The discovery of Jesus' tomb empty, and all that follows occurs 'very early in the morning', as dawn is breaking. The time of waiting from the start of the third day at sunset until then, is of key significance for the prayer life for the church. It is an occasion when biblical texts are read which cover the entire story of God's dealing with humankind from the creation of the world onwards. Candidates for baptism and confirmation meet and make their solemn vows before the whole church membership, and with dawn, the Eucharist of the resurrection is celebrated joyfully.
Keeping vigil in this way resembles the Jewish Passover, when the Exodus people gather at supper to tell the story of their liberation and remember their covenant with God. It is the Passover of Jesus, from death to life, so this occasion is called the Paschal Vigil. The angelic messenger says to the mourners visiting the tomb of Jesus;
'Why do you look for the living among the dead, he is not here but is risen.' (Luke 24:5)
Reflecting later on the meaning of God's work of salvation through Jesus, St Paul says;
" .. even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way... If anyone is in Christ, there a new creation. Everything old has passed away; see, everything is become new." (2 Cor 5:16)
Although many people may have suspected or wondered if Jesus was God's Anointed, and he himself hinted at this or even privately declared it, the resurrection experience, so unique and unexpected, reveals decisively what was hidden. The nature of resurrection appearances show in St Peter's words, preaching six weeks later, on the day of Pentecost that;
"This Jesus whom you crucified, God has made both Lord and Messiah" (=Christ in Greek) (Acts 2:36)
The words 'son of God' take on a different meaning in the light of the resurrection. Jesus is proclaimed to be the Son of God in an unique way, and it will take years, centuries in fact before this revelation is understood with any clarity. Disciples of Jesus have to devise new ways of expressing what his death and resurrection mean to them. Just starting to realise who this man Jesus is, enables them to see the shame and horror of his suffering and death in a different perspective. They start to understand how his undeserved suffering in total trust of vindication by God the Father is healing and liberating for the whole world and humankind.
Venturing into the depths of relationship with God through a Christian way of prayer takes us from getting to know the words and work of Jesus, the man of Nazareth, as one of the most remarkable exemplary human beings who has ever lived, right through his Passion to the resurrection revelation that he is the Christ, the Son of God and Lord. This disclosure calls for different understanding of what it means to be human, a child of God, destined for a relationship with God not bounded by mortal existence.
By entering into this experience, dwelling with it and letting it change our hearts and minds, and the way we live, a gradual relearning takes place. Through baptism we identify our lives, our humanity with that of Jesus. Each Easter celebration offers an opportunity to renew our self dedication to life in God, pledged by the renewal of our baptismal promises.
"If you are risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is..." (Colossians 3:1)
Participating in resurrection celebrations opens up for us in prayer a dimension of joy and peace, hope and love above and beyond other experience. Acknowledgement of the heart of this message releases afresh in us the life of the Holy Spirit, who helps us to pray as God intends. It opens us to the life of intimate communion with God that is inexhaustible in its richness, beyond imagination, beyond words.
'He is risen indeed, Alleluia!'