Easter is the greatest feast of the Church’s liturgical year. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that “Easter is not simply one feast among others, but the Feast of feasts, the Solemnity of solemnities.” This is because the Resurrection of Jesus is the basis of our faith. As Saint Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” There would be no Christianity and the Church would not exist if Jesus had not risen from the dead.
Jesus Christ has crushed the power of death. This is what we celebrate at Easter. Jesus’ resurrection is not some mythological or symbolic story. It was an historical event. The mystery of Christ’s resurrection is a real event, with manifestations that were historically verified. The empty tomb is one sign. Its discovery by Mary Magdalen and the apostles was the first step toward recognizing the very fact of the resurrection. The disciple whom Jesus loved realized when he saw the empty tomb that the absence of Jesus’ body pointed to his resurrection from the dead. In fact, the Gospel of John tells us that when he went into the empty tomb after Peter, “he saw and believed.” But the empty tomb was just the first sign of the truth of the resurrection.
The appearances of the Risen Jesus convinced Mary Magdalen, Saint Peter, and the other apostles and disciples that Jesus had truly risen from the dead. They only believed when they saw Jesus Himself and not just the empty tomb. Imagine the unspeakable emotion they felt when they saw the Risen Jesus and heard his words: Peace be with you. They had been devastated by the events of Good Friday. Their hopes had been dashed. They probably thought Jesus’ mission was a failure and that His message may not have been true. But the resurrection confirmed their faith in all that Jesus had said and done while He was with them in His public ministry.
The Catechism teaches us that the resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of our faith in Christ. It reveals to us that Jesus is truly the Son of God. All His works and teachings are confirmed. His divine authority is proven. His resurrection is the fulfillment of the promises both of the Old Testament and of Jesus Himself during His earthly life.
Yes, the resurrection of Jesus was a real, historical event, but it was also an event that transcends and surpasses history. As the Catechism teaches: “No one can say how it came about physically. Still less was its innermost essence, his passing over to another life, perceptible to the senses. Although the resurrection was an historical event that could be verified by the sign of the empty tomb and by the reality of the apostles’ encounters with the risen Christ, still it remains at the very heart of the mystery of faith as something that transcends and surpasses history. … Christ’s resurrection is an object of faith in that it is a transcendent intervention of God himself in creation and history.”
The Church is based on the extraordinary experience of the witnesses of the Risen Jesus. Our lives as Christians are based on our faith in the resurrection of Jesus because His resurrection opens for us the way to a new life. This new life began when we were baptized and received a share in the divine life. Pope Benedict has said that by Baptism, we have been seized by “the explosion of the Resurrection.”
Jesus is alive today and walks before us, showing us the path of life. We never walk alone along the path of life. Jesus is with us always and holds us firmly, even when our hands grow weak. We walk with Him along the way of the cross on a journey towards true and lasting joy. We journey in hope because of the resurrection, in the sure hope that we and our loved ones who follow Christ in faith and love will one day rise with Him.
On this journey, we are nourished by the Holy Eucharist, the bread of life, the flesh of the Risen Christ which gives us life. Jesus promised: “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day.” The new life we received at Baptism, the life of grace, is increased and renewed every time we receive Holy Communion, the food of eternal life. “The most holy Body and Blood of the Lord fills us with every grace and heavenly blessing” (Roman Canon). In the words of the martyr, Saint Ignatius of Antioch, the Eucharist is “the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live forever in Jesus Christ.”
Jesus Christ is no longer in the tomb. He is alive! He accompanies us on our journey through this life, strengthens us with the sacraments, and leads us to the house of His Father.
Easter is truly the greatest feast of the liturgical year because the Resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of our faith. May the Risen Lord bless you with Easter joy! May the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose heart was filled with joy beyond all telling at the resurrection of her Son, intercede for you always!
During the Easter season, I invite you to pray the Regina Caeli, the joyful Marian antiphon of the Easter season, dating back to the 10th century:
Queen of heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
The Son whom you merited to bear, alleluia,
has risen as he said, alleluia.
Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia!
For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia.
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