"This is the night" the Easter Proclamation tells us, "when Christ broke the prison-bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld"
The traditional icon of the Resurrection is not an empty cross or tomb, rather it is Christ descending into the underworld to free those who were waiting for him. It is the image of Christ breaking the prison-bars of death. Death is conquered. That is the Good News of Easter.
The Easter Proclamation, also called the Exsultet, sung at the start of the Easter Vigil, outlines for us the history of God's work in saving his people and bringing them to freedom, a freedom that ultimately culminates in Christ freeing us from unending death. This theme is carried on in the readings at the Easter Vigil, God works throughout history to save his people. The baptisms that happen at the Easter Vigil allow us to see this in a personal way in the work Christ in the person being baptized. God saves his people. He brings them to new life.
Christ could have just gone to the Father in heaven, he could have even died and immediately rise and begin his 40 days on earth. But he didn't, he first went to the underworld and saved us from death. The Good News of Easter is that Christ died and rose but also that he descended. We spend the Easter Vigil hearing how God frees his people from slavery and from their enemies. The last enemy is death and we see that at Easter Christ has conquered that as well. We have been freed for the final time, nothing can keep us from the love of Christ.
The Good News of Easter is that Christ has won our salvation, that he has conquered every evil, including death.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Rebecca Spellacy is the Associate Director of Liturgy for the Office of Formation for Discipleship in the Archdiocese of Toronto.