Easter Joy: Defeating the Culture of Death

Paschal blessings to you and your loved ones! Having come through the penitential and ascetical season of Lent, through the Paschal Triduum (the Three Great Days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday) and into the joyful celebration of the Paschal Vigil and Easter Sunday, we are now in the Octave of Easter, the first eight days of the continuing celebration of the fifty days of the Great Season of Easter ending on Pentecost Sunday, May 23.

How do we make sense of, and experience the expected “Paschal joy” of Easter, especially in the days of a persisting global pandemic? What does the resurrection of Jesus mean to us in the weird and wild 21st century? For many of us, perhaps most of us, the joy of Jesus’ resurrection fades as the vicissitudes of life obscure the celebration. In the midst of the day-to-day challenges of life, how do we retain and experience that Easter joy?

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead changed everything in this world, summing up all of history and reversing and defeating the culture of death inaugurated by the first Adam. The Triune Creator of all that is, was, and ever will be, took on flesh in the person of the Son Jesus the Christ, who then descended to the depths of God-forsakenness, tethered to God the Father by God the Holy Spirit, to rescue all the created order, including and especially, those of us who are the most recalcitrant and violently disobedient. Then, in an acrobatic act of loving redemption and reconciliation, the faithful Son was raised from the dead, bringing with him the entire created order into resurrection light. Death and hell are defeated. Violent oppression is crushed to death. Heaven and earth are once again brought back into their pristine unity.

So why does it look like the culture of death is still alive and well? Why is the world still such a violent place, and the appearance of evil still so vivid? Well, we are in clean-up and gather-up mode. The celebration of Easter gives us Christians a glimpse into the reality of a restored and reconciled creation. Our missional privilege is to participate with heaven in self-sacrificially ushering in the present and future reality of God’s great gathering Kingdom in a soon-to-be transfigured earth. How? Through love, sharing the love that Christ has for us with those who may have forgotten, or even never known, of that love. In sharing that love, we find Paschal joy.

St. Thomas Aquinas defined love as willing the good of the other as other. Fixing our gaze on the resurrected Christ conduces to gaining his heart for the reconciliation of his created order, particularly for our fellow humankind, and extending ourselves in love for the other. In doing so, we remain in the joy and divine life of the resurrected Christ and proclaim again the defeat of the culture of death. May it be so for all of us.

About the author

Dr. James R. Hart served as President of the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies from 2007-2024. Dr. Hart was a member of the first IWS doctoral class, the Alpha class, and served as Dean of Students during his matriculation. After graduating from IWS, Dr. Webber appointed him as the Dean of Administration, and then Provost in 2006. In June of 2007, he was inaugurated as the second president of IWS. Dr. Hart holds a B.M. in Sacred Music from Oral Roberts University, an M.M. in Trumpet Performance from the University of Tulsa, and a D.W.S. from the Institute for Worship Studies. He was critical to the formation of IWS in Florida and has held administrative responsibilities since its inception in 1999. He is a professional trumpeter, choral director, and worship leader, and a published composer/arranger, songwriter, and author. He has been involved in worship leadership in various contexts around the globe for over 40 years and has taught in the areas of worship, theology, and music in various conferences, colleges, and seminaries. Dr. Hart and his wife, Carol, have three daughters and three grandchildren.