It is an Easter custom among most historic churches to greet one another with a special kind of greeting known as Paschal Greeting. Instead of the conventional greeting, one Christian greets another with “Christ is risen!”, and the other responds: “He is risen indeed, Alleluia”.
The Paschal Greeting is a declaration and affirmation of the Great Easter Event and sets the tone for Easter, namely, the commemoration and celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Easter is the oldest and holiest Christian festival, the climax and centre of the liturgical year. Easter Day is a particular Sunday of the year, but every other Sunday is also Easter as the Christian worship on Sunday is in commemoration and celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). The early church had seen the Resurrection of Jesus as the central witness to a new act of God in history and the victory of God in vindicating Jesus as the Messiah. This event marks the central faith confession of the early church and was the focal point for Christian worship that had been observed on the first day of each week since the first century.
The Paschal greeting proclaims the message of Easter. The Resurrection of Christ is not just about his coming back to life (resuscitation), but a transformation of his humanity and a creative renewing of his original body, the body that is now uninhibited by space, fully glorified and deathless (Luke 24:31, 36; Phil. 3:21; Heb. 7:16, 24). The Resurrection is about the death of death. Thus, Easter is an occasion for rejoicing and praising God. The response: “He is risen indeed. Alleluia!” is a confirmation and celebration of the declaration that Christ is risen. (cf Matt. 27:64; 28:6–7, Mark 16:6, Luke 24:6, 34). The Resurrection of Christ is not a matter or news just to be heard, but also to be experienced. The response is like one saying: “Yes, I know. I have encountered the Risen Lord. He is truly alive. I have met him and personally shared in his life. In fact, I am a testimony that death has died and devil has lost his power. God has done it. I praise him.” From the depths of our gratitude, we should praise God and share the Good News.
Christianity rests on the certainty of Jesus’ Resurrection as a historic event. It is the central point and pillar of the Christian faith. In fact, the Gospel would hardly have been good news if it did not conclude with Christ’s Resurrection. All the four Gospels highlight it. Acts insists on it and presents it as the main reason for ministry and preaching the Gospel (Acts 1:3; 21-25; 2:24-35; 3:15; 4:10; 5:30-32; 13:33-37). Paul regards the Resurrection as indisputable proof that the message about Jesus as Judge and Saviour is true and that apart from it, our ministry and faith are useless, futile, empty and meaningless (Acts 17:31; 1 Cor. 15:1-20). The Resurrection of Jesus is also very important to other New Testament writers. Peter writes that it allows people to have a new and living hope (1 Pet. 1:3). John writes that it is the foundation for witness and fellowship with God (1 John 1:1-4).
The empty tomb story remains a very strong physical evidence that Christ is Risen. But it is the post-resurrection appearances that give greater conviction and evoke spiritual faith. Lives were clearly transformed. A person like Paul, who had persecuted Christians, became a zealous apostle (Acts 9:1-22 and 1 Cor.). A fearful fisherman like Peter abandoned his nets to preach the gospel (John 21). A doubter like Thomas confessed and believed, calling Jesus “my Lord and my God” (20:24-28). And two weary travellers to Emmaus found the energy to return quickly to Jerusalem and share the news about their encounter with the risen Jesus (Luke 24:13-35). The Risen Christ touched and touches/transformed and transforms lives.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia!
The Venerable Dr Princewill Onyinyechukwu Ireoba