The imposing Paschal Candle, the cynosure of Holy Saturday night’s Liturgy, and worship in all Christian churches, lit from the newly blessed fire and marked with the mysterious signs of the Greek alphabet, Alpha (α) and Omega (Ω) makes its solemn entrance into the sanctuary with three acclamations announcing the Risen Christ as the Light of the World. Once reaching the portals of the sanctuary, the congregation is treated to the solemn chanting of the “Exultet” by the priest with the devotees responding at the end of the proclamation with the Easter choral word “Alleluia” which in Hebrew means “Praise the Lord”; a rhyme that had gone silent for five long weeks of Lent now rings out again! It is the Paschal Light that fills the Church as devotees light their own candles with the exultant congregation bursting forth with the song of jubilation “Alleluia”. Such is the solemnity of the Holy Saturday Night enacted in all Christian sanctuaries across the world marking the opening of the Easter festival.
Jesus Christ’s historical Impact
Easter, therefore, is a celebration of Light and Joy. It is the Light of the Risen Lord who had vanquished the darkness of the tomb and risen triumphant over the powers of sin and death. Thus, the story of the crucified and the Risen One, Jesus Christ is at the core of the Christian faith. It is greater and decisively central than Christmas which celebrates only the mystery of the Incarnation, the birth of the Messiah. The Gospel story relates how the disciples were brimming with joy when they beheld the luminous sight of the Risen Lord. Their teacher and master, the healer and miracle worker, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Man has come to stay: alive in their lives and faith. Hereafter, they will even lay down their precious lives for him and scan the whole of the middle Eastern provinces traversing as far west as imperial Rome to announce this good news and challenging people to conversion from idolatry and social immorality.
The Easter festival challenges the world of today to enter the path of personal and collective, ethical, moral and social discipline. Easter, the event of the Risen Lord, marks the beginning of the Christian faith and validates the preaching of the Church as well. Christianity stands or falls with this mysterious event as attested to by the experience of the earliest disciples of Christ. Saul, the die-hard Pharisee was overwhelmed by the experience of the Risen Lord on his way to Damascus from Jerusalem on a mission to persecute the first Christians and finally ended up in an incredible manner as the ground-breaking missionary apostle to the non-Jewish gentile nations. He stormed all the cosmopolitan centers of his time such as Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae and Thessalonica preaching and building up the first-ever Christian communities of his time. The message had to be taken to the heart of all these urban and metropolitan centers. He dared to challenge the intellectuals in the infamous Aёropagus of Athens to believe in the Resurrection. He was quick to denounce the idolatry, immorality and oppressive violence of the Roman Empire under Caesar, exhorting them to a life of wholesome personal integrity, ethical conduct and social justice. Christian life was nothing but nailing all our sins to the cross of Christ, bearing in one’s life the marks of the crucifixion and living according to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in purity of mind and in honourable living.
The Easter festival challenges the world of today to enter the path of personal and collective, ethical, moral and social discipline. Easter, the event of the Risen Lord, marks the beginning of the Christian faith and validates the preaching of the Church as well. Christianity stands or falls with this mysterious event as attested to by the experience of the earliest disciples of Christ
Transformation of society
The Easter event completely validated the life-style and the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Till then, doubt and uncertainty shrouded his authority since in the public eye he was just a Jew whose family circle was well known. Credibility and dependability dawned with the Resurrection appearances in the houses where his bewildered disciples were gathered in fear, on the highways and by-ways when on their journeys, on the familiar beaches of Galilee where they toiled as simple fishermen and at their meals. To convince them of his Risen Life, he would partake of their meals and show them the wounds of his crucifixion challenging their lack of faith and slowness to believe him, once their master and teacher. He it was who proclaimed the much-adulated Sermon on the Mount, who reached out to the lepers cleansing them, threatened and exorcised demons oppressing the sick, opened the blind to sight and the deaf to hearing, even resurrecting his friend Lazarus of Bethany after being in the tomb for four days. He had revealed the hidden life of many inviting them to face their wicked past and enter into a better future of virtue and goodness. This was a prophet of a new kind who taught with authority denouncing bravely the Pharisees who were the religious leaders of his time for their hypocrisy and showy acts of piety while they were in reality blind leaders like the whitened sepulchers. This was the miracle worker who would feed thousands in the wilderness of the desert and beaches where chores of people thronged to gaze on his face and listen to him preach. He was a living icon and sign that God’s kingdom had arrived open to all without distinction or discrimination of race, creed, ethnicity or language. He shared the joys of human events and cried at the pain of his friends who lost their loved ones and made himself to those gripped by sorrow and anxiety, a source of consolation and solace.
The Easter greeting on the lips of the Risen Jesus was: “Fear not, it is I, peace be with you”. He gave a missionary mandate too to his followers to go and share with all nations the Good News of his mystery and to inform them that wherever two or three are gathered in His name, he would be present in their midst. Furthermore, his merciful presence can be perceived among the poor, the naked, the hungry, the thirsty and those chained in prisons. Caring for them would mean caring for Him. This is the ‘dhamma’ that has inspired the Church and many of her saints in launching epic projects of charity, mercy and compassion and even on a mega scale, in favour of those who are orphaned, disabled, destitute, the elderly, homeless and the sick. Mother Teresa of Calcutta is well-known for such Christian prodigality of mercy and charity. The Gospel of Jesus is very relevant today in the context of the exploitation and victimization of children whom he took on his lap in warm embrace, blessing them and their mothers. He had stern words to those who make themselves causes of evil to the innocent and saw in it a crime against humanity that makes the guilty renegades be meted out with the severest social rejection and the most stringent of penalties. He exhorted those entrusted with stewardship to be honest and faithful to duty, not to exploit the weak and warned those in high seats of authority, like Herod and Pilate of his day, not to give into or abuse their powers in oppressive and dominating ways.
The Light of Easter dispels the darkness of sin and evil in all their forms poisoning our world and its joy brings hope of victory over these multiple evils and death, the final enemy of man. He, who nails his selfishness and Ego through self-denial and detachment to the cross of Christ and takes on the spiritual ascent pursuing ideals that are sublime and most noble, treading a path of truth, goodness and beauty, which are the fruits of the Spirit, will surely find himself or herself in the light and joy of a springtime of life. Easter’s call is to embrace a life worth living which adds grandeur, spice and lustre to our otherwise humdrum existence of struggle and survival.