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To the Easter Garden
O. P. Kretzmann

It was very quiet, I am sure, that morning in the garden… As Judea turned toward the sun on the greatest day in history, there was nothing to show that the dawn was different from ten thousand others… Except possibly three women hurrying to a garden, and to a stone which no longer would be at the place where it had been when dusk had come down like a curtain on Holy Saturday… The shadows were still deep in the valley of the Kidron but the sunlight was creeping down the hills of Jerusalem… In the garden, all the creatures of darkness, the moth and bat, the beetle and owl, had returned to their hiding places… Once more that amazing moment, when the world stands breathless between night and day, had come…

It was quiet, too, I believe, in heaven… The angels — all except one who had been sent on a special errand — were watching the fi nal scene in a drama that had be gun several thousand years earlier… This was now the end… The seal of divine approval on a cross, the rolling away of a stone, the excited whispers of a few women, the voice of an angel telling the world and the centuries that the earthly stage was empty and that the scene would soon shift  to the throne of heaven… And then the last quiet line: He is not here, He is risen

Last night a good friend asked why the world and the Church do not pay more attention to Easter… She pointed out the contrast between our celebration of Christmas and our fleeting commemoration of Easter… There may be, I suggested, many reasons for that… Christmas lends itself more easily to sentimentality, which so many people in our superficial age mistake for religion… Christmas is also more easily commercialized by those who have no fear of reducing the divine to the dollar… And there may be something else… Christmas is the festival of children and there is more of the child in many of us than our superficial and sophisticated age wants to admit…

Christmas lets us go back to our own beginnings on earth, to mother and home, to days when life was simple and a shining toy on Christmas morning was complete joy… Of course, there is much more to Christmas than that, but the world can see only that… For a moment, the world holds Christmas to its wondering heart as a child holds a doll, and then it is gone… To hear the full music of Christmas, point and counterpoint in earth and heaven, requires a great faith which the world can not give itself… To hear only a part of the music, a carol in the frosty air, a sudden memory of home, a bittersweet recollection of childhood, demands much less… Even our superficial and sophisticated age is not so blind it cannot see a star at night…

But in the Easter garden at dawn it is different… Humanly speaking, Easter is the festival of the thoughtful mind and the saddened heart… It comes with start ling joy only to the soul that is aware of the swift running of time, the universal conspiracy of death, the pain and passing of all things temporal… The victory over death in the Easter garden can come in its full glory only to the heart that remembers white crosses in far lands or a stone with a dear and familiar name…

It is only when we are farthest removed from the earth that we get our truest view of it — and the farthest we have ever gone or can ever go in time is to the Easter garden… The tomb tells us what we need to know about this world, and the angel tells us what we need to know about God and His love… He is not here. He is risen… And in every year of our Risen Lord since those words were spoken a larger company comes to the Easter garden to hear them again and again… A mother stealing back quietly to see if the flowers are fresh on the mound which covers her son.. . An old man whose companions have gone before him by a little while… A lonely child who needs a friend who will never leave him…

The weary and the lonely, the old and young, the little people of the earth who live close to the swinging peals of life and death — they will come to the Easter garden to be, not where life ends, but where eternity begins… They will stand silent and without words and hear the lesson of the day: no more death, no more dark night, no more tears that cannot be wiped away…

Christmas and Easter… Blessed is the heart that can hold these two forever together, the two moments when eternity touched time… A child is born and He is risen… All of time and eternity in two brief sentences…

And so we came again to the Easter garden and away from a world so far away from the garden… Our hearts may be heavy with pain and torn with the memory of fresh graves and tolling bells… But the Easter garden is still empty, and there is no dead Jesus where they had laid Him… He is not here. He is risen… Those few words for a quiet and mighty act of God made all the difference in the world on that spring morning in the wakening garden…

And they make all the difference today… All the difference to doubt and fear, to pain and tears, and to our own deaths… All the difference to all eternity…

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