Easter is a feast of Joy. Joy is everywhere. It resounds in the glad Alleluias of the Church's liturgy which ring upon the air and reecho in the hearts of men. Joy fills the soul. It sparkles in the eye and pulses in the veins. Even nature bursts forth in song and decks itself in splendor to do its part in proclaiming: "This is the day the Lord both made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Alleluia."
Christ, rising from the tomb, glorious and immortal, is the cause of our joy. His resurrection on Easter Sunday is a mystery of joy which strongly contrasts with the gloom of Good Friday. On Good Friday, Christ, abandoned by all but His Mother and a few faithful friends, faced the stinging cries of hate and scorn bursting against Him from the bloodthirsty rabble, which would be satisfied only with His Crucifixion.
On Easter Sunday Christ appears in triumph, the heroic conqueror of the world, of death and hell. Christ is risen and His resurrection is our triumph as well as His. His Cross has become a monument of victory, His tomb a symbol of our future resurrection and glory.
The mystery of Good Friday and that of Easter are inseparable both for our Divine Savior and for us; for our Savior, because the infinite justice of God demanded that He, having been humiliated even to the death of the Cross for the healing of the pride of sin, should be exalted and adored as the immortal God, gloriously rising from the grave. If Christ had not undergone the ignominy of Good Friday, there would not have been for Him the glory, the joy, and the triumph of Easter Sunday.
These mysteries of sorrow and humiliation, of joy and triumph, are inseparable in our regard as well as in the Person of Christ, for by His Passion and Death Christ liberated us from sin, and by His resurrection He restored to us the blessings that had been forfeited by sin. And just as these mysteries are inseparable in their historic sequence in the mystery of our Redemption, so their counterpart must also be inseparable in our earthly, mortal life. Yet the frailty of our flesh and the weakness of human nature causes even the most generous of us to shrink from all that entails suffering and sacrifice. The children of men seek only for glory and triumph; few are willing to share in the suffering and humiliation of the Passion and to keep company with the Man of Sorrows on the heights of Calvary, though they have heard the words of the Master: "Take up thy cross and follow Me," and know also that the kingdom of heaven is taken by violence.
The resurrection of our Savior may be considered as playing a fourfold part in the drama of our redemption and salvation: It confirms our faith; it raises our hopes; it is the efficient instrumental cause of the resurrection of both our body and our soul; and it is the complement of our salvation.
First, Christ's resurrection solidifies our faith in His Divinity. And rightly so, for Our Lord Himself foretold His resurrection and vouchsafed it as the supreme proof that He is the Son of God, the Messiah promised to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Therefore, St. Paul says: "if Christ has not risen, vain then is our preaching, vain too is your faith... If the dead do not rise, neither has Christ risen; and if Christ has not risen, vain is your faith, for you are still in your sins" (I Con xv. 14, 17).
Secondly, the resurrection raises our hopes, because as long as we see Christ, who is our Head, risen, we have hope that we too shall rise again with Him, who, as the Apostle says, "dies no more, death shall no longer have dominion over Him" (Rom. via 9). Christ's resurrection was necessary to nourish our hope and to manifest in Our Lord's Person the marvels of the glorious life for which we have been destined. The risen Christ is indeed the hope of man doomed to die, for He is the prototype of the resurrection of the flesh. The risen Body of Our Lord was the same that had been nailed to the Cross and laid in the tomb, as was evidenced by the Sacred Wounds of His hands and feet and side. But it was a glorified Body, and endowed with certain attributes that man cannot possess except in a transfigured state. His Body had the quality of impassability, the property of being free from suffering; the quality of agility, the property of moving from place to place with the rapidity of thought; and the quality of subtlety, the power of passing through all material substances without meeting resistance. In His resurrection, by His own power as Almighty God, we can glimpse the resurrection which will also be ours if we live in faithful imitation of Christ; for just as His Body, rising to immortal glory, was transformed, so shall our bodies, now frail and mortal, be changed and clothed with immortality. In Christ's resurrection we have an invincible and infallible assurance of our own rising from the death of the grave, and our future glory in heaven.
But if our resurrection from the death of the grave is to be one of triumph with Christ, we cannot live our lives as the slaves of passion, but must be "heroes of the cross." Christ's resurrection must become in our lives the source and model of our spiritual resurrection, for, as stated above, its third effect is that of being the efficient instrumental cause of the resurrection not only of our body but also of our soul. The mystery of the triumph of Easter should re-create our hearts, fashion us to a new life of Divine grace. The deeds, precepts, sufferings and Death of Christ must be allowed to exert their Divine action in our souls in order to destroy in them the temple of inordinate desires and build there a temple of sanctity.
Our inability to rise above the daily trials, temptations and distractions of life into the domain of zeal for the glory of God and His Church and for the good of our neighbor, lies in our outlook upon the things of life -our materialistic views, our petty self-interests which smother the flames of Divine charity. We are lacking in the purity of motive that so signalized each word and act of Christ. Our deeds lack the impelling sweetness of Christ's self-sacrifice. We are not generous enough to die to ourselves. But if we are to rise with Christ and henceforth model our life after His, we must ask ourselves: "What are we now to think of petty human interests, of the goods of this world, of human glory, of the pleasures of life?" And we will be forced to answer: "Just what Christ thought of them." And again we must ask ourselves: "What must we think, say and do, when confronted by our enemies, by the poor, by the suffering, by our daily tasks, by sacrifice?" Again the answer is: "Just what our Lord Jesus Christ, our Model, thought, said and did. To rise with Christ, we must apply our hearts to the things that are above, and not to those which are of earth."
Thus the resurrection of Christ becomes in the fourth place the indispensable complement of our salvation, for if the special fruit of Christ's Passion is death to sin and to ever), thing that is not God, detachment from creatures and from things that lead us to sin, the special fruit of His resurrection is like unto God doing what is pleasing to Him, without any other motive than that of His glory.
So let us fix our eyes with joy on our Risen Savior and remember that the closer we keep to Him in the life of holiness and love of God and man, the nearer shall we come to Him in eternal glory. Our life itself is but a passing Lenten season, and heaven is the dawn of that perpetual Easter Day which is an everlasting noon, without cloud or night.