The Power and Freshness of Easter
User's Guide to April 16, Easter Sunday
Sunday, April 16, is Easter Sunday. Mass Readings: Acts 10:34, 37-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Colossians 3:1-4 or 1 Corinthians 5:6-8; John 20:1-9.
It’s Easter Sunday, and this is who Jesus Christ is for us now — the Lord of history and the revelation of the Father on the one hand and someone we can know, personally, on the other.
The readings bear both of these aspects out.
The Gospel reading is a very personal account, written via eyewitness testimony, of what it was like to experience this great mystery. The second reading, written by Paul who experienced the Risen Jesus much later, is likewise addressed to each of us, personally: “When Christ your life appears, then you, too, will appear with him in glory.”
On the other hand, there is the first reading, the magisterial pronouncement of the Resurrection by Peter to the crowds, and the Psalm declaring, “This is the day the Lord had made; let us rejoice and be glad.”
Even the sequence tells the tale: The “Victimae paschali laudes” sequence is found in most missalettes.
This ancient poem rhymes effortlessly in Latin. But the strained rhymes of the English version can hide the beauty and power of this fine medieval sequences — one of five that remain in the Roman Missal.
The others include the Veni, Sancte Spiritus sequence for Pentecost, which is vastly preferable in its prose version, as well as the Stabat Mater — “At the cross her station keeping” — which everyone loves in its Latin- or English-rhymed version.
Here is the Easter sequence in prose:
“Let Christians offer sacrificial praises to the Passover victim. The Lamb has redeemed the sheep: The Innocent Christ has reconciled sinners to the Father. Death and life contended in a spectacular battle: The Prince of Life, who died, reigns alive.
“Tell us, Mary, what did you see on the road? ‘I saw the tomb of the living Christ and the glory of his rising, the angelic witnesses, the clothes and the shroud. Christ my hope is arisen; into Galilee he will go before his own.’ Amen. Alleluia.”
The first half is deeply theological. It connects Jesus with the Passover story and reminds us that we are the flock of this unusual Shepherd who is also a lamb. It dwells on the paradoxes of the faith, the way medieval texts love to: the innocent reconciling sinners; death and life battling; life winning by dying.
The second half is refreshingly personal. With the question, “Mary, what did you see on the road?” it suddenly becomes a dialogue with Mary Magdalene, and after hearing the pronouncement of the Good News from a theological perspective, we hear it from one who saw it all: the empty tomb, the angel, the facecloth and the shroud. Hope is alive!
It’s this yin and yang — the solid foundation and the fresh perspective — that makes Easter what it is: a day that never grows old and always invites us to a new, personal response rooted in Christ.
Each of us must tell the world: “What did you see along the road?”
Tom Hoopes is writer in
residence at Benedictine College
in Atchison, Kansas.
He is the author of What