APRIL 8,2007, EASTER SUNDAY: HOMILY- COLOSSIANS 3:1-4
St. Paul in writing to the Colossians, stated concisely the meaning of our Lordís resurrection and the moral and spiritual lesson we are to learn from it. SINCE YOU HAVE BEEN RAISED UP IN COMPANY WITH CHRIST, SET YOUR HEART ON WHAT PERTAINS TO HIGHER REALMS, WHERE CHRIST IS SEATED AT GODíS RIGHT HAND. This sentence conveys much more information than appears on the surface of the words. It well illustrates a feature of language that Pope Benedict remarked on: "Every great human utterance ," he wrote while still a Cardinal, "reaches beyond what was consciously said into greater, more profound depths; there is always, hidden in what is said, a surplus of what is not said, which lets the words grow with the passing of time..." Paulís words presume that our faith in Christ has already made of us new creatures. You belong now to another world, a realm of existence where God is all in all. This happy and consoling state of affairs, the apostle goes on to explain is due to the fact that "You have died; your life is hidden now with Christ in God." This is surely a bold and portentous assertion! Easter announces at once your death and your new kind of life, Paul tells us, and the consequences of this astonishing fact are intended to result in a radically different way of living. Evidently Paul is keenly aware that this change in our life does not occur without our actively bringing our behavior and way of thinking into harmony with the mind and heart of the hidden and risen Christ of glory who is not only living in the presence of the Father, but present within each of us.
St. Paul had an unshakeable conviction that rightly to understand the Christian life, the believer had to receive the Holy Spirit. For only by participating in the life of the Spirit does the reality of the resurrection become accessible to us. This same persuasion was held by the early Fathers of the Church. A rather surprising instance of this firm conviction is found in the way Catechumens were prepared for the sacrament of baptism at Easter in Milan by its bishop St. Ambrose and in Jerusalem by bishop St. Cyril. Both of these pastors adopted the same practice of explaining the meaning of the sacred rite of the sacrament only after baptism had conferred the grace of the Spirit on the neophyte. St. Ambrose explains his reasons in the following terms which were pronounced in his First Catechetical Instruction.
Now the time admonishes us to speak of the mysteries and to give an explanation of the sacraments. If we had thought to impart this instruction before baptism to those not as yet initiated we would be considered rather to have betrayed them rather than explain them. Moreover, the light of the mysteries sines more brightly when not expected than if an account should precede. (De mysteriis I.2, S.C. 25 bis, p.156.)
St. Cyril of Jerusalem spoke along the same lines to the newly baptized of his Jerusalem congregation, while adding some interesting observations.
I desired for a long while, dear and true children of the Church, to speak to you about these spiritual and heavenly mysteries. But since I knew quite definitely that we have greater trust in what we see than what we hear, I waited this present occasion, after the past evening, to lead you by the hand into the brightly illuminated and perfumed meadow so as to find you more accessible to the things to be explained. For you have been made more receptive of divine mysteries of divine and life-giving baptism. (Catecheses Mystagogiques, First Mystagogical Catechesis, 1.1, S.C. 126 bis, 83, 84)
This principle that these two Fathers upheld in their practice, was affirmed a few years ago in another context by the then Cardinal Ratzinger who wrote that "A mystery can be seen only by one who lives it ..." This insight continues to have basic significance for each of us today. Knowledge of the true meaning of life and the way to attain it is revealed and can only be received as a gift from God; only those who accept it in faith and live from it understand the purpose of our life in this world. We can hope to grasp something of the immensely vital Easter mystery of our Lordís Resurrection, only if we put our faith in it and live it as best we might. Live it in our prayer in which we enter by faith into the living presence of the glorified Savior; live it as well in our daily life by striving to bring all our relations with others, all our activities, into harmony with our Lordís teaching and example of selfless, dedicated love. However insignificant we are in terms of this worldís values, we are assured of a wholly new kind of worth precisely through the share we are given in the Risen Christ by our faith in him as Savior and by the Eucharist through which we participate even now in the new life he imparts to those who put their hope and trust in him.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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