By: Paul Murano – April, 2019
In April the world celebrates Easter. Most people celebrate its secular dimension merely as a spring ritual – with the Easter bunny, Easter egg hunts, and lots of chocolate eating. This is similar to how most people celebrate the secular dimension of Christmas – as a winter holiday with the mythical Santa Claus, elves, reindeer, and Frosty. I happen to love the secular dimensions of these two great holidays. Their symbolism speaks loudly about the real meanings of these holy days.
As for Easter, bunnies and eggs symbolize new life evident throughout spring. This points to the profound reality of Easter – the day Jesus Christ conquered man’s number one enemy: death. As spring signifies a renewal of life in nature, Easter signifies the renewal of life in humanity through the resurrection. God took on human nature to transform it by defeating death and re-offering man the eternal life was rejected in the original garden (of Eden).
What does this mean? Easter celebrates the “first fruits” of the harvest (1 Cor 15:20). Anyone who knows agriculture will understand that ‘first fruits’ are picked early. At the right time the rest of what was planted will also be harvested. Christ is the first fruits of the new creation with His Resurrection on the “eighth day”. Man now shares in the spiritual fruits of His resurrection;
and at the end of history, the Great Harvester will gather the rest of His harvest into His divine Bosom, by separating the sheep from the goats (Mt 25:32), and the weeds from the wheat (Mt 13:30), saying to those on His left, “Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt 25:41), and to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mt 25:34). For those who through baptism and faith follow Christ like a body follows its Head, they too will be raised on the last day.
Easter olds a promise. It is the day that each and every person with faith can be assured their present sufferings, and there are plenty of them, are but temporary trials in making us stronger. No wimps can enter the kingdom of heaven. Sons of Adam who inherited death must be spiritually transformed by the new Adam (Christ) in order to be fit for resurrection.
Pre-Christian philosophers figured that out through reason alone that the human soul survives bodily death, since spirit does not decompose or disintegrate. The ancient Greeks and Jews further recognized that these disembodied souls were not happy, in Hades and Sheol respectively. In fact, they were quite the contrary since they were still in their sins and outside the gates of heaven, not yet opened by the justice Christ won for mankind. Yet, Easter celebrates more than the immortality of the soul. Easter is also about the resurrection of the body. Recall that Jesus’ tomb was empty. He was not simply a ghost after conquering death (Lk 24:39). The entire person united to Christ is transformed, body and soul, by the divine life of grace in the resurrection. As Aquinas mentions, the resurrected person in heaven will be as if s/he is at the height of youthful perfection, and then transformed into something whose beauty and splendor we cannot fathom.
Christ Himself by His own post-resurrection appearances gives us some hints of what this may be like. His risen glorified body was gifted with four supernatural gifts: subtlety (it could pass through walls), agility (the ability to travel at will, without the drudgery of having to move between point A and point B), impassibility (freedom from suffering, death, and every bodily imperfection), and glory (the unimaginable grandeur that Christ displayed at the transfiguration (Mt 17:2) and the walk to Emmaus (Lk 24: 16, 31).
So while Easter is a spring holiday with all the trappings of natural symbolism that points to a supernatural reality, one ought never allow the symbols to take priority. Easter celebrates the central moment of the God-man experience. As St. Paul reminds us, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor 15:17). Yet, Paul, an eye witness to the risen Christ, confidently states: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, [is} what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor 2:9). It will be a never-ending experience in which, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away” (Rev 21:4).
This is what Easter celebrates. Let us celebrate in good conscience – unlike the unprepared virgins who ran out of oil (Mt 25:1-13), forcing the risen Christ at heaven’s gate to say: “I do not know you” (Mt 25:12).
Paul Murano is a college instructor of philosophy and theology and talk host of Beneath the Surface radio show and podcast. Paul speaks on topics relating to faith and reason, and is a solo musician who plays oldies and originals. E-mail Paul at PJDM@aol.com and check out his website at paulmurano.com.