The Pascal candle which was lit on Gloria Saturday, has the insignia of the alpha and the omega. In his Easter Sunday homily, livestreamed on Trinity TV and catholictt.org, Archbishop Jason Gordon, explained the significance: “It says Christ is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, all time, all seasons belong to Him. And in the insignia of the Pascal candle, it reminds us that when we are proclaiming Jesus Christ, we are proclaiming the living Lord of history.”
Referring to the gospel reading (Jn 20: 1-9), he took the listeners through the layered meanings of the text with an emphasis on three descriptions John uses in the opening sentence: it was early in the morning; it was the first day of the week; and it was dark. Archbishop Gordon embeds his explanation in the Genesis reference of both John’s prologue, and his description of the Resurrection.
“It was very early on the first day of the week…”
The early Church, the Archbishop said, grappled with Christ’s Resurrection, despite the many appearances of Christ after His death. A completely new phenomenon, “the early Church…they were really still trying to understand what does it mean that Jesus Christ was risen from the dead.”
At first, Jesus’ Resurrection was perceived in a similar manner to ‘you can’t keep a good man down’. People would say that it was the proof that God was with Him. John however, is attempting to show that the occurrence of the Resurrection has far greater weight and resonance.
In the prologue to his gospel, John says: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, and the Word was with God from the beginning.” Here he refers to Genesis, and the first day of creation where God created light. In the Resurrection, he references Genesis again, and thus a new Light that illumined darkness.
“John is writing in coded language, to help you and me understand a mystery, that is so profound that it is really impossible to wrap our heads around it, because our finite minds cannot contain it.” Resurrection day is the reworking of the covenant with Adam, the Archbishop explained. God had asked Adam to keep the Sabbath holy, because it was on the Sabbath that God had rested. However, on Resurrection day, God worked—it was on the night of the Sabbath that He resurrected Jesus from the dead.
Catholics therefore, celebrate on Sundays, the first day of the week; it is the Resurrection day, a day of renewal. God’s work on that Sabbath is a new dispensation, “a new covenant, a new law, that the Resurrection day is a day of worship…this is the day the Lord has made.”
“…and still dark.”
It was still dark, the Archbishop said, as the truth of the Resurrection had not yet sunk into the minds and hearts of the people. Their seeing was still “veiled” not unlike the blind man whose vision was healed, and first saw the onlookers around him like trees. “Their minds were still dark to the truth of the Resurrection light.…their hearts cold, not understanding that this was not some little raising of the dead…this was an act of God beyond any other act of God in history.”
Mary of Magdala, who had first discovered the stone rolled away from the tomb, and the body of Christ missing, had hastened to the Upper Room to tell the apostles what she saw, casting them into a state of “total confusion”.
The Upper Room where the frightened and anxious apostles are hidden, is a sacred space, where the first Eucharist was celebrated and the site of their formation before they went out to spread His Word. In this space, in the darkness of negative emotion, they would have talked about the mysteries they had witnessed, piecing together the fragments of their experiences over the three years with Christ and His ministry.
In the Upper Room
It is not dissimilar, Archbishop Gordon said, to the experiences of people now during this period of COVID-19 where the negative emotions of fear, anxiety and hopelessness are prevalent. “We are no longer in the desert. We are changing location now…in the Easter Season, we are where the disciples are, they are in the Upper Room and we are in the Upper Room, journeying with them.”
God is calling faithful now to live “specially in this season of Easter”. The Archbishop invited all “to journey with Him in the Upper Room, and to stay until we are ready to move from it, until we have understood what God wants from us.” If the living Christ is allowed into the hearts of man, the fear, disbelief and anxiety will be replaced with faith, love and fearlessness.
“God is more powerful than the virus. More powerful than everything. Even if things get worse, we know that God doesn’t make mistakes. God is in this and He is inviting us to something.”