Easter Is Present Tense
“Christ is risen!”
I love the present tense of this Easter greeting. It helps us see Easter as more than an event embedded in the past. It is a mystery surrounding and surpassing all time and space. The death and resurrection of Christ is the very heartbeat of the Christian life and community.
Early Christians, I believe, had a deep and abiding sense of this mystery. Over the centuries this dynamic sense of God’s newness diminished. For example, a robust celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection as one saving event developed into a series of separate events during the medieval period. These services became reenactments of the Passion story. In the 20th century we began to uncover the more primitive celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection, most notably in the celebration of the Triduum, commonly known as the Three Days.
See the Triduum as one liturgy spanning three days. What begins on Maundy Thursday continues on Good Friday, finds its culmination at the Great Vigil of Easter, and spills over into Easter Sunday morning. We immerse ourselves in the entire celebration because Jesus’ death and resurrection are not separate events, but one saving reality.
It may surprise us to learn that when we begin the Three Days our Lenten journey has already ended and the mystery of Easter begins to unfold. Sure, we remember that on this night Jesus washed his disciples’ feet and established the Lord’s Supper, but it is God who is primarily re-membering us, breathing new life into Christ’s body, and making new disciples at the waters of baptism.
Make no mistake, on Maundy Thursday we remember the night Jesus gave us the Eucharist, washed his disciples’ feet, and began his journey to the Cross, but when we gather on this night it is the Risen Jesus who commands us to love one another, stoops to wash our feet, and feeds us at his table of mercy.
Good Friday is a day for prayer, simplicity, and even austerity, but don’t forget that it is the Risen Christ who reigns victorious on the Cross. We gather around this throne of grace to pray for all the world and to ponder Jesus’ promise made true that “when I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself.”
When we gather around the new fire on Saturday evening to light the Paschal Candle, the new candle will display for the first time, the numbers 2019, and the refrain of “This is the night” throughout the ancient hymn says that Christ is doing a new thing. It is the Risen Christ who shines light in the darkness, speaks his living word of grace through the scriptures, washes and anoints new Christians, and brings us to the bread and cup of blessing.
Come to the Three Days – the entire Three Days. Come with all your senses to pay attention and be in awe of the words, sounds, sights, gestures, tastes and smells. Approach the Three Days as one liturgy, one moment, one event, one celebration. Come to remember the amazing things God has done and most of all, see what God is up to now. Join in the great chorus: “Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!”