Easter Day, 2012

Fr. Gordon Hines, Rector, St. George's Anglican Church

From the Song of Solomon, “…the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come …” (2:11-12)

I would like to preface this homily by quoting something the great Anglican poet and literary critic T. S. Eliot wrote in 1956, “I don’t believe that any religion can survive which is not a religion of the supernatural and life after death in some form. I think that the end of a purely materialistic civilization with all its technical achievements and mass amusements is simply boredom. A people without religion will, in the end, find there is nothing to live for.”

If there is any wisdom in age, I think we all know how beautiful and sometimes difficult life is, but also how fragile and transitory life is. To me the beginning of the Christian life is to realize we are loved personally by the very source of life, by God, our Creator.

God cannot be defined. Any definition would limit Him. In the Old Testament, when God appeared to Moses in the Burning Bush, Moses asks, “Who are you?” And God answers, I AM THAT I AM, YAHWEH, the Hebrew name for God. This is a perfect theological statement.

In the New Testament, St. John went so far as to define God when he said, “God is love.” This puzzled and bothered me until I realized that divine love can be a definition for God, because God and love are both infinite. We cannot separate the love of God from the love of life.

Today, we celebrate the great Feast of Easter Day and the gift given Fallen humanity of eternal life through Christ’s Resurrection. Perhaps the greatest mind of the Church, St. Augustine of Hippo of the 300’s A.D., offers keen insight on the inseparable link between the love of God and life, in his remarks on the heroism of the martyrs.  He said their heroism consisted of just this: “They really loved this life; yet they weighed it up. They thought of how much they should love the things eternal; if they were capable of so much love for thing that pass away….”

He writes further, “I know you want to keep on living. You do not want to die. And you want to pass from this life to another in such a way that you will not rise again, as a dead man, but fully alive and transformed. This is what you desire. This is the deepest human feeling: mysteriously, the soul itself wishes and instinctively desires it….”

Reflecting on St. Augustine’s words, brought to mind a true story I once heard in seminary by one whom I regard as the consummate storyteller, Archbishop Robert Morse.  He once said he had a wonderful old secretary named Lou who had worked in his church office for years. One day she announced to him she was retiring.  Shortly after her retirement he noticed she hadn’t been to church for two Sundays. When he called on her she was laid up in the hospital.  He told her, ‘Lou, I want you to get out of here.’  ‘You get better.’  Then he said, ‘I’ll see you in a couple of weeks.’  ‘I have to go out of town.’ She told him, ‘Have a good trip.’  Then she said, ‘I won’t be able to see you again.’  These unexpected words struck him hard and he broke down in tears. She said, ‘Compose yourself.’  ‘I’ll see you again.’ ‘I’ll see you again.’ That afternoon, she died. The reassurance she gave him was, ‘I’ll see you again.’  ‘I’ll see you again.’”

The great 20th century Russian philosopher, Vladimir Solovyov, in his masterpiece, The Meaning of Love, wrote, “We do not begin to believe in eternal life for ourselves, we only start to believe in eternal life for those we love.” We know this is true when our loved ones die for we continue to love them beyond the grave.

Just like St. Peter, we all can respond to the question of the Risen Christ, “Do you love Me?”  We all, even Peter, can repeat the words of St. Augustine, “Late in life have I loved thee.” Each of us is late in loving God.  When you and I muse on the past and present of our lives, we can see we are just now beginning to love God.  The renewed hope offered to us this Easter is the Risen Christ can awaken us to eternal life and love in Him.

In the magnificent novel, Dr. Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak, there are some wonderful poems at the end. One of these is entitled, Holy Week, and the final verses read:

And when the midnight comes

All creatures and all flesh will fall silent

On hearing spring put forth its rumor

That just as soon as there is better weather

Death itself can be overcome

Through the power of the Resurrection.

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