This morning, we remember the single most incredible event in human history. I am not referring to the first instance of human flight, of the creation of the telegram, or of any other technological advancement; in the grand scheme of time, those events will be remembered as but points on what will hopefully be a long timeline. Instead, we welcome in a risen Savior. The light of the world in which we live, a man sent to die for the iniquities of all mankind. He now returns triumphant with the harrowing of hell behind him.
For my unreligious readers, I’m not going to attempt to sway you to my way of thinking about Easter. I personally believe in the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, I believe that the last three days have been cause for great mourning and great celebration in the two thousand odd years since the events I hold to be true transpired.
However, I know that these last three days have had the world at baited breath for other reasons. For the billion and a half or so Christians around the world, Easter has of course been on the mind; just as Passover has been for the millions of Jews who observed that festival this week. For all seven plus billion of us, and in particular for Americans, Spaniards, Italians, and Brits, it’s also been a period of baited breath, mourning, and even small moments of celebration in the fight against COVID-19.
Yet, the mounting pressures the world around has regarding the spread of a virus should not distract us from the ultimate purpose of the day, even if our traditional celebrations and the pageantry of the day are lost this year.
What we cannot lose sight of, us Christians, is that this day is the single most momentous day in the history of all of mankind. My home church always begins the Easter Sunday sermon with the pastor shouting, smile a-gleaming, “He is Risen!”. The church dutifully responds, with the same happiness “He is Risen indeed!”.
For those of us who believe in the Resurrection of Christ, this morning’s sunrise can only be greeted one way, a way I think best summed up by 17th century English poet John Donne: “Sleep then, and rest: the world may bear thy stay; A better sun rose before thee today”. We must remember about Easter that we celebrate it in triumph, but that our current celebrations call for us to consider it in the context of a personal triumph, and not a communal one.
For my non-religious readers and friends, this day also holds significance for you. The pomp of meeting family and friend isn’t happening this year, regrettably, but the new beginnings that the holiday symbolizes for us all should not be lost. Eventually, we all will be with one another again, and while the new beginnings of Easter aren’t attainable this year, reflection on what the day’s meaning holds outside of a religious context is something that would go a long way.
To conclude, let me underscore, even if we are apart this day, let’s go about it as if we weren’t. Let’s face the day with the same joy and love and reflection. After all, this day is special for us all and for billions around the world, this day marks the fulfillment of hope stretched thousands of years.
Hell has been harrowed, we can hail the light this morning.