Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The One That Matters Most

George Weigel on how Easter Changes Everything:

And remember what? Remember Easter. Remember the Resurrection. Through the prism of that extraordinary event that changed both history and nature, everything comes into clearer focus. Only a mature, paschal faith—an Easter faith—can perceive who Jesus is, understand what Jesus taught, and grasp what Jesus has accomplished by his obedience to the Father. Only in the power of this paschal “memory,” Cardinal Ravasi concludes, can we recognize that Jesus is the Christ, the Holy One of God.

Easter faith—the faith which proclaims that “he...rose again on the third day”—is not one article of Christian conviction among others. As St. Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 15, Easter faith is that conviction on which the entire edifice of Christianity is built. Without Easter, nothing makes sense and Jesus is a false prophet, even a maniac. With Easter, all that has been obscure about his life, his teaching, his works and his fate becomes radiantly clear: this Risen One is the “first-born among many brethren” (Romans 8:29); he is the new Temple (Revelation 21:22); and by embracing him we enter the dwelling place of God among us (Revelation 21:3).

In the Gospel readings of the Easter Octave, the Church annually remembers the utterly unprecedented nature of the paschal event, and how it exploded expectations of what God’s decisive action in history would be. No one gets it, at first; for what has happened bursts the previous limits of human understanding. The women at the empty tomb don’t understand, and neither do Peter and John. The disciples on the road to Emmaus do not understand until they encounter the Risen One in the Eucharist, the great gift of paschal life, offered by the new Temple, the divine Presence, himself. At one encounter with the Risen Lord, the Eleven think they’re seeing a ghost; later, up along the Sea of Galilee, it takes awhile for Peter and John to recognize that “It is the Lord!” (John 21:7). These serial episodes of incomprehension, carefully recorded by the early Church, testify to the shattering character of Easter, which changed everything: the first disciples’ understanding of history, of life-beyond-death, of worship and its relationship to time (thus Sunday, the day of Easter, becomes the Sabbath of the New Covenant).