IT is that time of the year again, when Christians celebrate the death and resurrection of the projinator of the Christian faith, Jesus Christ. The annual event is known as Easter all over the world but lately there have been controversies surrounding its origin. While some Christians say it originated from a pagan feast, others are of the opinion that the celebration has no Satanic origin. We present two opinions on the essence of Easter…
The meaning and saving significance of Easter
By Very Rev. Msgr. Gabriel Osu
EASTER is the festival of the Christian Church that commemorates the Resurrection of Christ. Easter designates the annual Christian celebration of the Resurrection of Christ. During Lent there is intense fasting, meditation and prayers, with all its observances, gives way to Easter when the Church jubilates in the resurrection of Christ.
In John 20:19-23 we see the account of the risen Lordâ€™s appearance to the apostolic community. It shows Jesus not only in divine glory but also in human solidarity, offering peace to his disciples and sending them forth to give peace.
He breathed on them, thus the gift of the Spirit received by the apostles seems to be identical to the gifts of tongues at Pentecost.
The Holy Spirit is the life of the risen Lord. Salvation to us human beings created in the image of God is sharing in that resurrection through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of adoption, enabling us to cry â€˜Abba, Fatherâ€™.
The Resurrection is the raising from death, of Jesus with a new, transformed body (Matthew 28; Mark. 16; Luke 24; John 20-24). In the New Testament, Jesus spoke of future resurrection (John 5:25, 28-9) for all as well as his own specific resurrection after three days (Mark 8:31). After the actual resurrection of Jesus, the fact of his resurrection and the future resurrection unto eternal life with God in the kingdom of heaven were basic elements in Christian teaching (Acts 2:31; 4:2; 33; Philippians 3:10-11).
The Resurrectionâ€”-A work of the Holy Trinity
Christâ€™s Resurrection is an object of faith in that it is a transcendent intervention of God himself in creation and history. In it the three divine persons acted together as one, and manifest their own proper characteristics.
The meaning and saving significance of the Resurrection
â€œIf Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vanâ€ (I Corinthians 15:14). The Resurrection above all, constitutes the confirmation of all Christâ€™s works and teachings. Christâ€™s Resurrection is the fulfillment of the promises both in the Old Testament and of Jesus himself during his earthly life. The truth of Jesusâ€™ divinity is confirmed by his resurrection. He had said: â€œWhen you have lifted up the Son of man, you will know that I am Heâ€ (John 8:28).
The Resurrection of the crucified one shows that he was truly â€œI AMâ€, the Son of God and God himself. The Paschal mystery has two partsâ€”-justification and filial adoptionâ€¦so that Man become Christâ€™s brethren. Finally, Christâ€™s Resurrectionâ€”-and the risen Christ himselfâ€”is the principle and source of our future resurrection: â€œChrist has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleepâ€¦â€ (I Corinthians 15:20-22).
Today, we celebrate Christâ€™s twofold giving of himself: (1.) To his enemies, he died on the Cross for the life of the world. He is the paschal victim, whose blood saves his people. (2.) To his friends and disciples, his Churchâ€”-that is, to usâ€”-it is the sacrament of his body and blood. If we want to follow Christ, we must follow his example of self-giving and of serviceâ€”â€˜washing one anotherâ€™s feetâ€™.
This Mass is our Alleluia; our song of praise to the risen Lord who is our life and whose triumph over death we proclaim to all the world. Today, as we hail Christ as our Lord and God we are filled with the joy of the disciples in seeing the risen Lord. In this season of renewal we are like those early Christians who were â€˜filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be describedâ€™.
The Resurrection is the pivotal point of the Gospel. The Church is a witness that the Lord has risen and has given her the power to rise. By His death, Christ paid a debt He didnâ€™t owe, to cancel a debt we couldnâ€™t pay. Many give their lives for their country, but Jesus gave his Life for the whole world.
The cross reveals Godâ€™s heart for the lost. By His Resurrection, Christ paid for our greatest freedom, freedom from sin. The symbol of our Christian faith is a cross. The Lord has risen today, Alleluia!
All truths, even those most inaccessible to human reason, find their justification if Christ by His resurrection has given the definitive proof of his divine authority, which he had promised. The phrase â€œin accordance with the Scripturesâ€ â€“ cf. I Corinthians 15:3-4; cf. the Nicene Creed, God indicates that Christâ€™s Resurrection fulfilled these predictions. The truth of Jesusâ€™ divinity is confirmed by his Resurrection. He had said: â€œWhen you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am heâ€ (John 8:28).
This new life is above all justification that reinstates us in Godâ€™s grace, â€œso that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of lifeâ€ (Romans 6:4; cf. 4:25). Justification consists in both victory over the death caused by sin and a new participation in grace â€“ cf. Ephesians 2:4-5; I Peter 1:3. It brings about filial adoption so that men become Christâ€™s brethren, as Jesus himself called his disciples after his Resurrection: â€œGo and tell my brethrenâ€ (Matthew 28:10; John 20:17). We are brethren not by nature, but by the gift of grace, because that adoptive filiation gains us a real share in the life of the only Son which was fully revealed in his Resurrection.
Finally, Christâ€™s Resurrectionâ€”and the risen Christ himselfâ€”is the principle and source of our future resurrection. Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep … For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made aliveâ€ (I Corinthians 15:20-22). The risen Christ lives in the hearts of his faithful while they await that fulfillment. In Christ, Christians â€œhave tested…the powers of the age to come and their lives are swept up by Christ into the heart of divine life, so that they may live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
Faith in the Resurrection has as its object an event which is historically attested to by the disciples, who really encountered the Risen One. At the same time, this event is mysteriously transcendent insofar as it is the entry of Christâ€™s humanity into the glory of God.
The empty tomb and the linen cloths lying there signify in themselves that by Godâ€™s power Christâ€™s body had escaped the bonds of death and corruption. They prepared the disciples to encounter the Risen Lord.
Christ, â€œthe first born from the dead (Col. 1:18), is the principle of our own resurrection, even now by the justification of our souls (cf. Rom. 6:4), and one day by the new life he will impart to our bodies (cf. Rom. 8:11). These lies the meaning and significance of the Resurrection as captured by The Catechism of The Catholic Churchâ€.
*Msgr. Osu is the director of Social Communications, Lagos Catholic Archdiocese