The Easter Vigil 2017
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St Dominic Priory, NOLA
In a homily for Holy Saturday, St. John Chrysostom asks the catechumens, “How can I lay open before you the mystery of the Lord's resurrection, the saving grace of his cross and of his three days' death?” Explaining a mystery is a fool's errand. What makes such an explanation foolish isn't the inevitable failure of intelligence or will, rather explaining a mystery – especially one foundational to the apostolic faith – requires an understanding of salvation history that God alone possesses. We get bits and pieces throughout the liturgical year, and tonight we got much larger bits – but it was bits nonetheless. The mysteries of our faith must be lived 'til death and even then our understanding is limited to the perfectly human. How we react to these mysteries and what we do with what we do understand sets our course toward (or away from) holiness. Is one reaction better than another? When Mary of Magdala arrives at the empty tomb, the angel says to her, “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified.” Seeking the crucified Christ after his resurrection requires courage; it requires a willingness to tell the truth about the empty tomb, and what that empty tomb means.
The truth is: there's an empty tomb waiting for us all. True, it's empty right now b/c we're not dead yet, but it is also empty b/c the finality of death itself is dead. The Resurrection brings us back to the ever-living God Who is life eternal. So, do not be afraid. Do not be afraid of dying, of getting old, of becoming infirmed; do not be afraid of losing your dignity, your intellectual prowess, your creative gifts. Do not be afraid of anything that could threaten your faith in the reality of the Resurrection, the promise of God the Father to you back to Him in glory. The empty tomb of Easter morning is the enduring witness of this promise, the Lord's testimony to His faithfulness and love.
When the risen Christ meets his disciples on the road, he says to them, “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” Whatever anxiety, whatever apprehension the disciples must feel at their teacher's death, it all melts away when they see him again. They approach, embrace his feet, and do him homage. That's the courage of holiness.
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