Being a Christian essentially means believing in the risen, living Lord Jesus. Easter constitutes the annual celebration of the Resurrection, whose truth is sourced in the Sacred Scriptures as read by and within the Church.
From the revealed texts we learn that Christ’s Resurrection was truly a historical event. Pope Benedict XVI, recognized as a world-class theologian, argues that the Resurrection “has its origin within history and up to a certain point still belongs there.” Moreover, as a happening which “breaks out of history and transcends it,” Christ’s rising to new life “can be attested to by witnesses as an event of an entirely new kind.” (Jesus of Nazareth, Part II)
Indeed, the Apostles’ preaching about Christ’s Resurrection, emphasized with passion and boldness, would have hardly been thinkable unless the witnesses had in fact personally “expressed a real encounter, coming to them from outside,” with something new and unforeseen; namely, “the self-revelation and verbal communication of the risen Christ.” (Ibid.)
Contemporary man’s refusal or hesitation regarding the historical aspects of Jesus’ Resurrection often rests on the false premisses that “real” and “historical” are interchangeable adjectives. The truth is that one does not exclude the other. What is at issue here is truth itself, which is known by more than one venue. Isn’t the objective of archaeology the acquisition of truth? Are its findings less authentic than history, which rests on documentation? Besides, doesn’t historical methodology today admit to various channels of discovery; what of psycho-history or quanto-history? (Thucydides’s Peloponnesian War is not the only standard.) Recall Prince Hamlet’s words of caution to his friend, Horatio, recently returned from academic pursuits: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,/Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” (1,5)
Jesus’ Resurrection is transcendent; it cannot be equated with anything ever seen or heard in man’s search for historical or scientific verities. It was not – definitely not – merely about a deceased individual’s returning to life after death. Rather, it can only be addressed as (in Pope Ratzinger’s words) “an ontological leap,” one that “touches ‘being’ as such, opening up a dimension that affects us all, creating for all of us a new space of life, a new space of being in union with God.” (Ibid., italics added.)
In brief, Jesus’ Resurrection was something entirely new, an unprecedented kind of happening.
Mysteriously, therefore, Jesus lives! His Resurrection is certainly historical, yet it surpasses our ordinary spatio-temporal dimensions. Thus it is undoubtedly real. It conveys upon us, in fact, something like an entirely new dimension of reality, palpable in faith; and the power of a new kind of vision.
Note, however, that while the Resurrection was from the beginning attested to by witnesses – Peter, the Apostles, Mary and the women – this happening itself occurred outside of all human experience. None of the Gospels records Christ’s actual rising; that awesome event occurred between Jesus and his Father. An incomparable act of divine love, it cannot possibly be described in human language; much less, imagined.