Today is Easter Sunday, perhaps the most important day of the Christian liturgical year. I have to admit that I sometimes develop “Easter fatigue,” and not just from too many chocolate eggs or turkey dinners. When in the church we talk about Christ’s death and resurrection every week, constantly recalling the sacrifice every week in bread and wine, Easter can feel like just another day where we rehearse the same story. Lent is meant to serve as a sort of mental, physical and spiritual preparation for the Easter Triduum (Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday), but the sense of anticipation and readiness can easily slip away, taking with it our immersion into the mystery of the season – especially the unique, supernatural event that is the Resurrection.
This year, I have been struck by the icon of the Anastasis we explored in my class at Regis. It is an image of the Resurrection unfamiliar to Western Christians. Christ stands on a rock that has been split apart, over a dark cave full of broken keys and locks. In the darkness below there is often a gaunt figure bound by ropes. This is Death, the “shadow-world” of the dead for which the Bible employs both the Greek Hades and the Hebrew sheol. For Christ has broken the chains of death, unloosed the captives and bound the “strong man.” The underworld has been “harrowed,” the power of Hades has been defeated; and so the kingdom of Death, like the tomb, is empty! Here is the Resurrection as triumph, Christus Victor emerging victorious from the grave. Perhaps most interestingly for those of us from outside the Eastern tradition, Christ is pulling two figures up from out of the darkness – Adam and Eve, symbolizing all humanity. On each side of Christ are apostles, saints, kings and prophets from all the ages. We see here how humanity is drawn into this great drama of redemption. As Irenaeus of Lyons made clear in his theological writings, Christ “recapitulates” the history of salvation from Garden to Consummation, a “second Adam” who brings everlasting life to humanity. The life-giving power of God breaks into the temporal realm, a great Reversal of cosmic implications.
Looking at the Easter story in a fresh way is vital to combating “Easter fatigue,” from treating this Sunday as the same as any other. Easter has roots in the change of the seasons, and the rising of the sun. These things happen every year, every day… we live in a world of cycles, something which the liturgy picks up as it transposes our life-rhythms into “sacred time” or kairos. But the Easter event is unique, unrepeatable – it is a magnetic event, mysteriously attracting human art, thought and culture out of regular time (past, present, future) and into the eternal life of God.