By Father George W. Rutler
To write about the Resurrection of Christ is the hardest task, for the event is the deepest of all mysteries, and yet it is also the easiest to address because its power permeates every human action. This was planned by God from the start of creation, and the Risen Christ is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).
In his last walk from Jericho up to Jerusalem, Jesus knew what he must do to conquer death. He must die as no one else had died, as both divine and human. That Jericho road is about the distance from mid-Manhattan to Yonkers, but it rises from the lowest spot on the face of the earth, more than 800 feet below sea level, to Jerusalem, more than 2,300 feet “on high.” This was to fulfill what had been planned from the beginning of time, and only Christ knew the content and pattern of that plan because “Before Abraham was I AM.”
The psychology of defective pride would seek to thwart the Lord of History. Sin is an attempt to outshout the Word that uttered all things into existence. At the climactic moment of Christ’s arrival in Jerusalem to defeat the Anti-Christ, men of earthly power tried to silence those who welcomed him, and he said with serene confidence that if they were silenced, “the stones themselves would cry out.”
Jerusalem was a magnificent triumph of human engineering. The same sort of human intelligence that built it builds our modern cities. These days in our parish, buildings are rising in the vast Hudson Yards project. Across the street from us to the south, one skyscraper nearing completion will be taller than the Empire State Building. Many of the workers on those buildings come to our church for the sacraments, but if all of them were silent, the buildings themselves would be hymns “crying out” to the Creator who endowed mortal minds and muscles to raise up all that stone and steel and glass.
Christ loved Jerusalem and he loves all civilizations, which is why he wept when the city did not understand why he had come into the world. All cities rise and fall, but Christ rises “never to die again” and promises that all who live and believe in him will not die forever.
Saint John Chrysostom lived in the great city of Constantinople in a chaotic time. He died in the year that the British soldier Gratian declared himself Roman emperor, only to be assassinated and succeeded by Constantine III, and the same year that what now is France was invaded by the German Vandals. In his great Easter homily, the Hieratikon, he set his sights on another city:
Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!