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'He is risen' is the message of the angels at the tomb of Jesus in the gospel narratives. The Good News of gospel is that Jesus, Son of man has become Lord, raised by the Father from death after the crucifixion on the first Good Friday.

From the very beginning, Jesus' resurrection has been celebrated by the Christian Church as the great feast of the Christian year. For a long time this celebration was held on the Saturday night to early Sunday morning. We have no precise details of this vigil service in early years but it is probable that the passion as well as the accounts of the resurrection were read. By the fourth century this had all changed.

The passion and death was celebrated on the Friday and the resurrection on the Sunday. At Jerusalem in the late fourth century the whole of the week before Easter Day was occuppied with commemorating these historical events - from the entry into Jerusalem to the appearances on the first Easter Day. Pilgrimage to the holy places in Palestine encouraged this development and soon there were the additional features of Lent before Easter and the commemoration of the Ascension and the gift of the Holy Spirit after Easter. The Liturgical Year had been born!

The splitting up of the commemorations is a way of concentrating on each event and making it more 'realistic' to the worshippers. But the kernel of the gospel can get lost in this annual round of events. For the fact is that Jesus has died and is risen! That can be proclaimed every day of the year and need not wait for Easter Day for it to be proclaimed aloud in the market square! Over the centuries, both in the catholic rites and in the worship of the reformed churches, the passion and death of Christ have received most emphasis, leaving the good news of the gospel truncated.

The remedy for this is plain and straightforward. It could be called the Third Way, avoiding the prejudices of both catholic and protestant history. Start from the gospel which tells us about the new life in Christ that he has given us. He died, once for all. We do not need to go through the misery of that awful death time and again. In our worship we celebrate Jesus as the living Lord and make this the basis of every worship service. At this time of the year we read the accounts of the passion and death, but they are different when read in the context of the resurrected Lord.
So it is Alleluia! every day of our life and in his Spirit we are able to witness to the promise of transformation for all who are committed to be the disciples of the living Lord.

© Aelred Arnesen

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