Easter Sunday!

It wasn’t until I was a Jesuit novice, age 28, that I even knew there was such a thing as an Easter Vigil.  In 1989, when I was working in Kingston, Jamaica and went to my first Vigil Mass at a Jesuit-run parish—with the Paschal candle, the singing of the Exsultet, the baptisms and the marvelous readings—I said to the Jesuit scholastic working there, “That was great!  Jamaican culture is so interesting!” 



And he said, “What part did you find the most interesting?” 


“The whole thing,” I said, “especially that song you sang!”  It took him a few minutes before it dawned on him that this new cultural event was a new religious event for me, too. 

Nothing that had prepared me for the Vigil.  Who knew that the church had this tradition? How was I to know what it would be like?

It must have been the same—but on a colossally different scale—for the disciples on the morning of the first Easter.  They had no idea what to expect.  They were wholly unprepared for the event that would change their lives, and ours.  The Gospel stories show this.  Everyone is confused on Easter Sunday.  Mary mistakes Jesus for the gardener.  Others doubt her story when she tells it later.  St. Thomas will doubt it even after many of his friends tell it to him.


That’s why my favorite painting of the Easter Sunday is this one, by Eugene Burnand, of Peter and John running, probably sprinting, to the tomb, looking both hopeful and confused and worried.  How often this is the case for us.  We don’t fully trust that God will really triumph this time—though God has always done so in the past.  We hope.  But we’re still a little worried.


But we know how it ends.  We know what Peter and John are about to see in the tomb. 


And more importantly, who they are about to meet.

May your Easter be filled with the joy of the Risen Christ, who waits for us after all of our crucifixions, holding out the promise of surprising new life.


James Martin, SJ

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9 years 6 months ago
You told me at Congress that I should comment and here I finally am. Wow. The past few days of posts have been wonderful but this painting has moved me so much that I keep coming back to this post to see it again. Thank you, Fr. Jim!
9 years 6 months ago
Fr Martin, Thanks a lot for this piece. The graphic work and your reflection are quite deep!You capture the manifold message of Easter in the most practical and experiential way! Thank you!
9 years 6 months ago
Thank you, Fr. Martin, for your posts this Triduum and now Easter. Both your reflections and the paintings you shared have been part of my prayer these past three days. I've found the reminder that we spend most of our lives in a prolonged ''Holy Saturday'' experience of waiting especially salutary. And I've used the paintings as my computer wallpaper as you've posted them -- well, except for Hofmann's ''Christ in Gethsemane,'' which didn't do anything for me. Still, and again, thank you.
9 years 6 months ago
Father, I've really enjoyed the art you've posted in your last few blog posts. I'd never seen the painting by Burnand before and it's really wonderful!
9 years 6 months ago
Fr. Martin, Thank you for sharing your thoughts in this piece. I attended my first Easter Vigil this year. I had read a little bit about it in a young person's guide to Lent. I teach Catechism at my parish and decided that I would make it this year. I had a slight idea what to expect, but it was the most beautiful Mass I've ever attended. I was mesmerized by everything single part of it and when I got home, just shy of midnight, it didn't feel like 3 1/2 hours had passed. I was so taken in and rapt up by it all, I couldn't believe it had ended. I also went to Mass today with my parents and while it was lovely, it was nothing like last night. I said to my mom today, that I think I'll attend the Vigil from now on. While the church was full, not quite as full as it was today, it was just so much more alive. I'm not sure that makes sense but it was amazing.
9 years 6 months ago
Father Jim... Refreshing, outstanding, down to earth!! Thanks so much for your words (these and all the others). We attended the Vigil for the first time in two years. So moving and the "words" Oh, the words...!!
9 years 5 months ago
Jim, Your memory of discovering the Easter Vigil has me happily remembering my own, which was not so different. I first encountered the Easter Vigil as an Anglican and our daughter was later baptized at one.  It was only as a seminarian though that I really experienced the wonder of the Exsultet.  What ancient beauty and timeless power for us to share and to offer!  Thanks for your reflection, all the more rewarding encountered a little later in this continuing season of Easter! Alleluia, Christ is risen! Bob


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