The Resurrection is not an appendix to the Crucifixion

Ever since I heard someone on Easter Sunday praying and leading worship with almost no mention of the Resurrection but many references to the crucifixion (the sermon was good!), this has been rolling around in my head, taking shape along the way. Since it’s still Easter, it’s still seasonal. And, hey, it was Orthodox Easter two days ago! Anyway, as the title of this post says:

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is not an appendix to his crucifixion

Resurrection, from Notre Dame de Paris (my photo)

This should be obvious, if you ask me. It clearly isn’t, as my anecdotal introduction demonstrates. I also watched, around Eastertide, a video someone posted on the Facebook of some hillbilly (he actually called himself a hillbilly; I have nothing against hillbillies, they are a noble people) saying that the point of the resurrection was to show that the crucifixion worked. Perhaps not so crudely, but that was the gist.

A lot of evangelicals express their faith this way. I was at a big evangelical church in London on Sunday (the Second Sunday After Easter by how people reckon Sundays today), and we sang a hymn that had several lovely lines in it about the crucifixion, and one (one!) about the resurrection. And the minister did not preach on the Resurrection. Easter is, apparently, a one-day event that comes once a year. Otherwise, this whole Eastertide thing might interfere with your plans to do a sermon series on one of the Pauline epistles.

One year on Easter Sunday, one of my Truly Reformed acquaintances remarked, ‘I know why, historically, Jesus had to rise from the dead, but I don’t get the theology of it, since the crucifixion atoned for sin.’

Not that evangelicals and Protestants are alone in this. Consider the crucifixes and statues of Christ’s slain body of Roman Catholic Europe, the magnificent medieval poetry of the Passion, the plays of the Passion, the paintings of the crucifixion, the medieval devotion to the dying Christ, the fact that Julian of Norwich explicitly had a vision of Christ on the cross.

Sometimes, I think people forget that we are oned to God because Jesus lives.

Indeed, the resurrection is the very real, living heart of the Christian faith.

After all, if Christ was not raised from the dead, you (we!) are still dead in your (our! my!) sins. (1 Cor. 15:17)

In 1 Corinthians 15, St Paul gives a summary of the faith that some scholars (like Gerald O’Collins, The Easter Jesus) think is an early liturgical, credal statement. It takes verses 3-7; 3 and a phrase in 4 cover the crucifixion. 4-7 are about the Resurrection appearances of Jesus. A man coming back from the dead changes everything.

Jesus did not simply die to save you from your sins.

Jesus Christ rose from the dead to kill death itself.

Death has lost its sting. (1 Cor 15 again)

Death is the great leveler of human existence, and we all avoid it. Survival is one of our base, animal instincts. Achilles, in Hades in The Odyssey 11, tells Odysseus that he would rather be a slave among the living than a prince among the dead (that was Achilles, right?). Death is so noxious that even Jesus Christ groaned/wept at the death of Lazarus — before raising Lazarus from the dead!

With the lightning flash of his Godhead, as the Orthodox pray, Jesus has slain death. Magnificent. This is Easter.

If you are blessed to go to a Prayer Book church, this Easter faith would be unmistakable — behold the Easter anthems, the heart of the Easter faith, biblical Christianity:

Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast;

Not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Cor 5:7)

Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.

For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.

Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Ro. 6:9)

Christ is risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept.

For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Cor. 15:20)

Let’s stick with BCP for the rest of this post, considering the heart of the book, the Epistles and Gospels for Eastertide.

Easter’s epistle is Col. 3, starting at verse 1, ‘If ye then be risen with Christ…’ The Gospel is John 20. If you have a second service that day, 2 Tim, starting at verse 8:

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, of the seed of David, according to my gospel … For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him. If we endure, we shall also reign with him.

The Gospel for a second service is the Resurrection in Mark 16.

Monday in Easter Week. Lesson: Acts 10:34ff., Peter preaches the Resurrection of Jesus. Gospel: Luke 24:13ff., disciples on the road to Emmaus (Resurrection!).

Tuesday in Easter Week. Lesson: Acts 13:26ff., Paul preaches the Resurrection of Jesus. Gospel: Luke 24:36ff., Jesus visits the disciples.

