The Second Sunday of the Resurrection
“The New Day”
I will exult you, O Lord, my King
It was at the head of the building
Your resurrection, O Savior, adorned our race with heavenly gifts: it immediately gave us a true new life in the spiritual birth of baptism, in which we are baptized in the model of your death and resurrection; it also established teachers and priests for us in the churches, through whose agency we are brought near to the glorious Mysteries of the knowledge of your Divinity. O Friend of men, glory to you!
Results of the Resurrection
What we mean when we say an event is “major” is that its consequences are far-reaching. World wars are “major” events; floods, earthquakes and other natural catastrophes as well. This is because they affect the world in a significant way and for a significant time after their occurrence. That is, they do not just “happen” and go away. Their residue clings to the world, and the mark they leave behind remains to remind us of them.
This is not only the case with negative events, but with positive ones as well. The ordination of a priest is a single event, as is the wedding of two people. But these momentary events change people’s lives for decades after their occurrence; not simply the people in question (the priest or the new husband and wife), but others as well.
What, then, is the far-reaching significance of the event of the Resurrection of Christ? If indeed it is the most important, dramatic, “major” event in the history of humanity, which we indeed claim, its consequences must be proportionately major. The Basilica Hymn for the Second Sunday of Easter, called “New Sunday” or, as I have translated it above, “The New Day,” mentions some of the results of this striking moment: Your resurrection, O Savior, adorned our race with heavenly gifts: it immediately gave us a true new life in the spiritual birth of baptism, in which we are baptized in the model of your death and resurrection; it also established teachers and priests for us in the churches, through whose agency we are brought near to the glorious Mysteries of the knowledge of your Divinity.
The Immediate Earthquake
The first of the “heavenly gifts” given to us by the resurrection of Christ that is named in our hymn is the sacrament of baptism. The connection between the baptism of the Church and the resurrection of Christ is well explained by St. Paul: “Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.” (Romans 6:2-4)
Thus, the power of the resurrection over death itself, our oldest enemy, is poured out upon us at our baptism, which is, in the language of our hymn “in the model of” Christ’s death and resurrection. That is, in the “old days,” in fact even within recent memory in the Chaldean Church, the person to be baptized was dipped entirely under the water, imitating Christ’s descent into the grave and Sheol, and then came up out of the water, imitating Christ’s resurrection and victory over the grave. What an enormous effect! What an earthquake! Death is defeated and destroyed through this sacrament which is a direct result of the resurrection.
The Tremors Heard Till Today
In addition to baptism, the first and immediate successor of the resurrection, the hymn we examine this week names another effect: it also established teachers and priests for us in the churches, through whose agency we are brought near to the glorious Mysteries of the knowledge of your Divinity. Teachers and priests, which are still with us today along with baptism, are those who unite us to the knowledge of God which allows us to grow in friendship with him through grace.
Another fitting result of such a marvelous event: we earthly beings, sinners made from dirt, are given the exalted honor of knowledge of God himself! The resurrection proved to the original witnesses that Christ is the Son of God; those witnesses passed this News on to their followers, and so it comes down to us today. Christ the Son is the Mediator, the meeting-point between God and man, and so through him we have access even to the Father himself.
Newness of Life
Christ’s resurrection touches us directly today through the sacraments and through the teaching power of the Church, through which we receive our faith. The resurrection of Christ is the beginning, and its results are many and wonderful and varied, but ultimate goal of all of this is one: union with God.
No more is the “old man” that we were, the man of sin and straying, far from his Creator. The “old man” is gone in Christ; he was put to death and died, and the New Body of Christ, of which we become members through baptism, is renewed and placed above the possibility of death and of aging, neither physically nor spiritually. Though we were decrepit and rotting in the old age of our sins, Christ has made us young again in innocence and vitality through his Rising from the dead.