Our Lenten season is over; Easter has arrived.
Throughout the Lenten season, we posted reflections for holy days and Sundays from both this year’s Lenten reflection booklet, Witnesses on the way, which includes reflections written by National Council Chair Charlene Howard and her husband Michael Howard (and daily reflections from newly-named Ambassadors of Peace) and from previously published Lenten booklets, such as the one below, written by Bishop Kenneth Untener in 1995. Click here to see all reflections shared during 2023 as well as links to other Lenten resources.
REFLECTION FOR Easter sunday, April 9, 2023
by Bishop Kenneth Untener, originally published in 1995
“Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Literally, the Greek word is nekros, “corpse.” Why do you look for him among the corpses?
The Greek Orthodox Easter service at St. Mary Magdalen Church on the Mount of Olives begins on Holy Saturday at 11 PM and lasts until around 3:30 AM Easter Sunday. At the end of this long liturgy, the Patriarch comes out of the sanctuary, before the iconostasis, and shouts to the congregation, “He is not here; he is risen!” and he does this not once but many times, walking among the congregation shouting loudly the good news. Each time the congregation shouts back at him, “He is risen indeed. Alleluia!”
That is a dramatic presentation of reality we don’t know much about and cannot capture or express because it escapes experience. We don’t experience human beings passing through death, decay, into some new metamorphosed manner of living beyond death, as resurrected people. The post-resurrection “appearances” of Jesus are just that — “appearances.” They are real but not quite accessible to us who have not yet made that journey through death. The risen Christ lives among us, but we know this only by faith.
If we have no palpable experience of resurrected life, nonetheless, in creation God has supplied us with a thousand parables of that hopeful experience of transformation. As we recognize more deeply our planetary oneness and our solidarity with all species of our world, we might become more aware of these natural symbols of death and resurrection all around us.
There is an apple tree outside my office window that is never picked, and the rotting apples provide food for birds through most of winter. Each year the brown dead winter branches with rotting apples hanging from them look like they could never green again. And then each spring they blossom into white flowers, and new apples form, to fall and rot again when winter comes. Seeds die and vegetables, grains and flowers grow. Ugly larvae transform into butterflies.
Those on the other side of death cannot share that glorified life experience with those on this side of death. We believe in the resurrected Christ living in our midst now, but we do not see as Thomas saw.
One day we shall emerge from death and see plainly, but here and now we emerge from the baptismal waters and see only with faith, which gives us hope, and we try to live in love and solidarity as sisters and brothers with everyone. We befriend all creatures, and even the earth that is home for all of us. For that too will be transformed.
To live a resurrected life, to be transformed in glory, we must follow after Christ through death, and for that we have the advantage of his example, as he did not. Christ has already died and is risen, and will lead us through it. And after us, creation itself will be “set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21) We can learn better how to read the parable of the apple tree with its thousand blossoms every spring, a parable of transformation full of hope.
- Do we publicly witness to what is hidden within us? Do we preach the resurrected Christ with our lives?
- Discuss with your family, community, or circle of friends the special grace each one received during this Lenten season.
Bishop Kenneth Untener of Saginaw, Michigan, died in 2004. He was beloved in his diocese and the wider community for his humility, deep spirituality, and dedication to those who are impoverished and marginalized.