There was a very heartrending moment in the film “The Passion of the Christ” that was also powerfully encouraging. Jesus is on the way to Crucifixion, carrying His Cross; He is bloody and dirty. His Mother approaches filled with compassion and pain. He looks at her through the blood and the dirt on His face and tells her: “Do not worry. See, I make all things new”. I can’t watch that scene without my eyes filling with tears. It is so beautiful in the midst of such ugly horror.
That particular quote is not found at that same place in the Passion Narrative in Scripture, though. It is a quote from Christ in the Book of the Apocalypse.
But truly, in accepting suffering that is so hideous through His love and obedience to the Father, Christ has transformed even that horrible evil into Redemption for the whole human race. By doing that, He has redefined what it means to be human and compassionate. He has bestowed on humankind the ability to transform even evil into good. In an amazing repetition of the act of the creation of the universe out of nothing, He has made all things new: all is possible. The self-gift of Jesus to the Father had unbelievable transforming power. He has fertilized the world with the seed of His self-offering. And He established the sacred principle so beautifully; but, if the seed dies, it produces abundant fruit. This gift enables all of us through His grace to get out of the cycle of avoiding pain and seeking pleasure to a continual repairing of the brokenness of this world.
The graces of the Resurrection flow not from the empty tomb, but from the Sacrifice of Calvary. Death and Resurrection are forever united in the new world order established by Christ’s sacrifice.
That is why Easter is the greatest feast of the year! We celebrate the Love of Good Friday made victorious by the raising of Jesus by the Father. It is why a large part of each of the Gospels is the Passion Narratives. Though death by Crucifixion was the most awful, shameful way to die, deliberately engineered to curse a person forever, Christ has transformed it into our hope and promise. The early Church and Saint Paul never downplayed the Agony of Calvary, though many groups urged them to drop it as a disincentive for the new faith. Quite the opposite: St. Paul only proclaimed Christ Crucified! He knew the countercultural significance of the way He died and the reason why He died. That was the whole point! It changed everything. It made all things new. Evil was defeated definitively.
It is the reason why, when I was a kid, I got to wear all new clothes on Easter Sunday. Everyone dressed up to assent to the Victory of Christ and the bright morning of promise that Easter brings. Easter is filled with joy, not because it is Spring and there are bunny rabbits about (such a terrible reduction of the meaning of Easter!), but it is joyous because everything can bring us to God. He has freed us and opened up the floodgates of grace!
The very word Easter refers to the East—where the Sun rises and brings us a new day. So Christ is the Son who rises and transforms everything into possibilities of grace and a share in the Victory of Christ.
It is a holy time when we can try to bring peace to our families—not by preaching at them, but by modeling for them the joy of the Easter Proclamation and the significance it has to our daily lives: “Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her!”
And so we proclaim to one another as the Greek Orthodox do: “Christ is Risen!” To which we respond: “Christ is Risen indeed!” A Blessed Easter to You All!