Three simple words: Christ is Risen! With these three words the whole of what Easter is, is explained for us. Notice that this phrase uses what we call the present tense. It does not say ‘Christ has Risen’, although this is undeniably true, but rather it says ‘Christ is Risen’. Understanding this, and living this, is what it means to be a missionary disciple of Christ, and it takes a lifetime to live out. It is sometimes easy to think that all that Easter does is to commemorate what happened 2000 years ago, true enough. Yet when we say that ‘Christ is Risen and Risen indeed’ we bring it into each day of our life. It becomes the light by which we live our lives.
The powerful symbolism of light and darkness is dramatically enacted at the Easter Vigil. In boldly proclaiming in the Easter Proclamation we hear ‘Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her, ablaze with light from her eternal King, let all corners of the earth be glad, knowing an end to gloom and darkness’, we are reminded whose light shines through our lives and by whose light we lead our lives.
When we say that ‘Christ is Risen’ those short three words are a prayer that all that we do and all that we are will be lived by the light of Easter, a light that is ‘ablaze with light from her eternal King’, one that brings ‘an end of gloom and darkness’. For many of us who have lived this last year surrounded and hemmed in by COVID, this is indeed Good News.
Throughout this same Easter proclamation the phrase, ‘This is the night’ occurs, meaning that this victory of Christ over sin and death is happening now, to each of those who are baptised and those who are about to be baptised.
To understand such marvels and that each day is, ‘This day’, does take a full 50 days, in fact each Sunday is a weekly celebration of that for us all. No matter what happens in our lives, may we summon up the courage to pray each day, ‘Christ is Risen, Risen indeed!’
We need a ‘week of weeks’ to understand this and to begin to live this. Sometimes we might be tempted to think that Christianity is some sort of do-it-yourself religion. Hopefully we soon realise that this is not the case and we quickly realise that we cannot be missionary disciples by our own strength alone. We can only live by the light of Easter if we do so through the power of the Holy Spirit. Little wonder that the whole of the Easter season is crowned with the celebration of Pentecost, where we see the faithfulness of God fulfilled when he promised to send his Holy Spirit to be with us always, thus enabling us to boldly proclaim by our lives those three great words, ‘Christ is Risen’.
The transition between the seasons of Lent and Easter is what we call the Triduum or the Great Three Days.
It was a delight this year to celebrate the Triduum here in Adelaide at the Cathedral, after last year’s constrained bare-bones celebrations. What was particularly delightful was being able to observe ‘the faces of faith’.
During each of the three ceremonies that make up the one Easter Triduum, it was my privilege to be able to notice ‘the faces of faith’.
Sometimes it is not always easy to see faith, what it actually looks like. Somehow we need to see it in action at times. This year I saw it on the faces of people who participated in the Triduum. I remember on Holy Thursday looking into the faces of those whose feet I washed, COVID safe of course. This year we asked those who had served us in the past year during the intense phase of COVID, often unnoticed behind the scenes, to have their feet washed. People such as our doctors, nurses, and others involved in service to our community came forward. As the water was poured over their feet, I saw the faces of faith and wondered what during this last year they had seen; all the sadness; all the hope, and I was praying that the light of the Risen Christ would always shine through their work.
Good Friday, stark and dramatic as it is, also saw the faces of faith come forward for the veneration of the cross. While this took some time it was carried out so reverently as, without words, people silently came forward placing their trust and faith in the crucified one. One of the privileges of where I sit in the Cathedral is to be able to see this long procession of people, and while it is a procession of the old and young and everyone in between, it is so evident that it is also a procession of people on whose faces, faith shines. Powerful on a day where we use a lot of words.
So too at the Easter Vigil. It was my joy to baptise two younger adults. To listen to their journey of faith and what had brought them to seek to be baptised was inspiring enough; to see their great joy and peace when we celebrated the three sacraments of initiation with them was sublime.
The great Easter season necessarily gives way to the season of Ordinary Time. A time where we simply take into our lives more deeply the mystery of Christ. There is, in one sense, nothing Ordinary about this season, for it always follows Easter, a season where we have learnt that ‘Christ is Risen and Risen indeed’. May that always be the light through which we view life and prompt us to serve our sisters and brothers on our journey to where God will be all in all.
God is good, good indeed.