From Garden to Garden
Easter Sunday. Fr John Farrell preaches on the readings of the Easter Vigil.
We have travelled from a garden to a garden in our passage through the readings of the Easter Vigil. Beginning in the days of the beginning, with the vast garden of creation, divinely blessed and loved. And now to the garden of Christ’s empty tomb where in the beauty of the Easter dawn Mary Magdalene will mistake the Risen Lord for the local gardener. But our journey has just begun. There is a further garden. The one promised to the repentant thief by Jesus in the very agony of his crucifixion. ‘Today you will be with me in the garden of paradise.’
From the opening words of Genesis, we enter into the flow of salvation. The waters of chaos are made fertile. The parting of the Red Sea marks an end to slavery and a newness of life for the children of Abraham. The psalmist gives the invitation to draw water from the wells of the salvation. The prophets promise divine life descending ‘to water the earth to give seed for the sower and bread for the eater’. They warn us not to forsake the fountain of living water but, ‘as the deer yearns for the running streams, so our souls thirst for the living God.’
As we approach the climax of the Vigil readings, St Paul proclaims that through the waters of baptism we not just celebrating the resurrection of the Lord, but have actually entered into it. ‘When we were baptised we entered into the tomb with him … now we must see ourselves as dead to sin and living a life which looks towards God in Christ Jesus.’ Even now, in our earthly garden where the kingdom is not yet fully ‘as it is in heaven’, we are already companions in the flowering of grace and the fruits of the spirit. Grace and Nature together.
As the Irish poet, Patrick Kavanagh wrote:
These men knew God the Father in a tree:
The Holy Spirit is the rising sap,
And Christ will be the green leaves that will come
At Easter from the sealed and guarded tomb.
It is in the Lumen Christi, the light of Christ, that we have looked back on the history of salvation. We have proclaimed him as the Alpha and the Omega, and it is from the position of the Omega that we now see all things in a new light in this springtime of grace. The Collect prayers after each psalm reflect this.
In wonder we preach of the transfiguring incoming of a whole new creation within this old world: like new wine in old wineskins. Jesus’ resurrection is the focal point of the divine creativity of an eighth day of creation, death-defying, sin forgiving, healing, restoring, elevating, and raising up to newness of life.
This is not to be taken as something abstract and general but as particular and personal. As Jesus said to Lazarus’ sister at Bethany that he himself is the resurrection: ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die.’ As we say often at the end of prayers: ‘We ask this in the name of Jesus… who is alive, living and actively reigning forever, and ever Amen.’
And the Church teaches the wonderful truth that no matter who baptises – priest, midwife, parent – it is really Jesus who baptises each and every Christian.
In the gospel of the Vigil mass the holy women at the tomb are instructed by angels to turn away from the place of death and all that is deadly. And turning round, they find, coming to meet them, the Risen Lord Jesus. So, it is with every Christian. So it is with all.
Readings: Genesis 1:1-2:2 | Genesis 22:1-18 | Exodus 14:15-15:1 | Isaiah 54:5-1 | Isaiah 55:1-11 | Baruch 3:9-15,32-4:4 | Ezekiel 36:16-17,18-28 | Romans 6:3-11 | Matthew 28:1-10
Image: mosaic from one of the domes of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington DC, photographed by Fr Lawrence Lew OP
A beautiful reflection, John! Well done!
This is a truly beautiful meditation-thank you so much
Thank you fr John for these scriptural insights and your inspiring commentary on death and the Resurrection at this special time in the Church’s liturgy. I was reminded of a homily given by fr Liam Walsh OP in 1962 at this time sixty-one years ago on the newly formed Telefís Eireann tv station in Ireland – broadcasting the Easter Vigil – in which he ingeniously incorporated the then recent February 20, 1962 NASA spacecraft launch from Cape Canaveral into his Easter Vigil sermon by comparing the takeoff countdown of the spacecraft to the countdown of the liturgical weeks of Lent being a build up to the explosion of grace at Eastertime. ‘The explosion of grace at Eastertime’ and ‘the Lenten countdown of grace’ imagery in fr Liam’s homily has never left my memory. I recall it every year Easter rolls around. Likewise your homily here ‘From Garden to Garden’ 7 April 2023 similarly appeals to my imagination and understanding of the mysteries of this Easter season. Its meaningfulness impresses itself upon me.
– with gratitude