Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on Easter Sunday, principal service, 2018.
We have asked in our Collect today of our glorious and loving Lord Jesus that by His resurrection, we may die daily to sin and evermore live with him in joy. There are few times of the time more joyful that Easter. The church takes on a new hum; there is a spirit of collaboration and sacrifice shared by the members of congregation between one another; our liturgical space, even in our shared relationship between our two churches, has seen more than normal amount of action, and today looks beautiful, smells beautiful, and sounds beautiful with the songs of Easter we all know so well. Our service to the Lord through the Mass is a multi-sensory experience of smell, touch, taste, hear, and sight.
And Easter Mass is layered with emotional senses, our time today filled with memories of Easter celebrations past, with family, friends, and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. To celebrate all of this—to savor it and not take a single thing of we have here for granted, is one of the primary ways we die to sin and live in joy. To die to sin is to acknowledge that we have been separate from God and His will. And yet this day—as the heavenly hosts and choirs of angels rejoice and blow the trumpets of salvation, indeed as the whole round earth rejoices and sings, bright with glorious splendor, and all the Holy Church is filled with radiant light that resounds with the praises of the members of Christ’s Body—this day, the Feast of Christ’s passover from death to life, this day by means of God’s mighty power and love, removes all separation from Him, restores us to our baptismal purity, and gives us the freedom to be joyful in all ways, both great and small. Jesus has cleansed the thoughts of our hearts—and now let us love Him perfectly and worthily magnify His holy Name.
It is this sense of tremendous abundance that filled Mary Magdalene and the other women as they entered the garden in which was the tomb of Jesus. Not only had the stone been rolled away, which is nothing short of a miracle, and not only as they entered the tomb did they find it empty save an angelic figure in white—but this angel proclaimed the Good News to them: “Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucifed. He has risen, he is not here . . . But go [which is better translated as “go forth”], tell the disciples that He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see Him, as He told you.”
And unlike the male disciples who fled from Jesus’s death, these women disciples fled from the tomb according to God’s will. They were filled with an abundance, trembling with astonishment—and while our translation says they were afraid, that is afraid in the sense not of fright but holy fear: awe, wonder, filled with a silence not less than words, but more than words.
In trying to grapple with the astonishment felt by the woman, and by us, that out of the death of Jesus comes His eternal life, and through His, ours, the Church through its two thousand years has traditionally looked at the Flood of Noah, the Binding of Isaac, and the Crossing of the Red Sea. These holy stories provide images, analogies, and food for our prayer. In Crossing the Red Sea, captivity and enslavement gives way to freedom never before experienced. And the besetting sin of the children of Israel—constant faltering of faith—finds its remedy in the faith not only of Abraham, but of Isaac as well, both of whom willingly gave their lives to God as living sacrifices and persevered through unwieldy trial. And a trial both unwieldy and utterly unpredictable is what Noah and his family endured—following God’s will to build a structure of salvation.
Our structure of salvation is the Church—the ark of Covenant with us through Jesus Christ, the true paschal lamb given by God. Through our participation in the Ark of Salvation, we offer our lives to God, giving our lives on the Altar to God and His providence. And by means of His Son, who has passed through the waters of time and space to the waters of ultimate reality, God, having taken our lives offered to Him, gives our lives back to us—redeemed, renewed, and sanctified: that all the world might be full of grace—as it was for Noah and his family as they exited the Ark to find a world they knew, yet a world of wonder and joy—that our struggles might be means for our worship of the Lamb of God, as it was for Abraham and Isaac—that all the world might be a miraculous act of God, as it was for the Children of Israel having crossed the Red Sea to their liberation.
And so, brothers and sisters, let our prayer today be the prayer of the women at the tomb. The tomb was opened not so that Jesus could get out. It was opened so that they, and we, might enter in. And having entered the tomb, let us go forth into the world, filled with wonder, filled with awe, and filled with astonishment at our loving Lord Jesus Christ, who in giving Himself completely for us on the Cross, has risen as Christ Crucified, that His offering and love for His people, past, present and future, may be the gift of everlasting life.