What Does Easter Look Like?

by | Apr 8, 2012 | Uncategorized

Victory over the Grave from Wikimedia Commons
Victory Over the Grave from Wikimedia Commons

Glowing Toga Jesus!

What does Easter look like? More like a silly YouTube video of Stephen Colbert and a flash mob in Macy’s than the picture to the left.

Perhaps I’m jaded by over-exposure to religious art, but I really don’t think that the main thing Jesus did after the resurrection was glow, wear a toga, and stare off vaguely at heaven.  The image at the top of the post is the illustration for the Wikipedia page on Easter, and is about standard for the genre (plus obligatory angels). Given the option, I’d prefer an icon of the Resurrection, with Jesus standing over the gates of Hell, which he has thrown down, pulling Adam and Eve up from their tombs (and there are, of course, still angels).

The Gospels actually don’t get tied up in trying to tell us what Easter looked like. Mostly, they tell us the tomb was empty, and when the risen Jesus does show up, people tend to have trouble recognizing him — they figure it out when they feel their hearts “burning within them.” So maybe the question we should be asking about Easter is not “what did it look like?” but instead “how should it affect us?”

Easter “looks like” us recognizing Jesus as risen and beginning to respond in joy. Let me suggest two less-than-reverent images to help drive that point home. Easter looks as outrageously joyful as this, and it calls for a response as fully engaged as this.

Outrageously joyful: Stephen Colbert dancing, ridiculously, to “The King of Glory Comes.” Now, I admit it, Colbert looks extraordinarily (and, of course, deliberately) goofy in this video. But while we’re laughing, let’s also ask the question: if Christ is raised, if death is dead, shouldn’t I be joyful enough to be dancing too?

Fully engaged: a flash mob of choristers in Macy’s, breaking out into the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah. “The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of the Lord” — and shouldn’t we be singing about it? Isn’t that what the Easter “Alleluia” is for? Look at what happens to the faces in the crowd as Macy’s is transformed, even briefly, into an image of the kingdom of God.

Easter looks like joy that can’t be contained; Easter looks like the transformation of the world into worship, a moment — still to be hoped for, and already on its way — when every created voice sings “Alleluia” together, and not just for the sake of a YouTube moment.


Sam Sawyer, SJ

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