Recall the scene of the Easter Vigil: the flickering light of the Paschal flame heralds first light into the dimly lit Church; the lector approaches the ambo to read the long creation narrative. Our mind wanders. Maybe we remain unmoved. Since remaining so would be a terrible thing, let us condense the narrative.
In the beginning, God speaks, “Let there be!” and it is so. First, he establishes three realms: “God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (Gen 1:3). One day. Next, “God said, ‘Let there be a firmament’…and so it was” (Gen 1:6, 7). A second day. Then, “God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so” (Gen 1:9). A third day. What was not, now is! And it was good.
Next, God creates rulers for those realms. “God said, ‘Let there be lights in the firmament’…and so it was” (Gen 1:14, 15). A fourth day. Then, “God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth’… And God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply’” (Gen 1:20, 22). They obeyed and life teemed. A fifth day. More life followed when “God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures… (Gen 1:24). At last, “God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’… Male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth’… And behold, it was very good” (Gen 1:26, 27-28). A sixth day.
Finally, God covers the realms and rulers in blessed rest. “God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it” (Gen 2:3). Let there be Light! Life! Love! And it was so. What bliss. What peace.
But this peaceful unity unravels; a drama begins that will span the millennia, a drama we know too well: the garden, a temptation, a fall, a punishment, and a promise of one who is to come. And he does come! The Word, the Word spoken by the Father, the Word through which sun and moon, water and land, fish and critters of all kinds, and finally, man and woman were created and blessed, this “Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). He lived and learned among us. He waited and was sent among us. He preached and healed among us. And this Word was silenced: he was crucified, died, yes died, and the Word was buried in a cave by us. The heavy stone rolled shut and was sealed.
Then came the eighth day, a completely new day. Today! The Word shatters the silence of death. He is risen from the dead!
What does this mean for us, who are still caught up in the age-old drama? Let’s face it: we don’t even get to see the Risen Lord. But they saw him and touched him and heard him: Peter, James, John, Mary Magdalene, Paul and many others. We have the living testimony of these witnesses faithfully shared, passed down, and recorded in written words: yes, Christ, our Life, is risen!
The good news continues. We saw how from the beginning “everyone bears in himself the image of Adam” (TOB 71:4). Well, St. John Paul II reminds us that, with the new creation of the resurrection, “everyone is also called to bear in himself the image of Christ, the image of the Risen One” (TOB 71:4), the heavenly man (see 1 Cor 15:49). “This ‘heavenly man’—the man of the resurrection…is…above all [man’s] fulfillment and confirmation” (TOB 71:3). If Adam and Eve received life, what the Risen One reveals and proclaims in the flesh is that our God is “God, not of the dead, but of the living” (Mk 12:27). The resurrection, then, “is the final and fullest confirmation of the truth about God” (TOB 70:3). Did we hear that? The Resurrected Word in the flesh is the fullest confirmation that God is the God of the living. God is life itself and we are to participate in his life!
While it is true that now “the human body…is ‘perishable,’ subject to death and to all that leads to it” (TOB 72:2) and that our senses and our thoughts are “often urged or pushed, as it were, toward evil” (TOB 72:4), there is hope: the amazing gift of divine life is implanted in our hearts in seed form. It is meant to grow towards “the resurrection of the body,” the spirit-filled body in which we shall experience at last “the perfect sensitivity of the senses, their perfect harmonization with the activity of the human spirit in truth and in freedom” (TOB 72:4). The resurrection is a call to no longer be under the influence of misdirected passions and ideas and sin, but to be fully “under the influence of the Holy Spirit” (TOB 72:5). What an image! When under the influence of alcoholic spirits or drugs, we lose control and may even do atrocious things. To be under the influence of the Holy Spirit means that the love of Christ fills us, controls us, leads us (see 2 Cor 5:14).
Let us remember something more: the resurrection of Christ is only the beginning. Fulfillment means that “through him and in him everything will return to the Father, everything will be subjected to him (that is, handed back to him definitively) so that ‘God may be all in all’ (1 Cor 15:28)” (TOB 70:3). We are to lovingly be handed back to the Father as a gift with the tag, “God’s beloved—redeemed, recreated, one like us!”
The resurrection, therefore, is a gift and call to be alive and this is very good indeed. From that first utterance of let there be light, God has been longing to shout, “Let there be Life! Son, Daughter, be rid of sin. Let me take off the shackles that bind you. Come. Rise to new life in my Son.” We are awake. We hear. And we respond, “Alleluia!”
Rev. Steven Costello was ordained a priest with the Legionaries of Christ on December 12, 2011. Prior to entering the seminary, he majored in Music Education at the University of Central Florida. His main instrument is trombone and he particularly enjoys Mahler’s Symphonies. In 2018, he earned his doctorate in Sacred Theology at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute in Washington, DC. His topic focused on understanding the human person in light of the heart of Christ, that is, an anthropology centered in love. He has participated in both the TOB I: Head & Heart Immersion and TOB & Art: The Way of Beauty courses and served as chaplain for TOB I and for Missio.