1 March 2019

A day of surprises

Little girl hunting for easter egg in a spring garden on Easter day
W. Chris Hackett

W. Chris Hackett

Chris is a U.S.-based theologian and author

Easter Sunday is the day of surprises: kids hunt for plastic eggs the adults have hidden around the garden. They open them to find jelly beans or chocolates inside. Families and friends give gifts to one another on a scale almost the equal of Christmas.

When my siblings and I were young, the Easter Bunny would visit: on Easter Sunday morning we would wake up to find at the foot of our beds a basket full of chocolate eggs, including a large chocolate bunny. In my excitement I would inevitably eat a handful of the eggs and maybe an ear or two from the bunny. Too many sweets before breakfast: for some reason the stomach ache was always a surprise.

The fact that Easter is a day full of surprises in our community and family traditions is a fitting adornment to the reality of Easter. The empty tomb is the greatest surprise of history. A man, Jesus of Nazareth died. His flesh was fastened by metal to a wood cross until he drew his last breath. His brutalised body was placed in the earth. The stone was set against the tomb’s entrance: he was buried. Then, in the most important event of all time, his body was given new life.

A man, Jesus of Nazareth was dead no more. He rose. And he is risen, now, forever, and is seated upon the seat of all authority and power. This is the life’s breath of Christian faith: God has shown his hand; his final purpose has been revealed.

If the tomb really was empty, if Christian faith really is true, then the dawn’s light spilling into a tiny cave outside of Jerusalem that Sunday morning was first witness to the Almighty’s final answer to the enigma of history. It is a message for all people without exception, for God is the God of all, without exception. The joy of Easter is meant for everyone.

Is there any greater joy for parents than to see their little child’s face light up with unqualified joy at the discovery of a big surprise? I find it hard to think of anything more enjoyable than my son’s face when he looks up from an opened gift, or is discovered in his hiding place during a game.

Is that parental joy a faint echo of God’s own on Easter? Does he swell with delight when his children discover the joy hidden in the empty tomb? C S Lewis once said that joy is the serious business of heaven.

The empty tomb is the great revelation of heaven’s biggest secret: it is like the mouth of God the Father, opened wide, thunderous with laughter. This Joy of Easter will ring on and on into eternity. It is like the entrance to a bottomless abyss of enchanting mirth: its source is God’s Love.

The pamphlet, Meditations for Lent by Saint Alphonsus Liguori, is available from Majellan Publications for $3.50 (postage included). See Majellan Bookshop page

Easter Sunday will be celebrated on April 21.

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