What has been, that will be; what has been done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun. Even the thing of which we say, “See, this is new!” has already existed in the ages that preceded us. (Ecc. 1:9-10)
Thus spoke Qoheleth from Jerusalem about three centuries before Christ. This great Jewish teacher of popular wisdom had examined the world of man over a long lifetime, and he had come to the conclusion that everything in this world is ultimately vanity, and he concluded that the meaning of life is hidden from man. Merit, he concluded, does not yield happiness for it is often tested by suffering. Even riches and pleasures do not bring any lasting happiness, for they do not save one from the grave, and no one takes his wealth with him to the next world. He also saw that the good often suffer more than the evil do in this life and that man’s existence is ultimately monotonous and all enjoyment fleeting and vain and that darkness quickly follows. Life, then, he concluded, is an enigma beyond our human ability to solve. The one thing that Qoheleth was sure of was that there is nothing new under the sun.
Now, Qoheleth was by no means an atheist, and yet he could find no ultimate hope for man’s life in this world, no ultimate meaning for life here and now. He was simply content to await the answer from God in the world to come. This world and its wisdom definitely could never supply an answer to all these riddles of human existence.
But Qoheleth was a believer, and his faith assured him that the answer would only come beyond this world. And we who are men of faith know that there in God’s presence, at last, Qoheleth and all mankind would at last learn the final meaning of human existence from their Creator and Redeemer. And this great sage of the Old Testament, who didn’t live to see his Redeemer, would at last see that there is indeed something new, utterly new and astonishing under the Sun, something that had never taken place before Christ came into this world. What is this one truly new and unique event that has occurred in human history, and that gives the rest of history its meaning, and solves the riddle of human existence? It is the event that we begin to celebrate on Christmas, when Christ entered the darkened world as the God-man, and the event which culminates that entry into our world which we celebrate today on Easter, the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Never before had sin and death been so totally defeated; never before had man triumphed over Satan and the grave. This is the absolutely new thing that has occurred under the sun, the unique event that makes ultimate sense of the life of man.
Man had always carried in his heart a profound rebellion against death, a deep religious sense that this was not meant to be, that human life was not meant to be subject to suffering, death and decay. Even every natural religion in the world is a protest against death, and an affirmation of the truth that death cannot be man’s final destiny. Death itself opens up reflection on the mystery of life, on man’s attempt to understand the meaning of the existence of a creature who longs for unending life and happiness, but who is struck down inevitably by suffering and death. Man is not the only creature who dies, but He is the only creature who knows all his life that death awaits him, and he knows that death is the contradiction of his whole way of thinking and living in this world. It is death that ultimately would render all things vanity in this world and make man’s life seem to lack any ultimate meaning.
Qoheleth did not live to see this new thing under the sun, that true Son, that risen Son, who gives meaning to all human existence, including even human suffering and death. But for our sake, there were some privileged witnesses to this new thing under the sun. These witnesses could not see His divine person, even after His resurrection, but they could and actually did see and touch his risen body, and they could probe the wounds of death that remained as solemn testimony to the fact that this was indeed the very same body that had died on the Cross, pouring out its life-blood through those very wounds, until only water came forth. Here was something astonishingly new under the sun, and its historical marker would make all things new, including even the sun itself one day.
Qoheleth surely hoped for and looked forward to something new in the next world. But this is something that has already happened in this world. And it is perhaps with a certain reference to Qoheleth, that we hear these words of the Risen Lord seated on the throne: “Behold I make all things new!” (Rev. 21:5) Yes. by the power of his death and resurrection, Jesus has begun the final transformation of God’s creation, making all things new, and it all begins with His own resurrection from the dead. Jesus does not abandon or forsake this world, or the human body, but rather by the power of His saving death and resurrection, be will make everything new. It all began there on Easter Sunday with his own body, and now it continues through time in the holy sacraments, and we can see this especially in the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist.
By Baptism, we are made new creatures, by being inserted sacramentally into the events of Christ’s death and resurrection. By our sacramental participation in his death, we die to sin, Original Sin and all personal; by sacramentally sharing in His resurrection, we are raised b Christ to become new creatures, God’s own children by adoption. We do not put off our bodies, but put on Christ, and become new creations in Him.
And so too with the Eucharist, we see this transformation where all things will be made new. Bread and wine are transformed, and become something new, the very body and blood of Christ, which in turn becomes our food for Eternal life. All this happens in this world of ours, and by faith we know that this newness of creation will be finally completed in this world, when Christ returns in glory. Christianity is not a rejection of the body or the material world, as if they were in themselves unimportant or even evil. The Resurrection of Christ is the deepest affirmation of the goodness of creation and its permanent value, and while they will be transformed, it will be these bodies and this world that will remain forever, and forever be something new under the sun, or more accurately, under the Son.
Today Christians everywhere joyfully proclaim their faith that Jesus Christ is truly risen and is truly alive and in our midst. This is no belief based upon some message from outer space, or from the inner space of man’s religious imagination. It is based upon the witness of men and women who were once as hopeless of overcoming death in this world as anyone in the world. Recall that the holy women were going to the tomb in order to properly entomb the body, not a living body but a dead one. The Apostles themselves were in hiding, not waiting for Jesus to come, but for the coast to clear so they could escape. Like Qoheleth they too expected nothing new under the sun. Jesus would have to demonstrate to them that he was not a ghost, and their hesitancy to believe is the greatest support of our own faith. They came to believe in His divinity, because they saw and touched His risen humanity. Two Thousand years later, we believe in both because of their word and His gift of faith. Easter truly does make all things new in the end. May God increase our faith on this Easter day so we too can know the unbridled joy of those first witnesses to the first thing new under the sun since the moment of creation itself. Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia, alleluia.