Wineskins Archive

January 28, 2014

Easter Sunday: Risen Indeed (Mar-Apr 2007)

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by Henri J.M. Nouwen
March – April, 2007

The tradition I handed on to you in the first place, a tadition which I had myself received, was that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried; and that on the third day, he was raised to life, in accordance with the scriptures; and that he appeared to Cephas; and later to the Twelve; and next he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time . . . . This is what we preach and what you believed. – Corinthians 15:3-6,11

Easter Vigil. The Lord is risen indeed. They shouted it in French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, and Arabic. There were bells, alleluias, smiles, laughter, and a deep sense that there is hope. This community of handicapped people and their assistants was loudly proclaiming that Christ’s body did not remain in the tomb, but was raised to new life, and that our own bodies will join him in glory.

While all this joy was filling the chapel, I saw that Nathan stood up with Philippe in his arms and left the church. Philippe’s body is severely distorted. He cannot speak, walk, dress, or feed himself and needs help every second of his waking hours. He had been lying in an assistant’s lap, quietly sleeping. but when the celebration became more lively he started to howl, an anguishing howl coming from deep down in his being . . . .

When I saw Philippe in Nathan’s arms I suddenly realized what we were proclaiming on this Easter vigil. Philippe’s body is a body destined to a new life, a resurrected life. In his new body he will carry the signs of his suffering, just as Jesus carried the wounds of the crucifixion into his glory. And yet he will no longer be suffering, but will join the saints around the altar of the lamb.

Still, the celebration of the resurrection of the body is also the celebration of the daily care given to the bodies of these handicapped men and women. Washing and feeding, pushing wheelchairs, carrying, kissing, and caressing–these are all ways in which these broken bodies are made ready for the moment of a new life. Not only their wounds but also the care given them will remain visible in the resurrection.

It is a great and powerful mystery. Philippe’s poor distorted body will one day be buried and return to dust. But he will rise again on the day of the resurrection of the dead.

He will rise from the grave with a new body and will show gloriously the pain he suffered and the love he received. It will not be just a body. It will be his body, a new body, a body that can be touched but is no longer subject to torture and destruction. His passion will be over.

What a faith! What a hope! What a love! The body is not a prison to escape from, but a temple in which God already dwells, and in which God’s glory will be fully manifested on the day of the resurrection.

Easter season is a time of hope. There still is fear, there still is a painful awareness of sinfulness, but there also is light breaking through. Something new is happening, something that goes beyond the changing moods of our life. We can be joyful or sad, optimistic or pessimistic, tranquil or angry, but the solid stream of God’s presence moves deeper than the small waves of our minds and hearts. Easter brings the awareness that God is present even when his presence is not directly noticed. Easter brings the good news that, although things seem to get worse in the world, the Evil One has already been overcome. Easter allows us to affirm that although God seems very distant and although we remain preoccupied with many little things, our Lord walks with us on the road and keeps explaining the Scriptures to us. Thus there are many rays of hope casting their light on our way through life.

Our Prayer

Almighty, everlasting God,
on this day
you conquered death through your son
and opened for us the path to eternal life.
And so we celebrate in joy
the feast of his resurrection.
Make us new through your Spirit,
so that we too may rise
and walk in the light of life.
We ask this through Jesus Christ.

Source: Henri J.M. Nouwen, Show me the Way (Crossroad Publishing Company, 1992). Used by permission.

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