The deacon read this gospel passage at the Vigil last night at St. Matthew's Cathedral:
Now after the sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Mag'dalene and the other Mary went to see the sepulchre. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. Lo, I have told you." So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.Here's my thought. Most of us Christians live in this the morning of the first day. By that I mean this: we Christians understand, mostly, that Jesus is risen from the dead. We even understand that we are (supposed to be) somehow united to him in some way. But we do not really understand what this all means. It makes us happy, kinda; it makes a little afraid, too. We are like the women, or Peter and the Beloved Disciple after them, staring into the empty tomb, confused and dazzled by the sunlight on the dawn of this new day in Christ. Everything is different now. We as individuals haven't all figured that out. Some among us have. Most of us kinda know things are supposed to be different now, but can't quite figure out what it means for our lives. My hunch is that we, as a whole Church, are somewhere along these lines. Among us there are some saints, radically transformed by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ in everything they do. There are others, who are bumbling about as if nothing happened, or worse, who have missed the point of God's love and are hanging themselves alongside Judas Iscariot. Mostly, we are in the middle somewhere. We are yearning for a new life that we have begun to live but to which we have not quite given ourselves over yet.
Jesus Christ has triumphed over death! The very worst thing that the powers of this world can do to their victims, their most very potent weapon, has been neutralized.
Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?Jesus Christ is the "first fruits" (1 Cor 15:23) of the resurrection. We will be the harvest.
1 Corinthians 15:55
The power of God has been fully unleashed in the resurrection of the Son of God. Now the tide is turned. Sin obstructs and obscures it, but only like a sandcastle obstructs the ocean: for a few minutes, and then the jig is up. Death's last blow will have been struck, and it will itself be dealt a death blow:
We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality.But what does all this mean for us here and now? What does the resurrection of Christ mean in the life of a Christian?
1 Corinthians 15:51-53
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.It is not only at the End, at the Resurrection of the Dead, that we shall be raised, but even here and now! Here and now if we live in Christ and let Him live in us, we can have His kind of life, a life that bears immense fruit - here and now:
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing... By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends... No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another.How are we to live in Christ and let Him live in us?
Jesus then said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world."We need to eat His flesh and drink His blood. But how can we do that ?
They said to him, "Lord, give us this bread always."
Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me; and him who comes to me I will not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me; and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day."
The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven." They said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, `I have come down from heaven'?"
Jesus answered them, "Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, `And they shall all be taught by God.' Every one who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that any one has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever."
Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins..."Baptism introduces us into the death and resurrection of Christ so that we can share in His life. The Eucharist brings us into the fullness of His life. It brings His life into us. This mystery is the great source of power of the Christian life. Never underestimate its power. By it, tyrants have been humbled, janitors have been made into great heroes, kingdoms of darkness have been made into harbors of peace, and martyrs have smiled at death. So brothers and sisters in Christ, let us not be afraid or confused by dazzling sunlight of the dawn of this, the First Day of a New Week. Instead, let us put on Christ, live His kind of life, and show the world a sort of love that transforms life, that is "stronger than death," (Song of Songs 8:6).