“I love this statue.” That’s what I tell my pastor every Easter when I walk into our freshly decorated Church for the first time. It’s an Easter decoration that’s modeled after a painting by Peter Paul Rubens called The Resurrection of Christ, but that’s not why I love it. I love the face; I love the expression on Jesus’ face. To me, the face says it all. It speaks simply and clearly of how Jesus must have felt at the moment of the Resurrection. In his face I see breathless bewilderment, absolute amazement and sheer joy all at the same time. It’s a very human face. It makes me think that Jesus’ first words after the Resurrection must have been, “What happened?”
I’m sure that’s a question many of us share. Scripture tells us that there were plenty of witnesses to the empty tomb and that more than 500 disciples saw Jesus himself after the Resurrection. But no one saw what happened in that tomb. There were no tomb-cams in Jesus’ time, so we can only guess what happened. We can only imagine what it feels like to be dead, and then alive again – but not just alive: resurrected. Resurrection is different from resuscitation. Resuscitation returns us to the life we had before. Resurrection gives us new life. Through resurrection, we’re reborn into a life where humanity is united with divinity, where we’re no longer subject to the limits of time and space, where we live in God’s love and peace forever. Just imagine it. The moment of resurrection must be confusing, amazing and wonderful all at the same time, emotions that I think are captured perfectly in the expression on the face of this statue.
I also love this statue because I've seen this face many times before. I've seen it on parents as they choke back tears at their child’s baptism. I've seen it on couples exchanging their vows at their wedding. I've seen it on adults receiving the Sacraments for the first time at the Easter Vigil. I've seen it on parishioners as they present themselves to receive the Blessed Sacrament. I've seen it in the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the familiar and the stranger. It’s a very human face.
It’s a face touched by grace. It’s a face that stands in awe and wonder before the throne of God. It’s a face that has experienced pure, perfect love. That look, that face, is often fleeting in this world, but it’s real nonetheless. Imagine, then, what our faces will look like at the moment of our resurrection, the moment we first realize that we were dead, but now we’re alive; the moment we see God face to face; the moment we know without a shadow of a doubt that we are loved unconditionally. Just imagine the bewilderment, the amazement and the joy of that moment. I can't say that I'll have the words to express what I'm feeling at that moment. If I can muster any words at all, I suspect they might simply be, "What happened?"