Easter Sunday Day Mass at New Melleray
Scripture Readings: Acts 10:34, 37-43; Col 3:1-4; Jn 20:1-9
On the Sunday, following the passing of our Bro. Kevin, our abbot, Fr. Mark, observed that by his death during Passiontide, Kevin gave a gift to the community: offering his brothers an opportunity to taste and enter more deeply into the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection. Today, on Easter morning, you could say we are opening the gift. Kevin, our benefactor, is celebrating with us; celebrating a truth he always grasped with a certain intuitive immediacy; I mean his sense of the end of history, and his hunch that it may be arriving sooner than we think. Today, Easter Sunday, it has come, and in spirit, Bro. Kevin is exulting and earnestly wants us to rejoice with him. Monks live at the end of history, and Easter Sunday might be thought of as the confirmation of our hope. Today, time is changed; not ended exactly, but its purpose fulfilled. Our gospel proclaims that Mary discovered the empty tomb on “the first day of the week”. I wonder if 21st century Post-Christian America appreciates the significance of these words.
You will have noticed that Sunday regularly appears at the top left hand corner of your calendars. There is a reason for that. Sunday is the day God, incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ, having suffered and died for our sins, rose from the dead. Sunday is at the top of your calendar because it is,was made by God to be, and will always remain the the first day of the week. Easter Sunday is likewise, the last day and end of days. Why? Because with the appearance of God in the flesh and the scandal of our human death touching His flesh, followed by his resurrection from the dead – with the appearance of these things, history simply has nothing to offer that can equal or surpass them. Time continues. But the story is over. How can that be? In a famous sermon, Origen recalls how Joshua caused the sun to be arrested in its course across the sky. Jesus, Origen tells us, has likewise stopped the sun on it’s course. He says: “When the Savior came, the end of time was already come.” He goes on to say that Jesus, like Joshua of old, is in our time “holding back the last day”. Why? Because the Father promised the Son: “I will give you all the nations of the gentiles for your inheritance.” And so, until the Father’s promise be accomplished; until the church of Christ be built up and gather into one flock all peoples of the earth, including Israel – this day will be prolonged; the Sun of Justice shedding his light and truth in human hearts. Easter Sunday is the sacramental sign of this day prolonged; a day of grace made longer by the power and depths of God’s tenderness.
Will it be noticed? Will the men and women with whom we live today take note that this day of days has arrived? Is Sunday that important to them? Brothers and sisters our contemporaries are absorbed in a remarkable experiment: the almost complete secularization of the American way of life, and willful forgetting of its Christian roots. But, in keeping with this world-view, it is no longer clear that Sunday is the first day of the week. Many of our contemporaries behave as if Monday is the first day of the week and Sunday just the last day of that mini-vacation they enjoy at the end of the week; a day to sleep in and enjoy idle pleasures before returning to work and the real business of life on Monday morning. Many of these people may not know today is Easter Sunday. What’s more, if our Easter proclamation were preached to them, they could find it quite disconcerting, a rather distressing signal – like the sound of a siren or an alarm. Imagine what it must be like to completely forget that Sunday is the first day of the weekand to live your life as if every week started on Monday. It is a terrible thing to be wrong about the beginning, because if you get the beginning wrong, then you have to move it later and that process will be like an earthquake. Move the beginning – and everything moves.
Brothers and sisters, we are not superior to those original disciples who, discovering the empty tomb, greeted the spectacle with joy – and with fear. Today, as you enjoy the holiday with family and friends, let yourself be at least a little awed by the prospect of a siesmic event that must come to our world very soon as our contemporaries discover they are mistaken about the beginning and will need to move the first day of the week back one day from Monday to Sunday. The effects of this discovery will be felt globally and in the depths of each and every human soul. May our celebration today strenghten us and enlarge our hearts to love God more fervently and serve him more generously, in preparation of that day when the super-structure of our secularized American culture collapses and we are called upon to minister to the survivors.