Christ is risen! It is the Easter season and, at least in the temperate climes of the Northern Hemisphere, signs of resurrection are everywhere. Flowers bloom, trees leaf out, birds sing: the green world awakens once again.
I marvel at these miracles of springtime. Frankly, they are what have kept me going as a farmer and gardener—and, of course, as a Christian. I’m realizing, however, that in all these years of rejoicing in the signs of new life, I’ve given short shrift to the first half of the Paschal mystery. I failed to take seriously that Good Friday is the necessary gateway to Easter Sunday. Jesus didn’t just have a weekend snooze in the cave and wake up with a yawn on Sunday morning. He was dead.
This pattern of death and resurrection, then, is as full of grit as it is of grace. It’s little wonder that I haven’t wanted to let it sink in too deeply. But as I become more in touch with my own suffering and the suffering of the whole world, I’m beginning to see that this pattern is one of the deepest and most powerful truths of Christian faith.
Like a never-ending pattern, it’s true on every level. As individuals, new life comes at the cost of the many personal deaths in our lives: of careers, of dreams and expectations, of health, even of loved ones.
On a global level, the death and resurrection pattern is the only reliable guide through the difficult decades that lie ahead for the whole world. The human race has become such a powerful environmental force that we’re destroying coral reefs, rain forests, countless other creatures and entire species, and even fellow human beings. The destruction now has so much momentum that it will, scientists tell us, get worse before it gets better. We are living through an age of death.
Until we take this seriously, until we understand and grieve and accept the magnitude of these losses, our hope for the future will be either cheap, death-denying optimism or a world-denying fantasy of escape to a disembodied heaven. Neither is the way of resurrection.
For us Christians, the Paschal candle can light the way through this dark valley. Its flame is the gritty Gospel promise, echoed in the waking green world, that love is the source, sustenance, and summit of our existence. The love that raised Jesus raises us and all creatures, always and forever.