Easter with the eyes of faith

first_img Sharing is caring! 55 Views no discussions Share Tweet Sharecenter_img Share FaithLifestyleLocalNews Easter with the eyes of faith by: – April 24, 2011 Photo credit: CNN-online.org.ukAnother name for ritual is repetition. Rituals save us from starting from scratch every time something important to us needs commemoration. All we have to do is perform the ritual.It is said that we live in an age alien to this practice; and yet, when news of President Kennedy’s death reached the streets, to cite one famous example, impromptu candle processions formed everywhere. People did not turn in their grief to speech-making. They turned spontaneously to ritual. Holy Week is all ritual, culminating in the ceremony of darkness and light of Holy Saturday, and the great Exultet proclamation.Not every day is a day for significant ritual, where great deliberation goes into preparation and execution. Some days require it, and are incomplete without it. Easter would not be Easter if the accompaniments were just thurible and incense.At another level, every year, the details of the account in Scripture of the Resurrection are pored over. New explanations are often offered for some details, but the ground has essentially been covered before, and nothing really new emerges. The miracle remains the same: he is not here, he is risen!Easter ritual allows us to experience afresh the foundations of faith every time we commemorate the occasion. St. Paul put it simply and fundamentally in First Corinthians: “If Christ is not risen, your faith is in vain.” Your hope too, of course, but he didn’t have to say it.Some difference exists in the way the resurrection was experienced at the beginning and how later generations have done so. The single constant in all the early testimonies is an appeal to sight: “I have seen the Lord.” St. Paul felt excluded from this special band of witnesses, until his Damascus experience allowed him to say: “I too have seen.” It was a privileged, unrepeatable time, when the risen Lord was seen and, as John said in his First Letter, touched and verified.This does not mean that faith was not required. Early witnesses had to trust that their eyes were not deceiving them, that sight was not illusory. Nothing in their experience and tradition had led them to expect anything like it. The dialogue between the disciples on the road to Emmaus makes it clear that the crucifixion represented complete devastation. Then, a man whose brutal death was witnessed by crowds, who was buried in a sealed tomb, had reportedly returned to visit his companions. This is the man they now claimed to “see.”Faith then as now did not depend on proof. What proof could there have been? The moment of resurrection was not a visible event. No one could come forward as an eyewitness. The empty tomb did not constitute proof either. Other explanations were possible, as the gospels themselves indicate. The body could have been “taken away” by someone, as Mary lamented when she arrived at the tomb that morning.What faith attested to then was not an absence, but a special form of presence. This is the distinctive Easter fact in the gospels. It is what empowered the disciples, and it’s where the continuities in resurrection faith, past and present, crucially begin.Faith today responds to the resurrection as a continuing presence. The privilege of “seeing” is no longer ours. We cannot say “I too have seen the Lord.” What we can say is “I too have met him.” Presence now means that the Lord is accessible; he can be met; people keep meeting him, and meeting him continues to change their lives.The experience is something one must desire. St. Augustine set great store by desire in trying to explain the manner and the extent to which God pervades our lives. As Jesus once turned to ask the strangers following him: “What is it that you seek?” Such desiring takes many forms. Doing so actively and deliberately in prayer is one way. More ordinarily perhaps, it’s a matter of what loyalties one perseveres in surrendering to, how one keeps one’s heart inclined and oriented.The experience also transforms. The early witnesses were considered drunk because of change the resurrection had effected in them. Conversion, which is really resurrection encounter by another name, clearly also testifies to this. When it occurs, the experience is always felt as amazing; it transforms blindness into sight, and it brings the convert into a life of new, enlightened awareness.It is such witnesses, who have met the Lord, and are continually transformed by him, who are “sent.” Who else will make the world over; who else can possibly transform it? Such witnessing is a way of saying to the world: ‘I am the message I preach.’ I am reminded here of St. Francis’ instruction to his followers as he once sent them out: preach the gospel by all means possible, he said, and if it’s really necessary, you could even use words.Evangelization is essentially not a matter of giving doctrine. It works in a far more holistic way through the witness displayed in a life. It is life, not doctrine, that attracts and persuades. Method and approach are always important in evangelization, but lives transformed by resurrection faith will always be the surest and best of its techniques.By: Father Henry Charles Ph.dlast_img

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