First Sunday After Easter. Epistle: 1 John 5:4ff., about the victory of God & eternal life. Gospel: John 20:19ff., more Resurrection.

Morning Prayer for Easter (Canada 1962 BCP). First Lesson: Exodus 12:1-14, the Passover. Second: Rev. 1:4-18, deals with various things, but Jesus is primarily known as ‘firstborn from the dead’.

Evening Prayer for Easter. First: Exodus 14:5-end, crossing the Red Sea (type of baptism, which is dying and rising with Christ). Second: John 20:11-12 (RESURRECTION!)

Elsewhere in the daily office at Eastertide, we see prophecies of God conquering death, of reclaiming his people to himself, of the great and glorious day of the Lord, or praise and rejoicing in the face of God.

I assume the Revised Common Lectionary is similar.

Easter is our salvation. Jesus proves his innocence by the empty tomb. Jesus, in fact, leaves the tomb precisely because he is both God incarnate and an innocent man. This is not the proof that Good Friday worked, but a glorious, amazing event all by itself.

It is the Resurrection that fuelled the disciples into apostles. It is the resurrection of Jesus that points to our future resurrection, when we shall sow a corruptible body and be raised incorruptible! (Again, 1 Cor 15)

Recently, someone posited that if we set 1-2 Corinthians at the centre of Paul’s corpus instead of Romans and Galatians, we would have a different emphasis in our theology. I see here that we would, perhaps, do a better job at keeping the Resurrection, the rising of a dead man from the grave, the restoration of fulness of life of a person who was completely dead, at the centre of our faith.

I wonder how our Christian walk, worship, churches, Bible reading, love of others, would change if we (myself included) lived in a daily remembrance and joy at the fact that Jesus Christ has ‘overcome death, and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life’ (BCP Collect for Tuesday in Easter Week).

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Happy Orthodox Easter!

Troparion  Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.

Kontakion  Thou didst descend into the tomb, O Immortal, Thou didst destroy the power of death! In victory didst Thou arise, O Christ God, proclaiming “Rejoice” to the Myrrhbearing Women, granting peace to Thine Apostles, and bestowng resurrection of the fallen.

(From liturgies.net)

 

Blogging Benedict: Where’s Easter?

Medieval image of the Resurrection of Christ, seen in Vatican Museums

Doing with the Rule of St Benedict something similar to what I did with The Philokalia, vol. 1, I ask: Where is Easter?

Chapter 15:

From holy Easter until Pentecost without interruption let “Alleluia” be said both in the Psalms and in the responsories. From Pentecost to the beginning of Lent let it be said every night with the last six Psalms of the Night Office only. On every Sunday, however, outside of Lent, the canticles, the Morning Office, Prime, Terce, Sext and None shall be said with “Alleluia,” but Vespers with antiphons.

The responsories are never to be said with “Alleluia” except from Easter to Pentecost.

-trans. Leonard J. Doyle

All of the references to Easter are in terms of computation, in terms of the Church Year and how to pray the office.

But the above gives us a glimpse of what it means to be an Easter people.

“Alleluia!” is the refrain of Easter people, the refrain of the Benedictines for fifty days.

Praise the Lord!

This is the natural, automatic response to the unbelievable reality not simply that we worship a crucified God, but that a Man has risen from the dead, trampling down death by death. I cannot help but think of the character of Bartholomew in the film Risen and his unquenchable joy and happiness.

I hope we can call have a taste of that today.

‘Yesterday I was crucified with Him. Today I am glorified with Him!’

From St Gregory of Nazianzus

Yesterday I was crucified with Him. Today I am glorified with Him! Yesterday I died with Him. Today I am made alive with Him! Yesterday I was buried with Him. Today I rise again with Him! To Him who suffered and rose for us, let us offer — what? Maybe you’ll think I’m going to say we should offer Him gold, silver, costly tapestries, or crystal-clear precious stones. But such things are the earth’s mere vanishing stuff, forever limited to this world, generally owned by bad people — the world’s slaves, the bondsmen of this world’s Prince.

