Easter Isn’t Over

Resurrection from the Isenheim Altarpiece

The Resurrection, from the Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grunewald (1506-1515)

Over the weekend, a friend asked me a good question about the resurrection:

Why does it say “He is risen“? Shouldn’t it be “He has risen”?

Most modern translations actually use “He has risen” in places like Matt. 28:6. But “He is risen” still holds a central place in our Christian vocabulary. Just to cite two examples:

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! 

Christ the Lord is Risen Today!

My guess was that either a) grammar has simply changed since the 17th century, or b) the present tense is expressing a present reality. Jesus Christ IS risen. The resurrection is not simply an event in the past that happened once, such as Caesar crossing the Rubicon. It is an ever-present reality. Even today, Christ is risen.

In one simple sense, Easter is not over. In the church calendar, we have seven full weeks of Easter, which is a much better feast than the one-and-done day that we’ve reduced it to. So, continue to celebrate Easter until Pentecost. More Peeps for everyone!

In another sense, though, Easter will never be over. The Lamb That Was Slain has risen, is risen, and already reigns. The resurrection is not simply a resuscitation or anything as weak-kneed as a “spiritual” rebirth that “lives in our hearts.” Jesus’ resurrection body is not the same as his body before death — for one thing, he can appear and disappear at will — but it’s not something less, either, such a shade or ghost.

By the way, the Rev. John Piderit, S. J., has written an interesting post for the Oxford University Press blog, of all places, that asks, “Could the resurrected Jesus have been filmed with an iPhone?” 

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Micheal Hickerson

The former Associate Director for the Emerging Scholars Network, Micheal lives in Cincinnati with his wife and three children and works as a web manager for a national storage and organization company. He writes about work, vocation, and finding meaning in what you do at No Small Actors.

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  • jasondtoman@yahoo.com'
    Jason Toman commented on April 10, 2012 Reply

    I think of “risen” as His state of being. It’s an adjective describing a present reality, like you say, and not just a past-tense verb.

    He is Risen, indeed!

  • amenz@cn.edu'
    Andrea L. Menz commented on April 11, 2012 Reply

    This does represent a grammatical change in the history of English. English (like Modern German) used to use the auxiliary “be” with past participles in certain intransitive constructions. See for example http://www.lingref.com/cpp/wccfl/25/paper1458.pdf.

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