Although it is simpler and easier to think and understand in distinct and separate categories in certain areas of life, when it comes to the life of the spirit this becomes inadequate and problematic. Instead, the spiritual life unfolds in a landscape of grays rather than the black and white of clarity and certainty. And thus the church is not simply divided into saints and sinners, the holy and the reprobate, but represents a vast cross-section in which some are saints and others are reprobates, but many (if not most) can be found somewhere between, patiently struggling towards holiness. And because we are still inching forward on the path to full union with Christ, we are remain a combination of holiness and sinfulness, even as we try to overcome the latter.
This is no less true in relation to this great Feast of Feasts in which we celebrate Christ’s Resurrection and his victory over death and the grave. As I pointed out on Thursday, each Christian is called through baptism to imitate Christ by dying with him, being buried with him, and rising with him in glory. And whereas these were distinct and separate events in the saving work of Christ, there is a sense in which our dying, being buried, and rising to new life are present and simultaneous realities that, ideally, are operative at every moment. Saint Paul captures some of this dynamic in his observation that although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. This is similar to asserting that for us dying and rising are not simply consecutive events with one completely distinct from the other.
Yes, we will certainly die physically and then through faith in Christ be raised to Eternal Life. However, if we are seriously engaged in our spiritual lives we are, even now, being resurrected while simultaneously dying—both physically and spiritually. Physically because we are all slowly dying; spiritually, because we are dying to all that does not lead us to God. And although the resurrection of the body is central to our faith in the resurrection, the resurrection encompasses both the body and the soul—with the latter being able to share in this great mystery even in this present life. Indeed, even the body begins to foreshadow its future glory in certain saintly Christians whose very bodies—like the face of Moses—begin radiating the glory of God.
And thus today’s feast is not some future pledge that we will only begin to experience when we pass from this life. Instead, this great mystery is, even now, accomplishing its transforming work in the depths of our hearts if we but persevere in opening our hearts to its infinite power. And to the degree that we do persevere in this effort our Risen and Glorified Lord calls out to us in those immortal words of Isaiah: O afflicted one, storm-battered and unconsoled, I lay your pavements in carnelians, and your foundations in sapphires; I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of carbuncles, and all your walls of precious stones. In justice shall you be established, far from the fear of oppression, where destruction cannot come near you. And so in wishing you all a very blessed and joyous Easter I pray that you will hear Jesus speak these same consoling and transforming words in the depths of your hearts so that you may come to share in the glory and splendor of our Risen and Glorified Savior and in that sharing find eternal life, joy, and unending peace.