[The following is an excerpt from an Easter homily I gave a few years ago, which helps make the connection between Resurrection and the Holy Eucharist]
…Today we’re celebrating this great mystery, this power of the Resurrection that is something new in the whole universe: when He rose from the dead, something new happened that had never happened before, which has transformed the universe and the future of the whole universe forever, because what happened in Christ is not just someone dying and coming back to life; it’s not just an organism functioning, then ceasing to function, and then starting to function again. It’s a completely new life, a life that is taken up into a new level of being. Now this new power is at work in the universe, his power to elevate humanity up into the level of divine life and divine glory. This is the gift and the power of the Resurrection. What underlies this great, divine power to change everything and to transform everything into a shining image of God? Well, of course it is love: it’s the divine love which makes all things new. The love that Scripture says is stronger than death; God’s love alone is stronger than death. We struggle here on earth with our mortality, and we do love, but of ourselves we can’t love in the same way that God loves, in this effective way that overcomes death.
I was reading a certain book, and it said that when we say “I love you” to someone, we’re saying, on a very fundamental level, “I want you to live forever.” But the thing is that in our human condition we cannot make that happen. We cannot make our loved ones live forever. It’s a wish, a desire, but it’s one that we cannot accomplish of our own power. We say, “I love you, I want you to live forever,” yet our loved ones die. But it’s different with God. See, God can say, “I want you to live forever, because I love you,” and He makes it happen: we see that first in the life of Christ, in the death and resurrection of Christ, as we sing the psalm, “You will not let your Beloved know decay.” So, the Father says to Christ, “I love You, and therefore You are going to live forever,” and so in his humanity He raises Him up into that glory. Now Christ has that same power to love us unto life: his love for us is stronger than death, and He can tell us that same thing—that He loves us, and wants us to live forever. This is something that He’s already begun to do in the first-fruits of redeemed and resurrected humanity, the Mother of God. Jesus said to her, in effect—when He raised her up and assumed her body and soul into Heaven—“I love you, and I want you to live forever! Now, rise from the dead!” And she did! This is the love that is stronger than death, the love that we celebrate in the Resurrection of Christ that transforms the whole universe.
There’s another side to the coin here, of love being stronger than death, because if love is going to be stronger than death, it first has to be stronger than life. Now, what does that mean? This is something that we can actually share in ourselves. For love to be stronger than life, it has to be willing to die.
Jesus’ love was first stronger than life because He was willing to sacrifice his life for those whom He loved—He was willing to give it up. He gave us that message in the Gospel: “Whoever would save his life, will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” That’s something that Jesus has shown us first, and gives us the example. Do not love life more than God, and do not hold on to this passing life in such a way that would make you lose the life that’s true life in God.
Jesus’ love was stronger than life: He was willing to give up, to lay down, his life for his beloved. But then, being the divine Son of God, and having the power to lay down his life and take it up again, He proved that his love is stronger than death, and He rose from the dead, and entered into that new, divine, glorified life that He promises to all of those who believe in Him and who love Him. And we’re the ones who can benefit from that promise and that power of his love that gives us life, and gives us life eternal.
Now, one of the ways, and one of the most beautiful ways that this power of Christ’s presence—his love stronger than death, his divine life—is with us, is in the Holy Eucharist. This is the presence in our midst of Christ, slain and risen, and when we receive the Holy Eucharist, we take into ourselves the love that is stronger than death, the love that promises eternal life, because He said, “He who eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood abides in Me, and I in him….” And what else? “…and I will raise him up on the Last Day!” Why? Because the love that He puts in us through the Holy Eucharist is stronger than death and is going to make us rise from the dead on the Last Day, when He comes for us, his beloved.
There’s something that I read recently which I found to be a very beautiful insight into the mystery of the Eucharist and the Resurrection. This is from a book by François Varillon. He says, “When Marc Oraison was a surgeon in Bordeaux, every day he would see people die, people cease to exist. He decided to become a priest so that he could celebrate the Eucharist in the midst of a universe bound to death and so that, through the Eucharist, he would make the Resurrection present at the very heart of this universe in which everything is mortal. The Resurrection is the life beyond all deaths; it is the breach without which we would be forever enclosed in the circle of universal mortality.”
So this is what we’re doing here when we celebrate the Eucharist, and especially today, on the Feast of Christ’s Resurrection: we are making the Resurrection present at the very heart of this universe in which everything is mortal. But Jesus says: not everything is going to be mortal, because I am going to raise you—as we heard from Saturday’s Matins reading of Ezekiel’s prophecy of the dry bones—“I am going to raise you, my people; I’m going to raise you from your graves. Don’t say, ‘We’re lying here dead and our bones are dried up, and God has abandoned us.’ I am going to put my Spirit in you, and I’m going to raise you from your graves.” This is read as a prophecy of the general resurrection at the Last Day.
Let us resolve to love God more than life, more than we love life itself, so that we are willing to make whatever sacrifice we need to be faithful to God—even the ultimate sacrifice—so that our love will be stronger than life, and then, when we finally pass from this life, we will hear that voice of Christ, as in chapter five of John He says: “An hour is coming when the dead in their graves are going to hear the voice of the Son of God.” What is He going to be saying? What are you going to hear? You’re going to hear Christ say, “I love you! I want you to live forever! My love is stronger than death. Now rise, and live forever!”