The Triumph of Hope
Of all the paintings of the Resurrection, the 15th century fresco by Piero delia Francesca is one of the more memorable. The rising Christ (looking like an Olympic athlete) places a conquering foot on the lip of his own sarcophagus while holding aloft a flag depicting the Cross of St. George the Dragon-Slayer. Beneath him in disarray are the sleeping forms of the Temple guards. His face is stern, passionless, iconic. His arm rests casually on his lifted knee in a posture of triumph. On his right, the trees are barren. On his left, they are clothed with the greenness of spring. It's quite a statement! But it does not warm the heart. The moment of Christ's resurrection is stripped of its mystery. The supernatural event is presented with magisterial objectivity. The Conquering Hero has come back from the dead.
When I think of his resurrection, my inner eye sees Jesus standing in the garden before Mary Magdalene, her tear-streaked face suffused with astonishment and joy. His eyes are kind and his expression gentle, like someone who has been through great suffering and now is at peace. He speaks her name and she responds, "My Teacher!"
A few weeks ago I attended the Silent Samaritan Breakfast where author Mary Stemming spoke of her journey toward peace after the suicide of her husband. She shared a story about some flowers which were sent from her seminary teachers on the day of the funeral. The card that was enclosed read, "We are the people who believe in the triumph of hope." That statement has stayed in my heart ever since I heard Mary say it. There, in response to a death that more than any other kind defines what hopelessness is, comes this gentle yet ringing affirmation: "We are the people who believe..." We believe in life. We believe in love. We believe in the God who lovingly made each of us for goodness' sake. We believe in the Son who died to take away our lovelessness and despair; the Son who rose again to lead us toward the triumph of our hope. Not just the idea of hope or the possibility of embracing it (more or less) in the life we now are living. No. We are speaking now (as St. Paul did) of the "sure and certain hope" that shines in and through our suffering; the hope that gets welded like steel into the very girders of our soul; the hope that is not a fool's hope and will never disappoint us because it rests not in us but in the glory of God: Christ crucified and risen.
"We are the people who believe in the triumph of hope." We are the people who believe in Jesus, the Hope of the world. Friends, my prayer for you this Easter is that your hope in him--in his presence, his promises, his gifts of amazing grace--may grow in lustre and brilliance in your mind and your heart day by day and year by year throughout every trial and sorrow, until that Morning comes when the shadows flee away, and you, like Mary, at last will see him face-to-face, and hear him speak your name.
Therefore, since we are saved by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we triumph in our hope of sharing the glory of God! (Romans 5:1-2)
with Easter joy,