The Resurrection is the dawn of a new creation, a light still more wonderful than the Fiat lux of the world’s first making By Bishop Mark Davies
On the first Easter morning, the faithful women had gone through the last shadows of night to the tomb “… just as the sun was rising” (Mk.16: 2). Yet, this first light to which the Gospel draws us, results not from the earth’s movement rather it radiates from the cosmic event of Christ’s Resurrection in which our world and our lives are seen anew.
The Resurrection is the dawn of a new creation, a light still more wonderful than the Fiat lux – “Let there be light” – of the world’s first making (Gen 1:3).
This, we might say, is the new and everlasting ‘normal’ through which all time and all the ages are to be seen. It leads us to joyously declare at the beginning of the Easter Vigil: “All time belongs to him and all the ages.” Pope Francis has compared the global health crisis to Holy Saturday’s silent expectation; and this poignant scene of Easter daybreak might similarly evoke how whole societies are emerging from the shadows of anxiety and loss, toward the uncertain dawn of post-pandemic times.
History sadly teaches that plagues and pandemics have been rapidly followed by a descent into social disorder and despairing hedonism. If our pathway out of lockdown is not to become such a false dawn, we must be certain of the light that will guide us toward the high goal of our earthly journey.
The Easter Liturgy declares this to be “the light of Christ rising in glory” dispelling the darkness of all hearts and minds and making the life of grace possible for us. This is the light that has long guided societies of Christian foundation, yet this same light must be recognised anew amid the gathering shadows of our age.
In his Easter preaching, Emeritus Pope Benedict recalled the cry with which homilies in early centuries would dramatically conclude: Conversi ad Dominum! – “Turn now towards the Lord!” These words served as a summation of the Church’s preaching, inviting humanity to turn from false paths of thought and action toward the light of the Lord himself.
In the first centuries of the Church’s life, this was literally a call for the assembled faithful to orient themselves Eastward, toward the rising of the sun, to the place where the Holy Eucharist would be offered, adored and received. Yet, this Eucharistic orientation is an inward one by which we strive with our gaze fixed upon the Risen Lord through all the events and challenges of time.
Pope Francis described how the Christian life is so lived with our eyes always fixed on Christ, “the risen Christ, present and alive in the Eucharist.”
This Easter we recall how through the long months of lockdown and especially when church doors were closed, countless numbers “turned towards the Lord” by every creative means, not least the internet. The faithful were even seen praying with heads resting against church walls and at the locked gates of churches, hearts and minds turned towards Christ’s Presence in the Tabernacle. In the painful absence experienced by the closing of church doors, we witnessed such a heartfelt seeking of Him “who was crucified and is risen” in the mystery and reality of the Eucharist (Cf. Mark 16:6).
The re-opening of our churches was memorably described by Cardinal Sarah as returning to the Eucharist with joy. This has not been a superficial experience: our re-opened churches have witnessed a renewed spirit of attentive silence and prayer, reflecting what Saint John Henry Newman once admiringly observed in the Catholic chapels of Victorian England where he found all attention fixed on the Blessed Sacrament of Christ’s Real Presence among us.
We have seen during the long months of the pandemic a re-discovery of His Eucharistic Presence at the heart of our churches and communities.
The enormous efforts made by clergy and people in the re-opening of churches has given its own witness to the unfailing light of the Son who has risen above all the shadows of history. At Easter 2021, we can see how the Church’s life and mission will be re-built on the foundation of such Eucharistic faith and love.