No, let’s offer Him our very selves, that which is most valuable to God, and most fitting as an offering! Let’s give back to the Divine Image what is made according to that Image. Let’s acknowledge the dignity of our own creation; let’s honour Him who is our Model. Let’s experience the power of the Mystery of His salvation, and the purpose of His death. Let’s become like Christ, since Christ became like us. Let’s become divine people for Him, since He became human for us.

He took upon Himself the worse, to bestow on us the better; He became poor that we, through His poverty, might become rich; He came down to lift us high; He was tempted that we might gain victory; He was shamed to glorify us; He embraced death that He might give us salvation; He ascended heavenwards that He might draw to Himself those who were lying prostrate, fallen through sin. Let us give all, let us offer all, to Him who gave Himself as the price of our redemption and our reconciliation. But we can give Him nothing as precious as ourselves.

Oration 1.4-5, trans. Nick Needham, Daily Readings: The Early Church Fathers, 25 March

Monastic life is always Lenten

For Ash Wednesday, I give you selections from the Rule of Benedict, chapter 49:

The life of a monk ought at all times to be Lenten in its observances but because few have the strength for this, we urge that in Lent they should maintain a life of complete purity to make up, during these holy days, for all the careless practices throughout the rest of the year.

In other words he must cut down on food, drink, sleep, talkativeness, joking, and should look forward to holy Easter with the joy of spiritual longing. (trans. Carolinne White)

May you have a holy and blessed Lent as we look forward to Easter.

Easter Readings – 1662 Book of Common Prayer

Baskerville_titleBack in 1662, it wasn’t the plan to have a separate service of Morning Prayer from Holy Communion. On those Sundays that you didn’t administer the Lord’s Supper, a normal service would consist of Morning Prayer, the Litany, and the Antecommunion (basically the Liturgy of the Word part of the service). This is why BCP Sunday readings appear so few.

Anyway, I think the historic Prayer Books are the best expression of historic-traditional-biblical worship in the English language, expressing the fullness of Gospel truth in the fullness of the beauty of the English language. Part of the glory of the Book of Common Prayer is its relationship with the English Bible. Extensive passages of Scripture are read at Morning and Evening Prayer, multiple Psalms are recited, and, at Communion, more Scripture is read. Throughout the services, more set passages and verses are used, let alone the biblical phrases and ideas inextricably intertwined with the historic translations and prayers original to the BCP.

I have no doubt some Anglicans have a ‘low’ view of Scripture, insufficiently reverencing it and failing to trust in its authority. Such Anglicans have not taken the Prayer Book to heart. For the rest of us, we revel in the quality and quantity of Bible readings throughout a Prayer Book service.

For Easter, the 1662 readings for Morning Prayer are:

First Lesson: Exodus 12:1-29 – the establishing of Passover

Second Lesson: Revelation 21:1-9 – the new heaven and the new earth

The Psalms: 2, 57, 111

To highlight the glory of the Resurrection and our salvation thereby, 1662 replaces the Venite (Psalm 95) with these verses:

CHRIST our passover is sacrificed for us : therefore let us keep the feast; Not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness : but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 1 Cor. v. 7
Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more : death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once : but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin : but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Rom. vi. 9
Christ is risen from the dead : and become the first-fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death : by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die : even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 1 Cor. xv.

The 1662 readings for Holy Communion:

Epistle: Colossians 3:1-7 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. etc.

Gospel: John 20:1-10 – the Resurrection story

It also used to be common to attend church for Evening Prayer. The 1662 Easter readings for Evening Prayer:

First Lesson: Either Exodus 12:29 (this confuses me) or Exodus 14 – crossing the Red Sea

Second Lesson: John 20:11-19 (thus continuing from Easter Eucharist) or Revelation 5 – the Lamb upon the throne

The Psalms: 113, 114, 118

In these passages of Scripture, plus those interwoven throughout the Prayer Book, we encounter the Gospel event, the ancient typologies, and the eschatological fulfillment. And, in the Psalms, the Praise of God Most High. There is so much more truth and beauty awaiting us in the treasurehouse of the Scriptures than we realise if all we ever meet are but one or two passages each Sunday.

Furthermore, the Resurrection is the fulfillment of the hope of Scripture, Old and New. In Christ all of God’s promises find their yes. Let us bless the Lord for the benefits he has given us through the prayerfully constructed lectionaries of His Church.