All our worship, through every season of our lives, is one unbroken celebration of this day. Easter is the ground of our hope, the pasch on which all else rests. Today we exult in the promise at the heart of the Christian mystery: a declaration that death does not have the last word.
This is not a day for art history. We can circle back to that another time. Still, this painting on a reverse panel of Grünewald’s Isenheim altarpiece, is like none other. In the entire canon of Western art, there is no more glorious image of the Risen One than this. Spend a moment with it. Luminous in conception and execution, it comes closest to making palpable the words of John Henry Newman:
. . . we are baptized and hidden anew in God’s glory, in that Shekinah of light and purity which we lost when Adam fell. We are new-created, transformed, spiritualized, glorified in the diving nature.
Through the participation of Christ we receive, as through a channel, the true presence of God within and without us, imbuing us with sanctity and immortality. This, I repeat, is our justification, our ascent through Christ to God, or God’s descent through Christ to us; we may call it either of the two: we ascend into Him, he descends into us; we are in Him, He in us . . . .
This is the one great gift of God purchased by the Atonement, which is light instead of darkness and the shadow of death . . . .
Note: In Judaism, the Hebrew word Shekinah indicates the luminous cloud which envelops the divine presence. The Jewish Encyclopedia defines it in terms that fall sweetly on Christian ears: “the majestic presence or manifestation of God which has descended to ‘dwell’ among men.”