The Third Sunday of Easter

I’m still with the solar eclipse from earlier this week. As I mentioned on Ascension’s Facebook such astronomical phenomena remind us viscerally that we exist in the vastness of a universe. We usually have no sense that we are the ones spinning on a planet which in turn is spinning around the sun which in turn … I‘ll stop there! … because our sense of being is that we are stable and the sun rises and falls in relation to us. (I’ve been told by people who have been through earthquakes that the experience is terrifying and one reason being that we’ve always grown up with the ground underneath our feet as stability, as solid, but now it is no stable no longer!) What I remember of a solar eclipse in Australia was the change in temperature, the change in the animal noises, and how the shadows of things were curved in harmony with the crescent shape up above.

But what has further fascinated me about this solar eclipse were the video clips from satellites and the ISS showing the shadow travelling across the planet. It was a new perspective simply seeing the shadow without being ‘in’ it – and reminding me how fast the shadow travels! I could imagine the whole vista – ‘looking up’ to see the sun and the moon in their positions and ‘looking down’ to see where the shadow was cast – and it isn’t too much of a leap to understanding why human societies ‘looking up’ have worshipped the sun which brings life and why light is associated with the divine.

Imagining the whole world in shadow and in darkness took me to the Easter Vigil before the resurrection of Jesus and, for me, an experience of Easter worship in a Greek Orthodox church in Adelaide in the 1980s where, as a guest, I was taken up to the balcony to observe the service – it was all in Greek – with many of the women. In the darkness a single candle was brought out from the altar as the iconostasis opened with the cry, ‘Christ is risen!’ and everyone down below rushed forward with their candle to light from the ‘Christ candle’ and then more people lit their candles from those in front and so on right out the door and into the street. From above, it was very moving to see the light progressing, the darkness dispelling, and hearing the joy of the message, ‘Christ is risen!’. Such scenes are repeated at many an Easter Vigil and can be observed at places such as the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. At Ascension we incorporate a small portion of the Easter Vigil with the preparing of our Christ candle on Easter Day.

On Good Friday Jerusalem was plunged into darkness as the light of the world gave up his spirit and entered darkness. And then Jesus’ resurrection was a light bursting out in the darkness which will never be snuffed out again and those ‘in Christ’ are also lights in this dark world. It is a powerful image to contemplate as we live in a world still in the grip of the darkness of fear, shame, guilt, and death – that there are billions of lights ‘walking around’ and that those in Christ will never be eclipsed by what happens to them in this world. No matter what the darkness tries to do – even death itself – the followers of Jesus will shine in the darkness. They live because Jesus is with them and he has overcome the world.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!