During the three days, the church year travels in real time. The pace of the Christian calendar is usually more accelerated. Ordinary time covers a ministry of three years and the ongoing life of the Church. Advent and Lent are slower than this, though still not in real time and the time after Christ the King belongs to all time and the end of time.
Easter is a little peculiar. It can travel more slowly and deliberately than any of these. We are in its second week and yet the Gospel readings bring us only to the evening of its first day. This is necessary. The Resurrection must be dwelt on. In a single day we must move from utter despair and fright into unconquerable exhilaration. It is more than we can handle.
What it must have been like that first day….the disciples had to run the gamut of emotion. It must have been easy to shut down, to not want to believe it. No wonder they could not recognize Him. Why believe that which is too good to be true? This is the true message of Easter. We have good news and this in a world where we do not want to believe the news. After all, why believe it if it is too good to be true? It is better to stay a frightened and fragile creature defined by the finality of hurt, guilt, death, and sin.
Yes it is better not to believe. To believe means you will have to open up to the Resurrection truth. To believe means you will have to come to know you are in a beautiful and pure time. And this is too much. It is easier to be like the disciples in Mark….to go away afraid. Disbelief brings no joy, but it also does not invite that radical belief that is too good to be true.
But the first day did not end with frightened disciples. It did not end with the Magdalene believing she had only seen the gardener or those en route to Emmaus believing they met a man of great passion, but ignorant of Good Friday. The first day of Easter ended with the living and life giving encounter with the resurrected Lord. As evening fell on that first day of the new creation, it dispelled sadness delivered by evil and ignorance of the good and replaced cowardice with courage. This is why the account is so deliberately paced. The Church has a story like no other. We have a calling like no other. It is everything we hope for and yet it is too much to believe. It invites us to be roused from the slumber of despair and to wake up to joy. We want to stay in our cold apathetic sleep because that is easier, but it is Easter and we are Easter people. Despair and death has lost. The day that had begun in disbelief closes in the fullness of salvation. And at the close of the first day we are told to rest well in the message of the Resurrection and to not fear or despair for every new day is a day of joy and courage. Every new day is Easter.