I recall an early Easter morning while I was in the seminary riding my bicycle with a group of friends to the beautiful church that sits atop the famous Spanish Steps of Rome. The women and men religious assigned to Trinità dei Monti chanted a joyful tune in French several times throughout the Easter liturgy: Il est vraiment ressuscité: Pourquoi chercher parmi les morts? Il est vivant comme il l’a promis, Alleluia! Translated into English: He is truly risen, why do you search among the dead? He lives as he has promised, Alleluia! This repetitive tune has been seared into my memory, and every Easter Season my mind replays it nonstop.
When the women came looking for Jesus among the dead in the tomb, the angel questioned them since they were searching in the wrong place. The Easter Season reminds us to seek Jesus in the right place. He is not dead, he lives, and because he lives, we are filled with hope. The despondent women reached the tomb ready to anoint the dead body of the Lord, and left joyful and hopeful. The message of the angel is also for us: sometimes the circumstances of life become so difficult or painful that we fail to remember that Jesus is not in the tomb, but that he lives. His resurrection gives witness to the promise of eternal life for each one of us who believes in Him. It is easy to get lost and hurt in the darkness of the tomb – we must go to the light where grace and hope abide.
When pilgrims visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, all are surprised to see the short distance between the site of the crucifixion and the tomb. The Scriptures do relate that near Golgotha was a garden with a freshly hewn tomb, but until one sees it, one does not fully grasp their proximity. The two events are so vastly different, and evoke such contrasting responses, that it is difficult to imagine that both occurred just feet apart from each other. The darkness and the light are never far from each other, and it only takes one second to go from one to the other. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life,” said Jesus to the Pharisees after forgiving the woman caught in adultery. The light of the Resurrection pierces all the darkness of world, rendering the Prince of darkness helpless.
The fourth verse of the chant sung at Trinità dei Monti prays, “You dissipate the darkness of death, you open the doors of life. In you, the promises are fulfilled, songs are sung on earth.” The events of many centuries ago have transformed the universe and resound throughout history. The tomb is still empty, Jesus lives forever, the darkness has been vanquished, and all promises have been fulfilled. For this reason we cry out “Alleluia!”
Written for the Southern Cross