Familiarity, whether or not it breeds contempt, lessens wonder. When radio was invented, people delighted in sitting by it and letting their imaginations roam. The same initial excitement is true of the first Airplanes, computers, and other wonderful inventions. Now in 2021, we take them all for granted.
It is like that with Jesus’ Resurrection. Why is it that so often Lent, the sorrowful season, is observed for 40 days while in popular practice Easter, the season of Joy, is celebrated for only one day when the Church officially celebrated it for 50 days?
The early Christians considered Eastertide the most important time in the calendar, officially, the Church still does. Perhaps, one of the reasons is the lack of images to shape and motivate contemplation of the resurrection. Much of the artwork and symbols of Churches have focused on Jesus’ passion and crucifixion. Artists have tended to shy away from depicting the Resurrection.
When the Resurrection first took place, there were all kinds of excitement. Consider for example, the two disciples who experienced the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus. They met the Risen Lord, as do we all, in many ways. They met him through hospitality, which developed into an early Christian monk motto: ‘Vent hospes, Venit Christus” – when a guest comes, Christ comes. They met him by way of the sacred scriptures, which he explained to them, and pre-eminently, they met him in the breaking of the bread that is the Eucharist.
Christian faith is first and foremost a response of belief to the person of the Risen Christ, as in today’s Gospel. This belief embraces the realisation that Jesus has won salvation for us by the sacrifice of the cross, as in Peter’s sermon. And as the letter of John reminds us, Jesus remains our advocate when we encounter the harsh reality of sin in our lives.
Then, in our pilgrimage of faith, the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives calls for a never-ending conversion of our innermost selves. We can help the process by keeping alive the freshness of joy and wonder of the first Easter. The Risen Lord is with us this very day. Let us rejoice and be glad.
Fr Andrew O’Sullivan