Easter allows us to state the Gospel in the simplest terms: The death and resurrection of Jesus are symbolic and causative (just as a sacrament causes what it symbolizes). And they symbolize and cause our moral death and resurrection.
Just as Jesus died in the body, we are to die to our old way of life. Just as Jesus rose again, we are to live a new life. The new life is no less bodily, but it is a life from God and for God, and a life that never ends.
Jesus’s death and resurrection don’t just affect him. They don’t just affect us emotionally, as if the main point of Good Friday was to be sad and the main point of Easter is to be happy. They are sad and happy, and they do affect Jesus, but that is not the main point. They don’t just affect our bodies, as if the Resurrection promises us only physical life after death.
And they are not just encouragement. My silly new line with my students is, Jesus is not our Zumba instructor. It is not that he moves vigorously around in our sight, and then we have to do our best to imitate that vigor. The point of the Resurrection is that God is powerful to do what nature cannot do on its own. I am weak and he is strong.
Jesus lives his life in the flesh to raise us to a greater life.
Thus at the Easter Vigil, one of the central proclamations of the Gospel in the whole Church year, proclaimed with the Gloria and with lights after darkness, is from Romans 6:
“We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.”
- Our participation in his death is sacramental. It’s not that when we physically die we will imitate Christ’s physical death and resurrection (though that happens too, as a consequence). It’s that his physical death, and our physical baptism, participate in a world of symbols that point to and bring about something greater: our moral resurrection.
- Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. So too it is only the glory of God that brings our new life: not just zumba-style imitation, but an influx of the light of God, bringing eternal life to our death.
- The new life we are given is not just more of the same physical life, but “newness of life,” that is, a new way of life, a transformed life, a new “moral” life, the life of the Beatitudes.
“We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin.”
There is a death we must die. But it is death to sin. It is a bodily death, and sin is in our body, our “body of sin.” But of course the Resurrection (not to mention the physicality of Baptism) cannot mean that bodies themselves are sinful, as St. Paul will say in a moment. An old way of being bodily—a bodily life that is “corruptible,” in both the corruption that is physical death and the corruption that is sin—is ending, so that we can live a new, incorruptible life, also in the body.
“If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him”
The end is not death, nor is it the destruction of our body. The end is new life, in the body.
“As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God. Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.”
His physical death is a sign of death to sin. His physical life is a sign of life for God. The consequence in us is that we live, in our bodies, a new life, no longer for sin but for God. Our Resurrection is above all a moral resurrection, the life of the Beatitudes.
How do you pray the Resurrection?