Words on the Word

Easter Day

It is said about St Seraphim of Sarov that he, as an old man, greeted everyone he met with the words: ‘My joy! Christ is risen!’

That is how a Christian should relate to the world.

It is not a spontaneous attitude. Not everyone fills us with joy, just like that. There are some people we take circuitous byways to avoid. Seraphim’s joy was unsentimental. He saw others with the eyes, not of feeling but of faith. By prayer and ascesis he had acquired a sort of graced x-ray vision. He saw what people had the potential to become in God’s providence; he glimpsed the divine image they bore, a beauty that is of God longing to unfold, even when it is hidden underneath layers of grime and filth.

His joy was illumined by Christ’s resurrection.

The light of Easter penetrates any darkness. The power of sin, which sabotages thriving and makes it seem as if death were final, is broken. The devil, whom the Fathers called He-who-hates-the-good, is a vanquished enemy. We live with a formidable capacity for life, growth, flourishing.

Our life is made resonant by hope. Within that resonance no human person is a hopeless case. Not even I or you.

‘If you have been raised with Christ’, says Paul, ‘then strive for the things that are above’, where Christ is. This is not to say that we should live abstractly with our head in the clouds, without taking life seriously. No, it is to say that we must see everything here and now in the light of Easter Morning. We live in a wounded world. There is much to make us afraid. Sin ‘clings closely’, joy eludes us, we lose courage (cf. Heb 12.1-3).

Into this concrete darkness we are to let Christ shine. He is our life. We simply need to let him live.

Of old it was a custom in my order that monks sent out to set up a new monastery carried a founders’ cross as a point of orientation for the foundation. It bore the inscription Vive Jésus! – ‘That Jesus May Live!’ This rather spells out the Christian condition in a nutshell.

We all have our cross to bear. But the cross, however heavy, is illumined by glory if we carry it in Christ. We must learn to perceive it in an optic of resurrection.

Two weeks ago, on the fifth Sunday of Lent, we read about the grain of wheat that falls into the earth. It is an image that explains our current existence. We are caught up in a process of growth whose final fruit will only be gathered in on the other side of death. For the time being, manure of all sorts is helpful.

It seems to me that we, as Christians, more easily identify with Jesus’s Passion than with his Resurrection. We should do something about that. Life is what is definitive. That’s what we’re made for.

We don’t inhabit a world of pretence. But we live in a redeemed world. No death is final.

My joy! Christ is risen! May he be fully alive in us, in the unity among us, that the world may believe and rediscover the gladness it has lost.


Ugolino di Nerio, The Resurrection (ca. 1325-28), in the National Gallery