LABADIE: Alleluia! Jesus lives: Embracing the heart of the Easter season

April 12, 2022

(Pascal Deloche / Godong)

About 15 years ago, an American Trappist monk, Father Chrysogonus Waddell, took the text of a 19th-century German hymn and composed a piece of liturgical music called Jesus Lives.

It became a staple for my college choir included every year at Mass on Easter Sunday or during the ensuing season. Father Chrysogonus’s haunting melody and soaring descants seemed to draw us deeper into the mystery of the words: “Jesus lives! thy terrors now / Can, O Death, no more appall us; / Jesus lives! by this we know / Thou, O Grave, cannot enthrall us. / Alleluia!”

It calls back to the great Easter proclamation, the Exsultet: “This is the night when Christ broke the prison bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld.”

For the past 40 days, we have immersed ourselves in the season of Lent. We have intensified our prayer lives, perhaps attending Stations of the Cross or praying a daily Rosary.

We have fasted, either from food or social media, or whatever was holding us back from a full relationship with the Lord. And we have practiced almsgiving, caring for those in our community and in the world who are most in need.

We do these activities not simply because the Church asks us to, but so that we might empty ourselves of anything that might keep us from Jesus. Again, from Father Chrysogonus: “Jesus lives! our hearts know well / Naught from us His love shall sever; / Life, nor death, nor powers of hell / Tear us from His keeping ever. / Alleluia!”

For some in our communities, these 40 days have been a time of intense preparation for a radical change. Our Elect, who receive Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist at the Easter Vigil, have been called by Christ to follow him on the way. They have responded generously, and we now welcome them as fellow members of the Body of Christ.

In walking forward together on this journey, we remember that our common Baptism unites us to the death of Christ, but also to His Resurrection.

“Jesus lives! henceforth is death / But the gate to Life immortal; / This shall calm our trembling breath, / When we pass its gloomy portal. / Alleluia!”

As we pass from the desert of the 40 days of Lent into the glory of the Easter season, may we be renewed with zeal for the mission entrusted to us by the Lord. In order to do so well, we cannot forget the lessons that we learned through our prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Our Easter celebrations ring hollow if they do not come from a true understanding of the Lord’s desire for our continued turning back to Him. In doing so, we can truly join in this wonderful prayer: “Jesus lives! To Him the Throne / Over all the world is given; / May we go where He is gone, / Rest and reign with Him in heaven. / Alleluia! 

Chris Labadie is the director of the Office of Worship.