The Beginning of the New Creation

Easter Vigil

Empty Tomb Sunrise

On Holy Thursday, I spoke about Jesus as the New Passover Lamb who calls us to his feast. On Good Friday, I preached about Jesus as the New Adam who begins a marriage covenant with us, the Church, his bride. Tonight, we celebrate Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead, the beginning of the New Creation. In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, he created everything from absolutely nothing and yet he created everything according to a logic, a reason, a Logos, a wisdom, a Word.

“The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
[And] all things came to be through him…”
according to a plan.

This divine plan was not merely to create a vast, material universe of stars, planets, moons and comets in reflection of God’s glory, but also to create (at least on one planet) many living things as well. Plants and trees were added to the dry land. Swimming creatures were added to the sea. Winged birds were added to the sky. and cattle, creeping things, and of all kinds wild animals were added across the earth. But God’s the ultimate living creation would be “the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake”:

God created man in his image;
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
And God blessed them, saying:
“Be fertile and multiply;
fill the earth and subdue it.”

God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good.” And then, the Book of Genesis says, “on the seventh day God was finished with the work he had been doing, [so] he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken.” But it would be a short rest. Because of human sins and the Fall of Creation, there would be much more work for God to do.

This work is the story of Salvation History reflected throughout tonight’s Old Testament readings: words and deeds across places and times to reconnect with our human race, to reclaim, redeem, and restore us. These many works of God culminated in Jesus Christ. “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.” He lives as the New Adam who passes the test. He dies as the New Passover Lamb who sets us free. Saturday was the Jewish Sabbath Day of Rest. And on Holy Saturday, the seventh day of the week, Jesus perfectly fulfills the law, his lifeless body resting in the tomb. When the Sabbath was over, on Easter Sunday (which is the first day of the week again, or what Early Christians called the eighth day) Jesus begins the New Creation in himself, by his Resurrection.

As proclaimed in our Easter Gospel, the tomb was emptied. “Do not be amazed!” an angel told the women there, “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him.” Not merely had Jesus’ spirit been raised, but his physical body too. Were it otherwise, when he appeared to his disciples on Easter, his dead body would still be in the tomb. The risen Jesus visits them in the Upper Room and says, “Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” He shows them his hands, his feet, and his side because these still bear the wounds he suffered during his Passion. It seems his many other cuts and bruises are healed and gone, but Jesus retains these wounds without pain as trophies of his triumph.

He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead.” He is the plan revealed, the pattern of what is to come, both for those in Christ and for our universe. For death is not the end of us and the Last Day is not the end of the world. The dead will live again and the universe will be glorified into “a new heavens and a new earth.” As St. Paul wrote:

“Creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God […] in hope because creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait for […] the redemption of our bodies.”

In our lives we now struggle against evil and sin. This broken world causes painful wounds in us. But the glorious wounds which remain in the risen Savior’s body reveal something beautiful: that with Christ all our trials and sufferings will be weaved into the tapestry, into the New Creation, he is now fashioning. “He will wipe every tear from [our] eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, the old order [will have] passed away.” In light of Jesus, St. Paul can say, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.” The beginnings of that glory are revealed to us tonight, in the Easter resurrection of our Lord. “Behold,” Christ says, “I make all things new.

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