Christian Easter is celebrated on the Sunday after the first full moon of spring. This date was set in the fourth century A.C., during the Council of Nicaea, thus maintaining the link with the Jewish tradition, in which it is celebrated on Saturday. In Hebrew, pesach, from the Aramaic word pasa‘, which means “passover”. In fact, for the Jews, it recalls the liberation from slavery in Egypt and the journey towards the Promised Land. “Targum”, the Hebrew Bible in Aramaic, Chapter II “Exodi”, however, reads that the Easter Vigil remembers creation, the sacrifice of Isaac, the crossing of the Red Sea, the coming of the Messiah, and the end of the world. These are the four pillars of the three monotheistic religions. Faith in one God Who is supremely good and almighty, who created the world from nothing, from which time originated, and towards which all things move as an ultimate goal, the “pilgrimage” of life and of the mankind on earth, to return to the house of the Father, the universal judgment.
Easter is an essential element of Christian faith, not only of the liturgy. Its meaning is linked also to the greek term pathein, which means ‘‘Jesus’ Passion’’, the death and Resurrection of Christ, and it is completed with the Second Coming, His second coming for the final judgment. “Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose again on the third day, according to the Scriptures,” we read in the First Letter to the Corinthians (15,3-4). “The Resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of faith in Christ,” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2, 638). It is the essence of the Gospel message and the central mystery of Christianity. It is a historical event, but it transcends the human dimension and transfers the truth of existence into the divine dimension, which is eternal, and as such, is the object of faith. Pope Emeritus Joseph Ratzinger wrote in his “Jesus of Nazareth,” that Resurrection is “a kind of radical ‘evolutionary leap’, in a way, in which emerges a new dimension of life.” And further on: “Matter itself is reshaped into a new kind of reality. The man Jesus, with His body, belongs to the sphere of the divine and eternal now. From this point on, as Tertullian said once, ‘spirit and blood’ have a place in God.”
That is the unique example of the Resurrection of Christ, which distinguishes it from any other concept of rebirth or life after death: Jesus had died on the Friday before Easter, and rose again on Sunday, in his mystical, transfigured body, “in the flesh”. He is “the same man who has been tortured and crucified, and still bears the marks of the Passion. This body is authentic and real, but it possesses also the properties of a glorious body, it is no longer limited in space and time, but able to be present wherever and whenever He wants,” we read in the Catechism (2, 645).
The Jesuit theologian Paul O’Callaghan says that there are some elements that prove the historicity of the Resurrection. The first is that all four evangelists mention it, although with little differences in the details (thus attesting its authenticity even more). All of them say that the witness was Mary Magdalene who had come to the tomb on Sunday at dawn to complete the embalming procedure used by the Jews, which was interrupted on Friday, because of the suspension of all activities on the Sabbath day. Matthew, Mark and Luke say that also Mary of James was whith her when she found the empty tomb. According to Mark, there was also Salome with them, whereas according to Luke there was Johanna. According to Matthew and Mark, an angel announced that “Jesus is not among the dead, He rose again”. Whereas according to John and Luke, there were two angels. The second element is the language used in the gospel to tell how Jesus presented himself first to the women, then to the disciples, the same day at evening: concrete terminology, “physical”, “appeared to them”, then He invited them to “touch and see,” breaks the breads and eats with them. Thus, the Gospels say that it was difficult for the apostles to recognize Him, they were skeptical. That is a reason that supports the truthfulness of their testimony. These elements contest any objections, which are more inconsistent from a logical point of view than the credibility – even if it is mysterious – of the Resurrection.
Criticism of the historicity of this event are essentially the following: the body of Jesus was stolen by the disciples. But this illegal action contrasts with the whole Gospels account about the disciples as honest and God-fearing men. And to defend the truth of the Resurrection of Christ, they were even ready to die. A second hypothesis is that Jesus had not died on the cross, but ingested a substance that provoked an apparent death, then awakened and fled. Yet, the description of the tortures and the violence of the wounds makes historians wonder how the Christ could remain alive so long before His last breath. The accusation of the disciples of having invented the Resurrection of Jesus to divinize His figure is not supported from several points of view. First of all, because it was difficult for the apostles themselves to understand what had happened. They were confused and frightened, and thought that Jesus was a ghost. Besides, this original doctrine of Christian preaching was far from attracting Gentiles. On the contrary, it triggered “irony, because they did not understand it,” writes Origen in the second century. A.C., whereas St. Augustine declares that “no article of faith is more rejected than the resurrection of the flesh.”
In the Greek understanding, matter was inferior to the spirit and, therefore, the body was considered as a limitation and a prison, whereas the value of a person was his soul. The Resurrection of Jesus upsets the natural order and the anthropological and moral system. In the world, in fact, everything seems to be moving towards death and dissolution, whereas Jesus is alive forever. “Immortality takes its meaning of communion with God and with humanity as a whole”, writes Benedict XVI. Paul says to the Romans: “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (RM 8, 11).
Yet, if the doctrine of the Resurrection seemed in stark contrast with the dominant scientific theories back in time, today, when science has changed its logical and cultural paradigms, and has discovered entropy and negentropy, destruction and transformation are two inseparable principles, both of which are essential for life. Thus, the Resurrection cannot be challenged in the name of and on behalf of science. It remains a truth and a mystery of faith, which can even find an ally in science. Literally, Resurrection means “returning into light” or “getting up after a fall”. Vibrational medicine considers man in his bodily multidimensionality, soul and spirit, and contemporary science says that we are energy. Einstein’s principle of relativity, expressed by the formula “E = mc²”, tells us that there is reversibility between matter and energy. As to the fall, Jesus gave his life for us, to raise us from sin, thus in Christ and for Christ we are alive forever, we return from the darkness of sin into light and He raises us again in Grace. At the end of times, the sin will be crushed and death will be defeated. We will resurrect in the flesh, in the likeness of Jesus, and we will live forever in the Kingdom of God on Earth. That is our hope, that is our faith.