My mother reminded me that Pascha this year falls on the day her sister, my dear Auntie Karen, died. She was more like an older sister to me. Once she organized a treasure hunt for us (my brother and cousin) full of clues. She and Uncle Roddy would set up the microphones from their singing group and we would use them to do “radio shows.” This was uproariously fun. Auntie Karen loved God and jollification. When Christmas comes or any theater, I think of her love of holidays and putting on a play.
Death seems final and seems to rob us of people we love. Without hope, we cannot be happy as we might be, as our hearts need to be, because there is no replacing those who are gone. Of course, we long to see those we love, to have one more discussion with great teachers, to hear a sermon from a beloved pastor. What would we give?
Our longing is not enough. That is the message of Lent and Holy Week. There are hard realities that we cannot negotiate with money, words, or power. The great, glorious, good news of Pascha is we have an anchor, sure and steadfast, for our souls. Hope is more than a wish, or even merely a strong desire. We have those, but they are not enough, and too often wishes disappoint us.
Hope is reasonable desire, based on spiritual reality, that when given substance matures to faith. Hope is a surety that what is not yet, will be. We need hope that nobody and nothing good, true, or beautiful is ever lost or forgotten. We have reason for this hope today: Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.
We see this in history. We experience this when we see the True Light in the mystery of the Body and Blood of Christ. We have an anchor when despair, depression, or doom sayers would overwhelm us. Our joy defies hard realities with a gloriously greater God the ground of all Being. Jesus Christ, the God-man, is our anchor to the deepest reality of the cosmos.
Jesus Christ is the anchor. We are buffeted. We seem like we will be driven to the rocks and ruined, but Jesus Christ is not moved.
Jesus Christ is the anchor, sure and steadfast. Death comes, but Christ has already defeated death.
We hope in the empty tomb. We hope in the dead already freed from captivity on Holy Saturday. We hope that someday, perhaps soon, we will live with Jesus Christ forever in a City four-square. This hope hardens into faith and by faith we are saved.
Pascha is the joyous news that death is not the last word. If we endure, we will be saved. Jesus Christ can and will save us. We will see those we love, just as they see us in the great cloud of witnesses now. Christ did not merely rise in “our hearts,” but in fact. The tomb is empty and in this historic reality nothing else matters.
I once visited a church where the icons had been covered in plaster in an attempt to hide the truth. This included a beautiful image of the resurrection. The truth was still there and eventually was revealed. I got to see the icon and knew nothing could cover up the great truth of Pascha. Death could not stop Jesus Christ and so our anchor holds against any worldly power, the flesh, and devils.
We can take hope together, rely on our anchor, take joy. Truly Christ is risen. All would be made whole. All will be made beautiful. All will be restored. We miss all those faithful souls lost, but we surely will meet again. We will feast in Christ’s eternal kingdom for all time: the joy of the Lord our constant strength.
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and to those in the tombs, granting life.