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Easter: The certainty of joy

From the April 15, 2019 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

Christians around the world celebrate Easter with diverse traditions. About a year ago a new acquaintance asked me, “And how do you celebrate Easter?” I found myself answering spontaneously, “With joy!” 

Easter commemorates Christ Jesus’ triumphant exit from the tomb, so it’s natural for it to be a joyful celebration. Joy is the very essence of life! But sometimes the joy of Jesus’ resurrection is overshadowed by the gloom, sorrow, pain, and death associated with his crucifixion. 

To reclaim the joy of the Easter season, it’s helpful to take a deeper look at the resurrection. This event is so much more than one man’s triumph over death. When Christ Jesus rose from the tomb—from that attempt to deny God as eternal Life—he gave the world the greatest of all gifts, the proof that we can never be separated from Life, God. 

Jesus foresaw and foretold his mission. He knew his oneness with his heavenly Father. It was his deep love for God, as well as for his disciples and friends and all humanity, that strengthened his willingness to go through the arrest, the verdict, and the penalty that the world’s hatred inflicted. Without these, the victory of the resurrection—this holy and significant event—would not have happened. 

The light of Christ, Truth, gave Jesus freedom from death and the grave. It liberates us as well. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered the divine laws of Life and Love, and named them Christian Science, shows us the steps we need to take to find this freedom. She wrote with spiritual perception: 

“What is it that seems a stone between us and the resurrection morning? 

“It is the belief of mind in matter” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 179).

If there seems to be a solid rock blocking our way to joy, if the material situation we are in seems as impenetrable as a mountain to us and we can’t find our way out, we can face it with the spiritual evidence of Easter that greets us every single day. God, infinite Love, has rolled away the stone, and will do so again, to fill us with the light of resurrection, newness, and joy.

The light of Christ, Truth, gave Jesus freedom from death and the grave. It liberates us as well. 

Lasting joy comes from its spiritual source, God, divine Life. All life expresses some form of joy, vitality, renewal, beauty, and freshness. The minutest expressions of Life surround us; they all characterize God’s lively creation. The wonder in children and adults when something new is seen; the freedom, agility, and speed of birds soaring in the air; the patient green shoots coming up through the snow; the songs and music that make our feet tap and dance—all these are only an infinitesimal expression of Life, of God.

The joy that was gloriously present on the resurrection morning is the appearing of the Christ to our human consciousness today where it’s most needed. The Christ message of unending life, so plainly demonstrated in the teachings and works of Jesus, helps us surmount tough times, unhappy memories, pain, sorrow, and sickness. It is the Christ that lifts us out of the inadequacies of material life, up to a fresh view of what Life really is.

The joy of Easter rolls away the stone of mortality. It opens our heart to the glory and power of God as our only Life. This higher understanding of God lifts us out of the gloom and sorrow of the crucifixion, where thought sometimes gets buried, and reveals that first light of the morning, the dawn of hope, joy, and spiritual reality.

There is a tradition that the early Christians greeted one another with the words “He is risen!” And the response was “He is risen indeed!” That tradition can be a signpost for us, a sign of strong and enduring faith in good, in God, who is Life. What better way to celebrate the significance of Easter—not just once a year, when our calendar reminds us, but every day—with that sacred acknowledgment of the risen Christ. The joy this greeting represents is what helps us navigate through dark moments and circumstances. It fulfills the promise Jesus left with us, “Your joy no man taketh from you” (John 16:22). 

The joyous affirmation “He is risen!” has the power now, as it had then, to lift thought to a higher understanding of Life as God, totally untouched by the belief in death. It is within this Life that we dwell as the very children of God. The fact that “he is risen!” can do away with grief, doubt, even despair, and reveal the joy that is present now.

A painting by the Swiss artist Eugène Burnand depicts two of Jesus’ disciples, John and Peter, running to the sepulcher where the body of Jesus has been buried. They have just heard the news that their Master is alive! Their eagerness and expectation are beautifully portrayed by the artist. When I first saw that painting, it filled me with this same eagerness and joy, a yearning to feel in my heart the significance of Jesus’ victory over death. 

We can approach Easter with this same urgency and conviction, not just believing the Easter message but also cherishing its eternal meaning and promise: Life is God, eternal and spiritual. As God’s children, His creation, we all live, move, and breathe safely and joyfully within Life’s presence. 

As God’s children, His creation, we all live, move, and breathe safely and joyfully within Life’s presence.

This is more than a comforting outlook; it is the spiritual reality of all being, for all time. Where there is an honest, humble desire to gain the understanding of man as God’s offspring, the glory of the resurrection day will dawn and will dispel the gloom of mortality.

Easter commemorates Life, not death; Love, not hate; joy, not grief. It celebrates the pure view of Life and Love as eternal. Resurrection from any grave of loneliness, doubt, sorrow, sickness, lethargy is the result of rolling away some stone that has shut out our freedom and blocked out the light, making us believe that Life can be confined, limited, dark, and then come to an end. 

Easter is a time of renewed thinking, a time to rise and find that good is not at the mercy of material theories but is always present everywhere. The stone that needs to be rolled away from our hearts in any instance is the belief in matter and evil, the belief that something evil exists or has happened.

This significant and glorious event is what we celebrate at Easter. It will never lose its sacred glory. It will continue to abide in the hearts of children, men, and women everywhere with the precious message, “He is risen.” Let’s make room for it every day.

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