Sunday, April 12, 2009


Easter is, appropriately, the time when most Christians pull out all the stops in celebration of the incredible thing God has done in the death and resurrection of Jesus. As Paul told the Corinthians, If Christ is not risen your faith is futile and you are still imprisoned in your sins. The resurrection is the bedrock of Christian Faith — nothing is more important.

It is interesting, to say the least, to observe what different Christian communities do in their weekly worship observance at Easter to exalt this preeminent truth. Some do a “cantata” or use music in some other way to stir a strong emotive response. More recently a popular trend has developed that uses drama to reenact the story. Some mega-churches go to great lengths to incorporate elaborate special effects (to be “relevant” to a culture addicted to entertainment?). This is not to say that music and drama have no place in Christian expression — far from it, but they hardly take the place of ‘the breaking of bread” which has been the heart of Christian worship from the beginning. Still, when Jesus is exalted and people open their hearts to Him, the life of the Spirit graciously comes.

I am particularly struck with the simple and historic way the Catholic liturgy takes me to the heart of Christian Faith. Holy Week is full of opportunities to enter into patterns which are rooted in the earliest records of Christian worship. It seems right that Christians spend much of the week — and especially the Triduum, the three days from the evening of Holy Thursday to the evening of Easter Sunday — gathered in a corporate confession of that which matters most.

This year a friend from over twenty years ago asked me to be his sponsor as he entered the Church this year at Easter Vigil. As Paul exhorted the Roman believers, there is an explicit identification with Jesus through baptism: We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his (Rom 6:4–5).

And so there is a point in the Easter liturgy where the newly baptized are asked (and, later, all who have already been baptized are invited to affirm their baptism with the same questions):

Do you reject sin, so as to live in the freedom of God’s children?
I do.

Do you reject the glamor of evil, and refuse to be mastered by sin?
I do.

Do you reject Satan, father of sin and prince of darkness?
I do.

Then follows the questions which, indeed, take us back to the earliest baptismal formulas recorded:

Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth?
I do.

Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?
I do.

Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, and forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?
I do.

Take each of these questions and turn them into “I believe” statements, and you have what is often called the Old Roman Creed, a text very similar to the later fifth-century Apostles Creed. With deep conviction, as I stand with others and in continuity with that Communion of Saints which is the heritage of all who belong to Jesus, I say as wholeheartedly as I’m able: I do.

And with that, Easter worship is as exhilarating as it can be this side of the Consummation. This is how Christians have worshiped for two millennia — apart from power point, sound systems and special effects. Do I believe? I do, and in believing I have died with Christ in the sure and certain hope that I shall also live with Him.

The Lord is risen!
He is risen, indeed!

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