ABBOT ELIAS DIETZ, O.C.S.O
Homily – Easter Sunday – April 04, 2021
Seek the Things that are Above
At the Tenebrae service yesterday, we heard from an ancient homily for Holy Saturday that dramatizes Jesus’ descent to hell and his encounter there with Adam. Toward the end, Jesus says to Adam: “Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven.”
Jesus knew Adam well, that is, he knows us well. We are aware of our plight, aware that we are unhappy and unfulfilled, but we do not really know what we want. We settle too easily for a simple restoration of what was before. Worse yet, we tend to look below for things that can only be found above or we look above for things that belong below.
The empty tomb is a powerful symbol here. The resurrection is not a restoration. What remains, from what was, is empty space. Life, new life, is beyond that old space; it is ahead, above. “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,” Saint Paul tells us.
The empty tomb and the Easter Season stretching before us ask a question: What do you really want? If we are going to get beyond Adam’s instinct to fall back on the familiar, we have some discovering to do here.
Just as there is a Lenten observance to bring us down to earth and to help us know the truth about our lives here, so there is an Easter observance to set our minds on what is above and to help us discover the truth about what awaits us, “where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”
We can look to Saint Paul’s words for a description of this Easter observance: “. . . seek what is above . . . think of what is above . . . your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
We are beings of desire, always seeking something. Easter is a time to reorient that seeking. “Seek what is above.” Like Adam, we need to let Jesus pull us out by the wrist and prevent us from settling for anything less than life above with him.
“Think of what is above,” or, as some translations put it, savor what is above, ponder on what is above. In other words, keep up the spiritual disciplines, keep reading, keep meditating, but carry in your heart the questions: What do I really want? Where is the Risen Lord drawing me?
And, finally, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” As Saint Augustine says about this verse:
Perhaps this is why it was said, Love is as strong as death (Sg 8:6). For it is by reason of this love that we die to this world while we are still living in this corruptible body and our life is hidden with Christ in God; indeed, love itself is our death to this world and life with God. (WSA III/13, p. 223)