Well it’s true. In case you’re unsure how, carry on reading…
Everyone I’m sure has some memories of Holy Week celebrations. The liturgy of the Paschal Vigil itself is something surreal and when you add to that Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, you are left with liturgical celebrations that you just cannot forget.
When thinking of Holy week one cannot help, but recall the period of Lent; that long and arduous period of preparation, wherein we made a whole lot of resolutions and worked on ourselves (or did we? 😛 ).
At the end of those 40 days do we just land up with a night of celebration? We remember Lent so well, but Easter just goes away like the flames of the candles at Easter Vigil! Have we really encountered the Risen Christ and let the message of Easter soak in? When I look at the early Church, I am led to ask myself, “have I really internalized the meaning of Easter? The meaning of the Resurrection?”
Let’s take a look at the early Church and catch a few glimpses of the effect Easter had on them.
- The Disciples
Just put yourself in St. Peter’s shoes. Just imagine the guilt and the shame of denying our Lord. Imagine what each of the disciples might have gone through spiritually, emotionally, psychologically when confronted with the horrifying truth of the crucifixion. Imagine yourself there. What does it take to get from that bleak and defeating position to going out to the whole world and proclaiming the crucified Lord? Sheer will power?
Rabbi Pinchas Lapide rightfully thinks otherwise. In his book, “The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective” he says:
“…If the defeated and depressed group of disciples overnight could change into a victorious movement of faith, based only on autosuggestion or self-deception—without a fundamental faith experience—then this would be a much greater miracle than the resurrection itself…”
He is right. Encountering the resurrection was fundamental to the disciples.
The historical resurrection was not just something that strengthened the disciples, but was an integral part of their preaching. Some excerpts from the bible will help point this out:
In the very first sermon of the Church in which 3 people were cut to the heart and 3000 people converted, St. Peter proclaimed the risen Christ as the ‘Chosen One’ of God who fulfilled the Jewish scriptures:
“Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying – ‘He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.’ ” (Acts. 2:30-31 NRSV)
“he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm,’You are my Son; today I have begotten you.’ As to his raising him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way, ‘I will give you the holy promises made to David.’ Therefore he has also said in another psalm, ‘You will not let your Holy One experience corruption.’ ” (Acts 13:33-35 NRSV)”
“Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. (1 Cor. 15:12-14 NRSV)”
St. John Chrysostom in an Easter homily:
O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? Christ is risen and life is freed, Christ is risen and the tomb is emptied of the dead: for Christ, being risen from the dead, has become the Leader and Reviver of those who had fallen asleep. To Him be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.
Melito of Sardis pictured Jesus rising from the tomb and, in a loud voice, issuing this challenge:
“Who will contend against me? Let him stand before me.”
As can be seen from their preaching, the Resurrection was the strength of the early Church.
The Resurrection occurred on a Sunday, on the “first day of the week”. Christians were soon to recognize this as the “Lords day” and as the “day of Christians”.
“…Easter was the first and only feast in the earliest centuries of the Christian era, and every Sunday was celebrated as a mini- Easter”
So important it is to us Christians that every Sunday is a celebration of Easter. Saint Augustine went on to call Sunday a “sacrament of Easter”.
“…Every seven days, the Church celebrates the Easter mystery. This is a tradition going back to the Apostles, taking its origin from the actual day of Christ’s resurrection — a day thus appropriately designated ‘the Lord’s Day’.”
Going back to our original question – is Easter just forgotten after 40 days of Lent? The reality is anything but that.
Upcoming Sunday is then truly an opportunity for us to relive Easter!