– Fr. Abbot Brendan Coffey OSB

We have just heard the beginning of the resurrection story; a narrative which is both shocking and amazing. One of the things that makes these accounts so believable is that sense of unexpectedness. The disciples arrive at the empty tomb never having really believed that Jesus would return from death, and now they find themselves in a disturbing new world where anything is possible; and so bright is the light of this new Easter morning that even the familiar face of Jesus is unrecognizable. And so, ‘My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt.’

The women at the tomb, the apostles, the disciples on the road to Emmaus, all experienced something terribly traumatic. Thomas was not the only one who doubted. The resurrection accounts are full of people getting it wrong. In fact this is one of the few details that all the gospels actually agree on. Mary thinks Jesus’ body was stolen. Peter sees the linen wrappings and has no idea what they mean. The disciples failed to understand the scriptures or what was really going on. Even after the angels message to the women they were still confused and unconvincing and so the apostles thought their story pure nonsense. You could hardly get more misunderstandings into a couple of pages if you tried. The simple fact is that our minds and our imaginations are far too small to contain the vastness of the mystery of the resurrection. This is why we still descend into jealousy, war, vengeance and so on.

Did you ever wonder what it was like for those first few hours after the empty tomb had been found and Mary of Magdala, the apostle to the apostles, delivered her message? There must have been great uncertainty, half hope and much terror; which of us would really rejoice at the prospect of a miracle that would make us rethink most of what we had taken for granted? Then into that chaos steps a figure before whose face ‘the questions fade away’. Tonight Raffi, you will be baptised into this mystery, sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and feast on the bread of angels. You are about to meet the Risen Lord, before whose face ‘the questions fade away’. The world is even more dangerous and strange than before, the future is now quite unimaginable; but there is nothing that can alter the sheer effect of his presence.

How can I experience the presence of the Risen One in a world so full of atrocity and injustice? Yet people in the most extraordinary situations have witnessed to this presence. We might well remember some of them tonight – the people caught up in the war in Ukraine, Christians facing threats and attacks for their faith in different parts of the world; please pray for and think of them. Sometimes people in such situations feel his presence in the middle of what they endure. They feel an overwhelming sense of being where they should be, being rooted in the moment in a way that doesn’t at all blur your honesty about what’s there in front of your eyes but gives you what you need to sit in the presence of horror and grief and live – and so once again, hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt.

On Easter morning, it is as if ‘the fountains of the great deep’ are broken open, and we are allowed to see through this darkness, like Peter and John at the empty tomb, and glimpse for a moment the light of Easter. So now we open the fountain of life, the womb of the Church, and admit Raffi into this great mystery.

Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη! (Khristós Anésti! Alithós Anésti!) Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!



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