As Saint Gregory Nazianzus, the great theologian of the fourth century proclaims: ‘With us, Easter is the Feast of Feasts and the Celebration of Celebrations; it excels all other festivals, as the sun excels the stars; and this is true not only of human and earthly feasts but also of those belonging to Christ and celebrated for Christ.’ The solemnity of Easter, the Third-Day Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, is the Queen of Feasts, the heart and center of the Christian Year, the focal point of all life and truth, and of all history.
On Easter Day, Jesus Christ rises, alive, deathless, immortal, full of glory, radiant with the life of the Holy Spirit. In Christ’s physical bodily resurrection from the dead, we celebrate the Eighth Day, whereon God in human flesh, now glorified and transfigured in our human nature, has recreated the universe and has brought the cosmos to its fulfillment. On the seventh day, God rested from His loving work in fashioning the visible creation (Genesis 2.2); on this Day, the Eighth Day, the Day of Resurrection, God has unleashed the New Creation, for Jesus Christ is the second Adam, the Lord from Heaven, (I Corinthians 15.45-47), the New Man and the New Reality, Who sums up all things in Himself (Ephesians 4.10) and makes all things new (Revelation 21.5). In the person of Jesus, raised from death by the Holy Spirit, God the Father has regenerated the world to share in the very life and communion of the Trinity. Easter, this greatest of all feasts of the Church, is singled out amongst other feasts as the highest manifestation of Christ’s almighty power as God the Son made Man – it is the confirmation of our faith, and the promise, pledge, and hope of our own resurrection from the dead.
The Mystery of Christ’s Resurrection was prophesied in the Old Testament, prefigured by the Prophet Jonah, who after three days came out of the belly of the fish: ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth’ (Saint Matthew 12.40). This fulfillment by Christ is described in the New Testament as a historical fact, with the appearance of the angel to the women bringing the spices to the Holy Sepulchre, which image was the first used in Christian iconography. Later, the early Christians depicted the Resurrection in iconographic form as the Descent of Our Lord to the Dead, the Harrowing of Hell (I Saint Peter 3.18-22).
Christ’s Resurrection, witnessed by Saint Mary Magdalene and the holy Apostles, took place on a Sunday morning after the Sabbath, early on the first day of the week. From that Day to this, every Sunday is a ‘little Easter,’ the beginning of new life, which shone forth from the grave on that first Easter Day. Our celebration of Easter is not only a commemoration of an historical, the historical event: it is the beginning and the foretaste of the future eternal life of the renewed creature and a renewed creation. As the first day of creation in Genesis was the beginning of days calculated in time, so on this Day, the Day of Christ’s Resurrection, is the beginning of days outside of time, the initiation of the mystery of the future life, the Age of the World to Come, the Kingdom of God, where God shall be all in all. Jesus Christ was born; we are born also into this world. Jesus Christ died, and we too shall die, how and when and where it shall please God; Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, raised to newness of life by the glory of the Father – and we too shall rise at the consummation of all things, and live, live with Jesus, live in Jesus, live for Jesus… forever.
‘And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith also is vain… and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins… if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive!’ (I Corinthians 15.14-22). ‘But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you’ (Romans 8.11).
Let us meditate on this love of God revealed to us by the preaching of the Gospel, especially as we approach the Holy Altar and receive in our Easter Holy Communions that same glorified Body, Blood, soul, and divinity of Christus Victor, our risen mighty Conquering King, by which He destroyed death and grants us everlasting life.
May Christ our True God, risen from the dead, bless you and all you love as we celebrate His victory over sin, Satan, and death in this jubilant Eastertide!
The Most Rev. Chandler Holder Jones, SSC
Presiding Bishop, Anglican Province of America