The Empty Tomb
by Fr. T.E. Ziton
Resurrection in Nature
Winter is now past! The snow is gone, and the gardener prunes his trees and vines for another harvest. Nature joyfully cries out: “Stop, look and listen for spring is here!” Yes, there is a glorious resurrection in nature. STOP! or you will tread upon the tender flowers that have just risen from the dead. LOOK! and you will see that old tree whose branches in winter resembled the long arms of a ghost, but now the tree begins to bloom with fragrant apple blossoms. LISTEN! and you will hear the singing bird so full of song that it seems he will burst his little throat. The earth sounds a note of joy and gladness. Everyone picks up the melody and intones the words: “Stop, look and listen, for there is a resurrection in nature.”
In the Songs of Songs we read: “Arise, my dove and come: Winter is now past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth.” (2: 10-12). Yes, the winter of Calvary is past; the storm of sorrow is gone, and Jesus the Nazarene, whose very title in Hebrew means the Flower, has appeared in glory today. Beautiful was that Flower when it took its roots in the dark cave of Bethlehem. Fragrant was that Flower when it was bruised and pinned to the Cross which became its vase: but glorious is that Flower today, for It now fully blooms never to wither away again.
Angels had announced Christ’s birth at Bethlehem, and now they would announce His Resurrection, which is the birth of the new hope of the world. Appropriate it was that Jesus should rise from the dead while it was yet dark, for He who is the Light of the World had come to dispel its darkness. Appropriate it is that Easter should be celebrated with song, for no doubt, the angels of heaven who sang at His birth at Bethlehem, burst into song at His Resurrection from the tomb in Joseph’s garden. It is appropriate that it be celebrated with flowers, for He who burst the bonds of death and snatched victory from the grave is the “Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley.” (Song of Songs 2: 1).
On Good Friday bitter hate had struck down its Victim. Pharisees, Saducess, and Herodians had returned to their homes in great satisfaction that an end had been made of the troublemaker. Demons rejoiced that He whom they most feared had been incarcerated in the tomb. But instead of its being the day of victory for Christ’s enemies, Easter sunrise proclaimed their defeat, God’s angels had rolled away the stone from the door of the sepulchre and had sat upon it, giving His assurance that it should remain open, and never again be closed. The Resurrection of Christ gives joy and gladness not to one particular part of the country, but to the entire Christian world. The world stops at the tomb of Christ: it looks at the place where He was buried; it listens and hears an angel’s voice: “He is risen: He is not here. Behold the place where they buried Him.”
Day of Rejoicing
Easter is the queen of feasts, the solemnity of solemnities, because the Saviour of the world had risen. Let the bells ring till the steeples reel; let the organs peal forth their loudest notes; let the flowers of spring exhale their sweetest fragrance, for this is the day the Lord has risen. Yesterday and the day before we saw Him covered with wounds: today we see Him glorified. Yesterday and the day before our hearts were sad, because He who raised people to life—was dead Himself. It is natural for a flower to die in the autumn: it is natural for the sun to go down in the evening, but when the flower withers in the summer, and when the sun grows dark at noon—that is sad. On Good Friday The Flower of Nazareth died; today It is risen in an eternal spring. A few days ago the Sun went down at noon. but now It has risen for an eternal day. The Lord has risen today, and He will die no more. Let the whole earth rejoice, for “This is the day which the Lord hath made: we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24).
During the holy season of Lent our eyes were moist with tears of sorrow, but today they glitter with tears of joy. In the tears of Good Friday our eyes saw clouds of sorrow: in the tears of Easter Morning they see the rainbow. The showers of weeping eyes on Good Friday refresh the garden of our soul for Easter Day. The premature Flower of Nazareth that was plucked and crushed on Good Friday gave its sweetest fragrance on Easter morning. Our altars that were as bare as the desert, are now decorated with flowers, and the bells that were hushed as a sepulchre, now peal out the gladsome tidings of the Resurrection. On Good Friday the cruel enemies cried out to Christ: “Come down from the cross!” On Easter Morning an angel from heaven sings: “He is risen!”
On Easter day the soul of Christ returns to take possession of His body. Those sightless eyes again sparkle like jewels. Those ears are once more open to hear the sorrows of men. That Royal Blood spilt on Calvary once more flows through His veins. No purple garment of mockery is on Him now. No crown of sharp thorns disfigures His sacred brow. No blood trickles down that Holy Face which angels delight to admire. The crown of thorns is replaced by a halo of heavenly light. His disfigured Face is changed to a beauty that is rare on earth. His five wounds remain, but they are not gaping wounds; rather they are tender lips which proclaim the glory of His Divinity.
Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America