“Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” For Mary of Magdala and the other women who went to anoint the body of Jesus at dawn on that first Easter Sunday, the stone guarding the tomb presented an obstacle.
Their joy was unbounded when they realised that not only had the stone been rolled back, but that Jesus was risen from the dead. In the days that lay ahead the disciples of Jesus would come to understand that, like the stone rolled back from the tomb, Christ had broken down the barriers that stood between God and sinful humanity, between life and death. For the first time they would, in Christ, be fully alive. They experienced within themselves the life of their Risen Lord.
The Easter Vigil, following the long history of God’s people, prepared us for Easter as the fulfilment of the Father’s will. The God of Israel had revealed himself through the wonders of creation and through his special relationship with Abraham. He had led a captive people through the waters of the Red Sea, setting them free from the bondage of slavery. Despite their many failings, he had never ceased to call this people to himself. Through the prophets God had revealed himself as a loving husband to his people, as water to the thirsty and food to the hungry. He would break down the stony indifference of their lives, bringing them to life with the gift of his own Spirit.
The beautiful imagery of the Easter scriptures express the frustrated longings of sinful humanity. We long to be free from the shackles that bind sinful hearts; we long to be alive to God and each other.
The Easter Liturgy brings these longings and their fulfilment together in the Liturgy of Baptism. Through the blessing of baptismal water, the renewal of baptismal vows and the baptism of catechumens, we are reminded that the resurrection is our own life in Christ.
“When we were baptised we went into the tomb with Christ and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life.”
We bring to Easter everything that has died within us, entrusting ourselves, with the crucified Lord, to the Father who alone raises us up to new life, new love and new faith.
In the words of St Paul, the life that we now live is hidden with Christ in God. This communion with the Risen Lord reaches far beyond the boundaries of our limited imagination. “But when Christ is revealed, and he is your life, you too will be revealed in all your glory with him.”
St John’s account of the first Easter opens with Mary of Magdala’s anxious report to Peter and the other disciple. “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him.”
The as yet unexplained empty tomb mirrored the experience of sinful humanity. Sin leads us into a sense of loss and emptiness, a longing for a familiar presence. Only when they had reached the tomb did the disciples see and believe. Christ was Risen from the dead. He had become the living presence that displaces the emptiness at the heart of sinful humanity. Let us rejoice in the Risen Lord in whom we live and have our being.