Easter 2019: Rejoice!

Forty days ago we entered the season of Lent. With ash on our foreheads, and our church decked in gloomy purple, we put aside much of what is joyful in our lives and in our liturgy as we joined Jesus in the wilderness. We joined him again a week ago as he entered Jerusalem for the last week of his earthly life – and over the past three days we have accompanied him through the joy of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday, the horror of the desertion and arrest, and the sorrow of his crucifixion and burial.

 

To come into the church between tonight’s service and yesterday’s, one would have found a church that was dead. Our holy water stoups emptied, the sacrament no longer reserved, the tabernacle left forlornly open.

 

But no longer.

 

Christ is risen! The tomb is empty! And darkness vanishes for ever. 

 

In the Exsultet and in our readings we hear, “This is the night!” The night that Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt through the waters of the Red Sea, and now the night that Jesus led his people out of the slavery of sin, through the waters of baptism. 

 

This is the night that our mourning ends – for Jesus has conquered death. This is the night of nights – chosen by God, as the exsultet tells us, to see Christ rising from the dead.

 

What else can we do but rejoice? Rejoice – and partake of all the good things you have denied yourself these past weeks. Indeed, such is the joy of Easter that it is – with Christmas – one of the only two feasts of the year that has an octave – that is to say, that the feast of Easter is encouraged – in fact it is commanded! – for eight days, until next Sunday.

 

Now our Church is back to life, as is our Lord. It used to be quite fashionable in the Church to downplay Easter, and play up Christmas – as our society does. Just look at the prevalence of Christmas films and so forth – and the lack of their Easter counterparts! It’s easy to see why: babies are born every day – whereas it’s not often that people rise from the dead. But more than that: those people who played down Easter tried to say that in the modern day, when we know about science and so forth, it’s ludicrous to suggest that a person came back to life. What the gospels write about is their way of trying to explain the joy that Jesus had given them – so strong that he became alive in their memories.

 

Rubbish, if you ask me. St. Paul writes to the Corinthians – I’m paraphrasing here – that if Christ has not been raised from the dead then we’re the most foolish people around – and I agree. If the bones of Jesus are still lying in a tomb somewhere then we may as well go home – it means that he isn’t listening to our prayers, he isn’t on the altar at the mass, and everything we pin our hope on is useless.

 

Like I say: rubbish. Don’t you believe it! Because it’s still quite common to hear these suggestions…and they’re selling you a lie! Don’t let them take your Easter joy from you! Trust the creed: on the third day he rose again, according to the scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father!

 

That’s the reason we’re here tonight. That’s the reason we celebrate.

 

So let’s get celebrating. Alleluia!