Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
The exsultet, one of the most ancient hymns of the church which calls on the whole of creation to rejoice in the resurrection, is sung around the world at the first service of Easter, as it has been since at least the fourth century. It proclaims the holiness of this night. It anchors us and impels us to celebrate the Christ bursting from the grave “This is the night when Jesus Christ vanquished hell, broke the chains of death and rose triumphant from the grave. This is the night when all who believe in him are freed from sin, restored to grace and holiness, and share the victory of Christ.”
Because of this night, Jesus, freed from the grave, will never be confined again. He seeks to free us from the graves in which we find ourselves, he meets us unexpectedly along the ordinary paths of our lives. We will each have chains which bind– perhaps its fear, anxiety, guilt, self-doubt, uncertainty, insecurity, it could be many things. Christ calls us to newness of life, but first we have to die to those things that hold us back, that bind us. If Jesus is calling us to new life and we are intent on holding on to our fear, or whatever it is that binds you, Christ will never be able to lead us to a future of hope.
Christ is in the unexpected places, the parts of our souls where we which we may not even want to acknowledge to ourselves, let alone to anyone else. Christ is found in unexpected people – those we find difficult, those who are very different from us, those who are poor and marginalised.
The exsultet reminds us that on this night we, and the whole creation are freed from that which binds us, freed to live new life in Christ – “Christ has conquered! Now his life and glory fill you”.