Without Easter, We’re History

How different would our lives be if there had been no Redemption and no Resurrection?

Readings for The Resurrection of the Lord, The Mass of Easter Day

“Let each of us consider how different the history of humanity would be”, wrote the French theologian Réginald Marie Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. (1877-1964) in Our Savior and His Love For Us (Herder, 1951), “and how different our lives would be if there had been no Redemption and no Resurrection.”

Consider what it would have been like if Mary Magdalene, arriving at the tomb, had found Jesus’ cold, still body just as she expected to.

Imagine for a moment how the disciples, knowing that Jesus remained dead, would have lived the rest of their lives: broken, confused, bitter, scattered.

The band of disciples that had followed Jesus would have dissipated; the core of the apostles would have likewise faded away. The winds of time and the dust of history would have mercilessly eroded the once promising and startling landscape promised by Jesus of Nazareth.

How different would our lives be?

I don’t think we can even begin to fathom the answer. We cannot, I suggest, start to comprehend the darkness that would envelope the world and our lives if the Resurrection was not a real, historical event.

The Gospel of John begins with the famous Prologue, which describes the Incarnate Word as “the light of men” who “shines in the darkness”, bringing life to a world confused and, well, clueless. The theme of darkness and light continues throughout John’s Gospel, which is a masterpiece of seamlessly intertwining narrative, imagery, and theology.

When Mary of Magdala “came to the tomb early in the morning”, it was “still dark.” The darkness was external and literal; it was also internal and spiritual. She sought solace in duty, intent on showing love for her master even while grief and confusion surely threatened to overwhelm her. Whatever light existed was on the far edges of her vision—until she “saw the stone removed from the tomb.”

Then she ran. What had been a morning of mourning was suddenly the dawn of the eighth day, the day of Resurrection. “The seventh day completes the first creation”, notes the Catechism, “The eighth day begins the new creation. Thus, the work of creation culminates in the greater work of redemption. The first creation finds its meaning and its summit in the new creation in Christ, the splendor of which surpasses that of the first creation” (par 349).

The new creation came, as it were, from Christ’s birth out of the womb of the earth. “Just as Christ was born from his mother’s inviolate virginal womb”, wrote St. John Chrysostom, “so too he rose again from the closed tomb. As he, the only-begotten Son of God was made the firstborn of his mother, so, by his resurrection, he became the firstborn from the dead.”

Just as the first Adam was shaped by the Creator from the dust of the earth, the new Adam was raised by the Father from the dust of the earth. The early Church Fathers reveled in these connections, not because such language was merely clever but because it was a real means of approaching and communicating the mystery of the Resurrection and what it meant for Christians and all of creation.

Another example: “On this day paradise is opened by the risen one”, wrote St. Hesychius of Jerusalem in the fifth century, “Adam is restored to life and Eve is consoled.”

St. Peter, in his sermon in Acts 10, explained that the new Adam was “the one appointed by God” to judge the souls of men and to grant salvation to those who placed their faith in him. And St. Paul, writing to the Colossians, described how those “raised with Christ”—that is, baptized into his death and Resurrection (cf. Rom 6:3-11)—are now, by God’s grace, able to share in the gift of eternal, heavenly life. “When Christ your life appears”, he declared, “then you too will appear with him in glory”.

Without the Cross, there is no glory. Without the Resurrection, there is no life. Without Easter, we’re history.

(This column originally appeared in the April 8, 2012 edition of Our Sunday Visitor newspaper.)


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About Carl E. Olson 1189 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.