Three Easter words of enlightment
Easter is a time for joyful expression in celebration of God's ultimate victory
April 20, 2003 -- Easter Sunday
By Bishop Robert Morneau
Questions for reflection:
1. How extensive is your religious vocabulary?
2. What does glory, alleluia, and joy mean to you?
3.Do you have certain words that speak to you about Easter
Each season has its vocabulary. Here in Wisconsin winter's
lexicon includes cold, frigid, snow, blizzard, ice. In summer's
dictionary we find green, warm/hot, baseball, lake, vacation. So
too do autumn and spring. Each has its reality expressed to us in a
What about Easter? Does this feast have words which direct us
toward the mystery of Jesus' resurrection? Three words are offered
in the liturgy that illumine, however slightly, the great event of
Glory! "I saw the glory of Christ, now risen," exclaims Mary in
the Sequence after the second reading. Mary saw the glory of Jesus
-- the fullness of his life, light, and love. This was not the
historical Jesus that she knew in the flesh but the risen Christ
who conquered sin and death and whose love set her and us free.
This was a whole new mode of existence, not a resuscitation. The
radiance of Christ astounded her and she became the first great
evangelist. Paradoxically the glory was in the "emptiness," the
life was in the death, the freedom in the obedience. God's glory is
far different than ours.
St. Paul confirms this Easter word. "When Christ your life
appears, then you too will appear with him in glory." We are bound
for glory. We are, like homing pigeons, programmed to get back home
where we came from. Jesus lived, died, and rose that we might make
that journey and be in the splendor of God's presence, God's
A second Easter word helping us to plunge into this glorious
mystery is Alleluia, a Hebrew word meaning "praise Yahweh." All
during Lent we have refrained from this joyful expression. We held
ourselves in waiting until that moment when God's victory in Jesus
became manifest. Now, having experienced in liturgy once again
God's faithful love, we shout out our Alleluias. Indeed, "how can
we keep from singing?"
Praise is a central theme of Easter. Whereas thanksgiving tends
to focus on the gift received, praise directs its gaze to the
intrinsic beauty of the Giver. Easter is a Trinitarian celebration:
we praise God our creator for the gift of life, we praise Jesus our
redeemer for coming to us that we might be reconciled, we praise
the Spirit of mercy and love who now abides with us in a new
fashion. "Alleluia. Christ has become our paschal sacrifice; let us
feast with joy in the Lord. Alleluia."
A third Easter word: "rejoice!" Easter is the day the Lord has
made, "let us rejoice and be glad in it." Is Christianity a truly
joyful religion? How is it that so many Christians are sad,
depressed, filled with anxiety and fear? Granted, the world has its
brutality and suffering, its war and violence. But if God has
broken the bonds of death and sin, if Jesus is truly risen, if the
Spirit dwells within us, we do have cause for rejoicing.
Nor is this being flippant about the mystery of redemption. Each
one of us is on a pilgrim journey and each one of us will have many
Good Fridays to deal with. Yet, Easter speaks of ultimate victory
and provides grounds for joyful trust. As one theologian asserts,
joy is the infallible sign of God's presence.
Easter's lexicon is not large and it's free for the taking.
Glory, alleluia, joy! Words bearing mystery. Words pointing to
Jesus and the mystery of God's faithful love.
(Bp. Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Green