Easter Vigil Reflection
Tonight's readings recall for us our salvation history from our creation in the image and likeness of God. We recall God's hand in delivering the Israelites from the tyranny of Egypt to remind us of the tyrannies of our own lives, which we can overcome with God's help. Throughout our history, God makes covenants with us and we break them. God sent us prophets to teach and we ignored them. Yet God does not forsake us. Jesus, the Son of God, God's embodied Word came to teach us, to make us whole, and to make a lasting covenant with us. Jesus started his public ministry by gathering disciples and forming a community. This disciples in turn would gather others around them forming a community of communities.
A few things came together this week that for me reinforced the importance of community for Christians in life and in thinking of the Resurrection. In the West we don't often think of the communal aspect of the Resurrection. First, earlier this week, I read an article by John Dominic Crossan entitled, TheCommunal Resurrection of Jesus. The article talked about a banner he saw in one of the chapels in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem that depicted the Resurrection as a communal event. Second, I remembered part of the Matthew's account of the Passion that we read last week: “...The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many.” Lastly, I thought about the words of the Apostles Creed that state: He descended into Hell or He descended to the dead.
These musings coalesced to remind me that our tradition holds that before the resurrection, all the dead would go to Sheol or Hades, which we mistakenly call hell. It was a place characterized by darkness and death. After Christ was laid into the tomb, he descended into Hades and broke the bonds of death and set all death's captives free. In coming back to the living, Christ released humanity from the bonds of darkness and death. The Resurrection makes possible God's New Covenant with us, which is the promise that everyone may share in eternal life with Christ.
Have a look at this Icon, called, TheResurrection Icon of Victory ...
In the Icon, Jesus Christ stands victoriously in the centre. Christ is robed in and surrounded by a mandorla, the oval shape of star-studded light, which represents the Glory of God. Christ is shown pulling Adam from the tomb. Eve is to Christ’s left. Her hands are held out in supplication. She is waiting for Jesus to act. This humble surrender to Jesus is all Adam and Eve need to do, and all they are able to do. Christ does the rest, which is why He is forcefully pulling Adam from the tomb by the wrist, and not the hand. Surrounding the victorious Christ are John the Baptist and the Righteous from Hebrew Scriptures. Abel is shown as the young shepherd-boy on Christ's left, just above Eve.
Those who predeceased Christ’s crucifixion descended to Hades, where they patiently waited the coming of their Messiah. Now they are freed from this underworld, and mingle freely with Christ and His angels.1
This Icon is similar to the banner that Crossan described in his article. His point was that the resurrection, like Jesus' teaching is a communal affair.
Before the resurrection, death was the ultimate fear inducing enemy. It led people to compete for food, money, power instead of cooperating. Before his death, Jesus taught us “be not afraid”. He taught that cooperation, caring and being good neighbours to all who need us is the way of life for members of God's household. All through the Gospels, we hear that the disciples did not yet but would ultimately understand. After the resurrection the disciples understood and, in turn, we understand that not only has Christ conquered death but that salvation is communal and that as Paul says, we share in Christ's life, death and resurrection. Jesus shared his life in community with the twelve and more by sharing His gifts and service with anyone who came to him. His words and actions were an example for His disciples to follow, His disciples then and those to come. Tonight we celebrate His resurrection, which He shared and still shares communally. Jesus Christ, our Light and our Life, is risen today, alleluia!, alleluia!