ancient Jewish Feast of Booths, a great candelabra was lighted in the Temple at Jerusalem on the first day, and there followed great processions with the faithful carrying torches in hand, not unlike what is done here and in so many places early Easter morning. We do this in memory of God who is light, in whom there is no darkness at all.[iv] And so, it is no surprise that the long-awaited Messiah was anticipated as a light-bearer.[v] Jesus even said of himself that he is “the light of the world”: the fire of light, the fire of love.[vi]
We have this old phrase, “misery loves company.” Peter and the Beloved Disciple were keeping company in their misery, but not for the same reasons. The Beloved Disciple was grief stricken over the horrendous crucifixion of his dearest friend, Jesus, with whom he had stayed until it was finished. Peter, on the other hand, was frightened and appalled by his own betrayal of Jesus, whom he had denied and abandoned from the bitter outset. The two disciples were together but in very different places when they hear the news from Mary Magdalene that Jesus’ body is gone. They run towards the tomb independently, no surprise. The Beloved Disciple would be ecstatic, remembering Jesus’ promise that if he were killed, he would come back to life; he would be resurrected. Peter, on the other hand, would be in agony. He, too, had heard Jesus’ prediction about his resurrection. But Jesus’ resurrection for Peter would be so very, very difficult because of his having to face Jesus. Peter would need to ask Jesus’ forgiveness… again. Not that Jesus would not forgive Peter, but that he would, as Jesus had undoubtedly forgiven him so many times before. How many times had Jesus forgiven Peter already? More than Peter could imagine.[i] You may recall Jesus had renamed Peter “his rock,” not just because he was so strong, but because he was so hard-headed.[ii] Peter here is running in very familiar territory as he races to Jesus’ tomb, only this time it’s much worse. This time, Peter has crossed a line; he now is more a follower of Judas and than Jesus.