My dear friends in Christ,
Χριστός Ανέστη! Aληθώς ανέστη! Christos Anesti! Alithos Anesti!
Christ is Risen! Truly, He is Risen! (Traditional Greek Easter Greeting)
A very Happy Easter to you and your families!
You might think that this greeting is a tad late. Easter, after all, was back on April 17. But, really, it’s right on time. This year, the entire month of May falls within the Easter Season, or Paschal Tide as it’s sometimes called. Easter doesn’t end until Sunday, June 5.
Has it ever struck you as strange that we put so much emphasis on having a “Good Lent” but almost never hear anybody talking about having a “Good Easter,” unless they mean having a pleasant time with family and friends on Easter Sunday? Easter is the most important celebration of the Church year, but for some reason it seems to take the back seat to Lent, the season that is meant as a preparation for it.
In the weeks leading up to Ash Wednesday, my inbox is filled with ads for all sorts of Lenten aids, companions, and guides; books that are meant to help you journey through the season with St. Benedict or St. Francis or Bl. Fulton Sheen or just about any Saint you can think of; commentaries on the daily Mass readings; emails that will give me a quote of the day for each day of Lent. The list goes on and on.
Then Easter rolls around, and the advertisements disappear. Nobody seems to be particularly interested, at least from a commercial point of view, in helping us have a “Good Easter.” We spend roughly six weeks preparing for Easter Sunday, and then it’s over. But the thing is, it isn’t. Easter Sunday is just the beginning.
When I say that Easter Sunday is just the beginning, I don’t just mean the beginning of the Easter Season. Easter Sunday is the beginning of everything.
Everything changed when Jesus was raised from the dead, so much so that Easter is said to be the start of a New Creation. Pope St. John Paul II said that “The new creation comes about at Easter. In the mystery of Christ's death and resurrection, all is redeemed, and everything becomes once more perfectly good, according to God's original plan.”
Pope Benedict wrote, “Easter is the feast of the new creation. Jesus is risen and dies no more. He has opened the door to a new life, one that no longer knows illness and death. He has taken mankind up into God himself.”
These are two powerful statements. St. John Paul said, “Everything becomes once more perfectly good, according to God’s original plan.” The Resurrection gives us a new world, a blessed world. Pope Benedict said that Jesus has taken mankind up into God himself. The Resurrection gives us eternal life, life with neither illness nor death, with God himself. It’s more than we could have hoped for – more than we could have dared to ask for.
Easter changes EVERYTHING! (Sorry if it seems like I’m raising my voice.) But nothing is the same after Easter – nothing. In the Book of Revelation, God is seated on His throne, and He says, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)
So, how should we celebrate something as momentous as Easter? Jellybeans and chocolate bunnies don’t really seem to do the trick when we consider what we are actually celebrating. I’d like to offer three suggestions:
First, reflect on what we’ve just experienced in the Paschal Triduum. Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Good Friday’s Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion, and Holy Saturday’s Easter Vigil are spiritually rich celebrations that could provide a lifetime of material for prayer and meditation.
Second, do some good. If we are encouraged to make some kind of sacrifice during the season of Lent as a spiritual discipline, it seems appropriate to perform some sort of positive good for the season of Easter as a form of gratitude. The traditional Works of Mercy could be a good starting point. For your reference, they are: feed the hungry; give drink to the thirsty; clothe the naked; shelter the homeless; visit the sick; visit the imprisoned; bury the dead; counsel the doubtful; instruct the ignorant; admonish sinners; comfort the afflicted; forgive offenses; bear wrongs patiently; pray for the living and the dead.
Finally, spread the joy. St. Augustine tells us that “We are an Easter people, and alleluia is our song.” The last two years have been extremely stressful for all of us. God willing, we’re starting to see the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even so, it still feels like there is a heavy weight bearing down on us. It would be great if each of us could do something to lighten the mood. We have good news to share, the best news. So, smile; plant flowers; wear bright colored clothes (if that’s your thing). And, if anybody asks you what you’re so happy about you can tell them – Christ is Risen! Truly, He is Risen!
P.S. – Disclaimer – I have nothing against either chocolate bunnies or jellybeans. In fact, I am overly fond of both.