Growing up in the 1950’s and 60’s, before the advent of color TV, let alone videos and DVDs or the movie channel, one the five Portland, Oregon, television channels televised the movie, “The Wizard of Oz” each year, one of Hollywood’s greatest films. As color TV was not yet invented, my Dad would invariably tell us at the moment when Dorothy enters the Land of Oz, that the black and white film now was in brilliant Technicolor.
Dad had seen the film many years earlier in a theater where color existed, and the transformation during the film from black and white to color no doubt took audiences by delightful surprise. Such a desired effect by the makers of the film was totally lost, of course, for the black and white television watchers of my era. I had to take the supposed transformation of the film on faith, and when I finally saw it on a color set, I was duly impressed.
So why am I bring all this up as the Easter season begins? It is because as believers in the resurrection Christ, we are now experiencing the transformation from the subdued tones of Lent to the bursts of color and light of Paschaltide. We are celebrating the “transformation of all transformations,” that is, Christ coming from death to resurrected life. We are invited to step into a new life in Christ, like Dorothy Gale leaving the perhaps mono-chromed world of Kansas for a mysterious vision of the colorful land of Oz.
At this time Christians around the world are experiencing the great movement from death to life that Easter celebrates non-stop for the next 50 days.
Our 3:00 am Vigil Mass at the monastery on Easter Sunday morning always begins in darkness and ends before daylight occurs. Going from death to life eternal, our Passover of gladness has begun. We heard at the Easter Vigil great lessons from the Hebrew Scriptures, describing the journey of God’s people from chaos and deep waters, darkness and wilderness wanderings, to the hopeful light of a new day and ultimately to the saving waters of Baptism.
Despite this good news and exciting outcome, the Gospel accounts of our Lord’s resurrection record confusion among Christ’s followers. Women went early Sunday morning to anoint the body of Jesus but did not find him there. Had the Lord’s body been taken away, they wondered. Peter and John arrive on the scene and do not understand what has taken place. Resurrection was beyond logic and reasonable expectation, so came as a total surprise, though eventually embraced with joy, by Jesus’ closest followers.
What is the meaning of the resurrection for the lives of those who belong to Christ? Joined to Christ, we are to live a new life. Having risen with Christ from the dead, the old way of life must be left behind, giving way to eternal life.
Aren’t we like the first followers of Christ? Though we acknowledge the risen Christ, we are not able to fully grasp its depth. We misunderstand God’s mysterious plans and look for a “quick fix” in the spiritual journey, ready to give up when the Lord is asking us to give more, to wait longer, to persevere to the very end. We, like the first followers, do not comprehend all that God has in store for us. That is part of the nature of the mystery: God’s working within us cannot be weighed or measured. We have to live with the conviction that the tomb is empty because Christ is risen. Death has been swallowed up in victory, once and for all.
The thrust of risen life is linked with practical expressions of belief: sincerity and truth, honesty and uprightness in God’s presence. Easter is the most fitting time to celebrate life, to treasure life in all its forms, at all its stages, from womb to tomb. Beyond the tomb is life eternal, a share in the eternal love of God, which has no limit, no end, only joy and peace without measure.
We are now invited to step into the new life of the risen Christ, never looking back, but only ahead, to the One who has the power to make us whole. As a song from the tradition of the Christian East expresses the mystery we now celebrate: Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!
A blessed Paschaltide to all!
Abbot Christian Leisy, OSB