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In the Liturgical Year of the Catholic Church we are in the “Octave” of Easter. The word means eight. This “Feasts of Feasts” as the early Christians called the Resurrection, stretches out for eight days. It was on the first day of the week that Jesus was raised from the dead and began the new creation. The early Christians called it the “Eighth Day”, because it was the day outside of time.
Not only do we celebrate Easter for eight days with special liturgies which set forth the wonderful post resurrection appearances of Jesus, but we continue this celebration for fifty days until Pentecost! That is because Easter is more than a day, it is a WAY of living our lives now in the Risen Savior by living in His Body, the Church, through which he continues His redemptive mission until His glorious return.
Life is different now because He has been raised! That tomb was … and is empty. Death could not contain Crucified, poured out Love. The debt has been paid, the last enemy death has been defeated and heavens gates have been opened wide. Because He lives we shall live forever in Him. There is a glorified Resurrected Savior seated at the “right hand” of the Father and He holds a place for you and for me!
Through taking on our human nature He did what we could not do for ourselves. He suffered the penalty for all the wrong choices, the sins, the misused and abused exercises of our human freedom. He bridged the gap that had opened wide between the Father, who had created us for eternal communion, and the sons and daughters who had rejected His invitation. He restored us to a higher place now, through His obedience unto death, even death on a Cross. Now, the stone is rolled away and we live in Him.
In His sacred humanity, He transformed the entirety of the human experience and invites us all into a new way of life, beginning right here, right now. This Easter way leads us to fullness of life now and eternal life and love in the world to come. He has torn the veil that existed between heaven and earth and opened up the beauty and hope of eternity for all who were once bound by the chains of time. He has given purpose, meaning and destination to the lost sheep wandering aimlessly in empty self pursuits.
He carries forward the redemptive promise through time in and through His Body on earth, His church, into which we have been baptized and of which we are now members. All of our tomorrows, however many (or few) there may be in this life, can now be filled with redemptive purpose… if we choose to live them “in Him.” We can find the meaning and purpose of eternity revealed in the temporal realities of every today and tomorrow.
The real “stuff” of our mundane daily lives can become the ingredients of our own sanctification and the materials out of which the new creation is fashioned around us. The materials have not changed; we have, because He lives now in us. There is nothing we face alone now, no tomorrow that is not now redeemed and made new in the One who is timeless but who, out of love, came into time to redeem and transform it!
Life for a Christian is not circular but linear. It is always moving forward to fulfillment in Him, both personally and universally. There is a beginning – and an end – which is but a new beginning in the One who is Himself both the Beginning and the End. Time is now purposeful and unfolds into eternity, in Him who has entered time and transformed it by His life, death and Resurrection.
The dirt, the ground, which was fashioned through Him, and upon which He breathed and came forth the first man, that ground upon which He walked in His earthly mission and into which they placed His sacred, lifeless Body, that ground could not contain Him; when the time had fully come it opened and He Rose victorious from the dead!
That Glorious Day, the “first day” of the week, the first day of the new creation, the Day that the early Christians called the “Eighth Day”; is outside of time. It is the portal to eternity. He was the firstborn and we follow now in His trail. He began the new creation and is making all things new now, within us and around us. “Be not afraid” He cries out as the stone bursts forth. “Be gone fear” He manifests the light that dispels all the darkness! “Fear is useless, what is needed is trust.”
The author of that ancient letter to the Hebrews, uncovered the root of all fear, the fear of death: “Now since the children share in blood and flesh, he likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life. (Hebrews 2:14-15)”.
All fear is gone now. Death has been dealt a fatal blow because He lives. Through sin, death came into the world, and now through the Sinless One it has been vanquished. No longer an enemy it becomes a friend, an ally, to those who choose to live in the One who lives! No longer need it be an end. Rather, it becomes a new beginning for those who choose to hide their lives in His wounded side and live their lives joined to Him.
Nothing, nothing can separate us from that Love incarnated in the Crucified, Risen Son of the True and Living God, nothing. There is nothing to fear! I am free from fear because He lives!
The empty angst so evident in much of the contemporary human experience reveals the presence of a gaping hole in the human soul. It has been there since the first wrong choice in Eden. Though some of the bad fruit may be contemporary in its expression, this emptiness is no different than the hole in the soul experienced by the ancients.
Nothing but God can satisfy that hunger in the human heart, that aching for meaning and purpose. No- thing can fill that hole – but only Someone. Pascal wrote of this hole in the soul as a “God shaped vacuum”. St. Augustine of Hippo expressed this universally experienced sentiment, “Our hearts are restless God until they rest in Thee.” We were created for purpose. We were created for meaning. We were created for Love. We were created for relationship. We were created for God.
He alone makes life worth living. When we strive to embrace the implications of that empty tomb, then and only then, will we be ready for eternity. The events that we remembered and celebrate during these Holy Days provide a framework, a “hermeneutic” of meaning for everything that happens now in the stuff of our daily life, if we let them! Even suffering, especially in the lives of those who follow this One who has been raised, now takes on value – redemptive, life transforming value, because He has been raised.
In the Catholic Church we speak of the “Paschal mystery” when referring to the Saving Incarnation, Life, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ. To the ancients, the word “mystery” referred to that which is beyond our frail capacity to be fully grasped- because of our finite limitations and the limitations of language. It spoke to eternity. So does the Resurrection. The mystery of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ grasps us and changes us through its very dynamic unfolding in our own daily lives -if we embrace it in faith and live it in fact every day. The empty tomb makes us new. The empty tomb makes the whole world new!