Now let the angelic host of heaven exult; and for the victory of so great a King sound the trumpet of salvation. (From the Exultet sung at the Easter Vigil)
My dear brethren,
We rejoice today as best we can, but the greatest victory of all time which happened on the first Easter Sunday 2000 years ago was marked with no trumpet blasts, no acclaim, no crowds, not even a single soul - not even the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the stillness of the night the greatest moment in time took place – without anyone to see it.
But why such secrecy? Why hide the greatest moment of created time?
Relative to the unworthy
First, Christ’s resurrection was certainly too sacred an event to expose to the unbelief and derision of those who did not love Him: to the soldiers, the Pharisees, to the crowd. Our Lord had completed His humiliation and His suffering when He died - He was to suffer no more.
Then there was a question of merit. That stiff-necked race had been courted by God, their Wooer, from the time of Abraham, but they had turn their backs upon Him. The invitation to His banquet was rejected, they had killed His prophets and now they had killed His Only Begotten Son. They did not deserve to see the moment for which God had prepared them for 2000 years.
Perhaps God also chose to hide this event from mortal eyes as an act of mercy. He kept the physical manifestation of Christ’s victory from those who would never believe so as not to make their damnation worse. The parable of Lazarus covered in sores bears testimony to this: if the prophets would not be heard, then if Lazarus appeared to them, they would not listen to him either.
For the harmony of order
But these are negative reasons having their foundation in the unworthiness of man. Why was it fitting then that no man, not even His loved ones, saw the august moment upon which all our faith and hope rests?
One reason is that the hidden resurrection was so much more beautiful as a poignant victory. Just as God was not in the raging tempest, or the earthquake or the fire when He spoke to Elias but in the gentle breeze, there is a poetic beauty that His victory was in the quiet, tranquillity of the night.
It was fitting too (according to St. Cyril) as a balancing of womanhood's account: a woman had begun the sad story which ended in man's death, now a woman (Mary Magdalene) began the glad story of this Man's conquest of death.
Similarly, Eve had presented the apple to Adam; the new Adam had presented his victory to new Eve (Tradition has it that Jesus appeared to the Blessed Virgin Mary before making Himself known to Mary Magdalene) so that the whole world might know not sin but Goodness.
Relative to our capacity to understand
St. Thomas explains also that the resurrection, exceeding our capacity to comprehend, could be learned only from above. The eye hath not seen, O God, besides Thee, what things Thou hast prepared for them that wait for Thee. (Is. 64:4). As the order of divine providence has always been to lead the lower by the higher, men learned of the resurrection through the angel who sat on the stone where Christ was laid and answered men's unspoken questions: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth. He is not here. He is risen. (Mk 16:6)
An angel had heralded the entry of God into His creation, it was fitting that an angel announce the entry of man into His divinity.
If it had been left to living witnesses to announce the resurrection, without faith and without Jesus explaining His resurrection, the astonishing truth would be misunderstood. After appearing to His mother, Jesus revealed Himself gradually to His disciples. First to Mary Magdalene, then to pilgrims to Emmaus and then to the apostles in the cenacle - and even then He hid from them the glory of His body, the glory that Peter, James and John had glimpsed on Mount Thabor.
Relative to the worthy
Finally, the hidden resurrection permits us to love the risen Christ more fully. It permits us to love with a love based upon faith and hope. In heaven, there is no faith and there is no hope because the saints see what they could not see on earth and have attained that ultimate good which they earnestly hoped for here below.
To those who have not seen the Resurrection is reserved the blessing promised by Jesus himself: Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe. (Jn 20:29). And it is our blessing more than for all the preceding generations of the new dispensation! 2000 years after His glorious resurrection, the event we celebrate today is more remote in time than ever before! In a world that is falling away from the sweet yoke of His law, we still believe in Him. Blessed are we in this.
And our blessing consists in this: not only are we promised eternal life, we also have in our hope the means of escape from that despair which is the lot of man who has no God.
Our Lord hid His resurrection because it was too sacred, because it was too beautiful, because He wished that we might know it better and because He wished on us the blessing of pure love based on faith and hope.
Our Lord hid His resurrection….but let us not hide our joy today! Let earth rejoice, irradiated by such mighty beams, and, being lighted up with the splendour of the eternal King. Let her feel the shadows gone from her sphere. (Exultet)
Let us offer our thanks and let us adore the risen Christ who has given us eternity. Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat! Amen, Alleluia!