On Holy Saturday the priests read in the Breviary a sermon written by an ancient unknown author, who visualized Christ descending to Hades after his death to awake Adam. The Lord was holding Adam’s hand and said to him, “I am your God, for you I became your son (taking on the human nature). Today I say to you and your descendants, ‘Come forth from your prison!’ To those who are under the shadow of darkness I say, ‘Receive the light!’ To those who died I say, ‘Rise!’ To those who are asleep I say, ‘Awake!’ I have not created you in my image to let you stay in Hades.
Rise and leave this place! For you I have taken the nature of a slave. My place was in heaven but for you I came down to earth. I shared your weakness. I have fought and won for you freedom and liberated you from death.”
“Behold my face, covered by spittle and the marks of the hands that struck me. I suffered these to restore beauty to your face. Behold the scourges on my shoulders, which carried the weight of your sins. Behold the marks of the nails in my hands, they were to repair your stretching your hands to snatch the fruit of “the knowledge of good and evil”. Your enemy drove you out from the garden of Eden but I have prepared Heaven for you. All things are ready. The house has been decorated, the banquet has been laid. Put on your jewels and enter the festive hall.”
I have quoted a long passage from the sermon. Now I would like to visualize Jesus holding your hand and my hand and saying to you and me, “Rise!” Let us visualize again Lazarus coming out from the tomb after lying there for three days. He heard the voice of Jesus, “Come forth!” Yes, we must rise and go forth with our body straight, chest out and head upright like a risen person!
In the tradition of the Church Lent is a time of preparation for baptism for the Catechumens. It is also a time for sinners to do penance. After the Ash Wednesday the sinners used to kneel at the entrance of the church, wearing sackcloth with ashes on their head, asking for prayer from the brothers and sisters who were entering the church. On Maundy Thursday they would be received back into the community of the Church by the Bishop to participate in the Sacred Liturgy of the Triduum. Easter is manifestly their rising to new life.
We are sinners and we continuously rise up. Kneeling and rising up are positions to express this alternating situation of our souls. We emphasize our sinfulness during lent, we put in evidence, during Easter, our being resurrected because of Jesus’ Resurrection. There was an ancient tradition forbidding praying on one’s knees and fasting on Sundays, because Sunday is the commemoration of Lord’s Resurrection.
Risen people must stand up with head upright. Christ has payed for our sins and has restored our dignity as children of God. We are no more slaves (does not this bring you to think of the beginning of our national anthem “rise, you who are no more slaves!”?
A Risen person must love and respect himself and never fall back to the slavery of sin. Throw away the old leaven and be a new man! The Risen person with head upright is also the paradigma of our mutual relation in society. Every person, each person deserves respect and love, because every and each person have been redeemed by Jesus Christ.
Never allow anybody to be dispiced, insulted, discriminated against, exploited, illtreated, manipulated! A Risen person has right to be the master of himself! Can’t you see, dear Brothers and Sisters, that the good news of Lord’s Resurrection is the driving force behind our social concern effort?
Let’s go forward!
Bishop Joseph ZEN, SDB