Theological Meditations, Uncategorized

The Logic of Easter

Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven. … Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her, ablaze with glory from her eternal King, let all the corners of the earth be glad, knowing an end to gloom and darkness. Rejoice, let Mother Church rejoice, arrayed with the lightning of His Glory. … This is the night, when Christ broke the prison-bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld. Our birth would have been no gain, had we not been redeemed. O wonder of Your humble care for us! O love, O charity beyond all telling, to ransom a slave You gave away Your Son! O necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the death of Christ! … This is the night, of which it is written, “The night shall be as bright as day, dazzling is the night for me, and full of gladness.” The sanctifying power of this night dispels wickedness, washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners, drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.

-The Exsultet

 

How can he who has died to sin yet live in it? Or are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His Death? We were indeed buried with Him into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the Glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.

-Romans 6:2-4

 

Let Christians offer sacrificial praises to the Passover Victim. The Lamb has redeemed the sheep: the innocent Christ has reconciled sinners to the Father. Life and death contended in a spectactular battle: the Prince of Life, Who died, reigns alive.

-Sequentia Prayers, Easter Sunday

 

 

 

Yesterday, Catholics throughout the world celebrated Easter, by far one of the most important holidays in the liturgical calendar. The Resurrection forms part of the lens through which we as Christians view all things. It attests to how the Cross was not God’s defeat at the hands of the forces of evil, but rather was God’s VICTORY over the forces of evil. As such, it is the promise of what lies ahead for those united to Christ’s Cross.

 

On the Easter Vigil Mass – the Mass celebrated the night before Easter – we read nine different readings, spanning the story of the Creation and the Fall, the Exodus, various Old Testament prophesies that point towards the Resurrection, a mediation on the Resurrection taken from one of the New Testament Epistles, and finally a Gospel account of the Resurrection. In contemplating these readings, those who attend Mass hear the entire story of our salvation – how man was created by God for the sake of union with God; that man’s relationship with God was severed by sin, which caused death to enter into the world; that God initiated His plan of salvation through the covenant with the People of Israel; and that this covenant pointed towards or prepared man for the Advent of Our Lord, Who, by His Incarnation, Death and Resurrection, conquered the forces of sin and death and bought for us by His Blood salvation.

 

Any one of these readings could be analyzed to give us a deeper understanding of the Resurrection. But, let us look at the Old Testament text that is often quoted the most when speaking of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, namely the Book of Exodus.

In the Exsultet (the prayer sung at the beginning of the Easter Vigil Mass), the one singing this hymn says, “These, then, are the feasts of Passover, in which is slain the Lamb, the One True Lamb, Whose Blood anoints the doorposts of believers. This is the night when once You led our forebears, Israel’s children, from slavery in Egypt and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.” In the lines immediately following that, it says, “This is the night that with a pillar of fire banished the darkness of sin. This is the night that, even now, throughout the world, sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices, and from the gloom of sin, leading them to grace and joining them to His holy ones.”

 

An obvious parallel is being drawn here. Israel’s slavery to Egypt represents our enslavement to sin. The Angel of Death that killed the firstborn of the Egyptians represents the destruction of sin. The lamb that was sacrifices represents Christ. The fact that the lamb’s blood was placed on the doorposts of the Israelites, which allowed them to be spared from the Angel of Death, represents how the Blood of Christ blesses the souls of believers, purifying them of their sin and setting them apart from the sinfulness of the Fallen state of creation, thereby allowing them to be spared the wrath of God.

 

It was only after this last and worst of the plagues that the Jews escaped Egypt. God leading the Israelites out of Egypt and to the Promised Land, which represents heaven, is symbolic for how Christ, through His Death and Resurrection, leads us out of the slavery of sin to the freedom of salvation.

 

But there is a specific part of the story that best summarizes what happened in the Death and Resurrection of Christ: the crossing of the Red Sea. The Red Sea served as an obstacle standing in between Egypt and the Promised Land. Likewise, sin serves as an obstacle separating us from God. Yet, God parted the Red Sea. Likewise, God provides us with a way out of our sin. But, how does God provide us with a way out of sin? We see the answer when we look at the text further: the Israelites passed through the Red Sea, but when the Egyptians attempted to go after them, God closed up the Red Sea, thereby destroying Pharoah’s army.

 

 

Think about it: that which once separated the Israelites from true freedom, served as the means by which their oppressors were defeated. Likewise, that which bound us Christ took upon Himself, and in so doing destroyed. That which once bound us, is now bound. Christ did promise that evil and suffering would one day be defeated (Revelations 21:4, 1 Corinthians 15). But He did not promise that it would happen overnight. What we do know is that, in the period between the Cross and the eshcaton, evil has already been defeated and bound. Evil never had the last say, even prior to Christ, for everything prior to Christ was a leading up to Christ, just as everything prior to Israel’s exodus and resettling in the Holy Land prepared the way for that way. All things, even evil, were subject to God’s eternal plan. Yet, it wasn’t until the Cross that evil was once and for all defeated, all that separated us from God defeated. Everything else is merely a playing out of this victory.

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