It was not enough for Professor Albert Einstein to tell the priest and physicist Father Georges Lemaître that his hypothesis of the Big Bang, which he called the “First Atomic Moment,” was true. He said that it was beautiful, which was more important because its beauty located it in a symmetry larger than itself, more like music than an equation. In a deeper realm, Saint Augustine said that the Gospel is a “beauty ever ancient, ever new.” True beauty is ageless. This is an admonition at a time when the Easter proclamation risks becoming old news and a fading echo. Saint Thomas More said that to be a real Christian is always to be surprised by the Resurrection.
Surprise permeates the primitive narratives: the groups of women as joyful as they are fearful, the two men on the Emmaus road whose hearts burn with an inexplicable astonishment, the apostles in the Upper Room stunned by what they thought might be a ghost. Had the Resurrection been exactly what they expected, there would have been no fear and no surprise.
The surprise continued when the Apostle Peter preached on Pentecost by the power of the Holy Spirit and told the crowd that they could “see and hear” the results of the Resurrection (Acts 2:33). Then as now, in times ever ancient and ever new, the only alternative to that is willful blindness and deafness. This Easter, while many Christians were dying for their faith in the Resurrection, in places like Pakistan and Yemen, morally isolated people were cavorting as giant rabbits on Fifth Avenue and trampling their own children during suburban Easter egg hunts. Of the latter it may be said that “having eyes they see not and having ears they hear not.” Theirs is not the surprise of the Resurrection but the creaking age of antique paganism.
There was a special grace at work in the death of a lady known to some of us, Mother Angelica, on Easter Day. She founded the worldwide Eternal Word Television Network starting with $200 and a garage as a studio. Our parish is fortunate that our church and rectory are used for some of its productions. While it is understandable that many were saddened that she left this world, I found it annoying that some “regretted” her “passing.” There is nothing regrettable about the death of a pious woman who accomplished much for the Lord, suffered grievous physical infirmities—including two strokes—for many years, and died on the Feast of the Resurrection. And as for “passing,” that is what gnostic sectaries like Christian Scientists do. Faithful Christians die and do not “pass,” and they pray for a happy death in the hope of eternal life.
So wrote Melito of Sardis in the second century: “The paschal mystery is at once old and new, transitory and eternal, corruptible and incorruptible, mortal and immortal. In terms of the Law it is old, in terms of the Word it is new.”
- FATHER GEORGE W. RUTLER