“The only real sin is to remain insensible to the resurrection” said Isaac the Syrian, a father of the ancient Church. Exactly for this reason it is possible to value the Christian’s faith and to distinguish his ability to hope for everybody and to transmit this hope to everybody. On Easter day each Christian proclaims the victory of life over death, because Jesus the Messiah rose from death to be He who lives forever. He who, being a man like us, flesh as we are flesh, he who was born and lived among us, who died a violent death, who was crucified and buried, has been resurrected!
Oh death, where is your victory? Oh death, you are no longer the last word for the men, you became a passage, the moment of the exodus from earthly life to eternal life, from this world to God’s kingdom…
This should be the Christian’s song on this Easter day, the most important feast among all festivities, because God has been resurrected as the first fruit of us all, because life reigns finally and a secret but real process of redemption, of transfiguration has begun inside each creature Death is a dominant element for each man, a really effective power, not just because it arouses fear and anguish, contradicting men’s life, but also because as a consequence of death men get wicked and sinful.
Sin is always egoism, it is always a contradiction to the communion with men and with God, and it’s exactly the presence of death to rouse the desire to rescue oneself, to live without the other men or against them. Death is not only “the wages of the sin” (Romans 6:23), but also instigation to sin… If men are inclined to sin this is because of the anguish in the face of death, in the face of that fear which makes man subject to lifelong slavery (see Hebrews 2:14-15).
Because of anguish and fear men’s longing for life becomes hate, denial of the others, competition, rivalry, outrage. Everything can be distorted by anguish, love as well. Therefore death seems to be present not only in the moment of the physical death of the human body, but also before it. Death is a power which makes incursions in the wholeness of our existence, which pays attention to the fullness of our relationships and of our life.
This is exactly the death against which Jesus fought till he won. The agonía (agony) which Jesus began in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:44) is a fight (agón) ended with the descent to the nether world, when he defeated Satan — and therefore death and sin— in a definitive way. And Jesus did not defeat only his death, but Death. “Through death he defeated death,” as the liturgy sings today. Now, this fight dimension is essential for the Christian: all life is a fight, it is a struggle against death which dwells inside us and against the instincts and death pulsions by which we are attracted.
Jesus’ resurrection is then the seal set by the Father on the Son’s fight, on his agón: and the Son, showing that he had a reason to die (giving one’s life for the other men), showed that there is a reason to live (i.e. to live, to dwell in the communion). Therefore the Father called him back from the reign of the dead, making him Lord forever.
All men, even if they know neither Him nor His plan, carry a feeling of eternity inside their heart and they all wonder: “What can we hope for?”. They know that, if they remain insensible to the resurrection, they prevent them from knowing “the sense of the sense” of their life. With difficulty and sometimes along wrong paths, men wait for and look for the good news of life being stronger than death, of love being stronger than hate and violence. Christ, risen and living forever, is the true answer which requires an authentic narration from Christians, a narration which can be made just by those who experienced the Living God. Where are these Christians? Yes, today there are still Christians who are able of all this: there are still Christian martyrs, Christian prophets, and Christian witnesses who never blush because of the Gospel. One more time, today just like the morning of the resurrection, the same announcement comes from the empty grave: “Don’t be afraid! Have no fear! Don’t be anguished! The Crucified has risen and gone before you!”. Yes, a spring is near for the Church by now, a season during which the Spirit of the Risen Lord will make himself present as never before, a season during which God’s Word will be less rare. And it will be a season with neither flights, nor escapes, nor spiritualisms, but marked by the feeling of the resurrection in one’s own existence, in history, in the present time, so that the Easter faith may get already effective here and in the present time. What does this mean according to the Gospels? It means that believers have to show the resurrection in the community of men, they have to narrate to men that life is stronger than death.
They have to do this by building a community no longer based on the “I” but on the “We,” by forgiving without asking for reciprocity. They have to do this through the deep joy which persists in pressure situations, through the sympathy for each creature, above all the poorest ones, the sufferers, through justice which leads to bring freedom from those situations of death in which many people lay. They gave to do this by accepting to spend one’s life for the other men, by giving up self-assertion without the consideration of the others or against them, by giving one’s own life freely and because of love, to the point of praying even for murderers. As a matter of fact this is exactly the heart of the Christian faith: to believe the unbelievable, to love those who are unlovable, to hope when there is no more hope left. Yes, faith, hope and love are possible only if we believe in the resurrection. Then, indeed our last word will be neither death nor hell, but the victory over death and hell. Easter opens up the horizon of eternal life for everybody. May this Easter be a Easter of hope for everybody, really for everybody!
Translated from: ENZO BIANCHI Dare senso al tempo , Le feste cristiane
Edizioni Qiqajon, 2003, pp. 93-96.