After a long Lenten season and a Triduum filled with important messages and beautiful liturgies, Easter has come. Alleluia! And Alleluia that we can sing “Alleluia” again! For the past 40 days we were missing many outward signs which are usually in our churches throughout the rest of the year. We did not sing the Gloria, we did not see much more than a lot of purple everywhere, we emphasized prayer, fasting, repentance, and almsgiving more than usual, and we certainly did not dare sing "Alleluia." For those coming into the Church there was a longing for the sacraments they sought, especially the ability to come to Holy Communion with the rest of the congregation. And I would hope that for all of us there was a longing for the joyous celebration of who we are: people of the Risen Lord. We are a people of joy.
I attended some very beautiful liturgies during the Triduum along with a friend who was seeking Confirmation and first Holy Communion. It was truly a reminder to me of the gifts I have as a member of the Church and as a member of the Body of Christ. I hope that everyone in the church had the same reminder of that which we can often unwittingly take for granted, and maybe had a renewed desire in solidarity with those who longed for the reception of sacraments. My heart leapt when the lights came on after being in the dark of the Church at the Easter Vigil; it was a joy to hear the Easter Proclamation beautifully chanted. But mostly it was a renewal of my own faith and of my relationship with God when I watched the catechumens receive Baptism and the candidates receive
Confirmation with them. It gives one’s faith a shot in the arm to attend the entire Triduum and live it, so to speak, with one who is coming into the Church. If you have never done this, I suggest it for next year.
The greatest gift of Easter, of course, is the gift of the Risen Lord. The Triduum began with Jesus at the Last Supper giving us His body and blood perpetually as the gift of the Eucharist and then going out to become that very sacrifice on the Cross at Calvary. That amazing, unfathomable love which allowed Jesus to be arrested, abandoned, betrayed, abused, tortured, and then nailed to a cross is emblazoned in our mind and heart during the Triduum. But the Triduum ends in the triumph of the Cross, not in the darkness of the tomb. Jesus resurrected on the third day and lifted all the holy ones to Heaven along with Him, opening wide the gates for us so we may be saved from the power of sin and death for eternity.
As we reflect joyfully upon this, I think it is important to also reflect on the gift of faith that we have been given. The Easter Vigil liturgy is so full of joy and longings fulfilled that it should fill us with gratitude for so great a gift as the gift of having encounters with the Living God available to us on a daily basis. We can partake in the mysteries of His death and resurrection every day at Mass. Each time we go to the Eucharist we have an Easter celebration and it should bring us the same joy as when the lights went on and we heard the first words of the Easter Proclamation, (the Exsultet): "Exult, let them exult, the hosts of Heaven..." Every Eucharist is the sacrifice of Jesus and the reality that He is the Risen Lord, not one who died and stayed locked in a tomb. He broke the bonds of death and destroyed the tomb. He did this so we would not only know the depths of His love for us and the greatness of His power, but so that we would have the life He always intended us to have: life with Him forever in joy and glory. It was, as always, about us. And it was about Love.
I know the hosts of Heaven rejoiced not just on that first Easter morning, but they rejoice every time we remember it at Mass. They rejoice when we take the gifts we have been given and put them to use. They rejoice when we are filled with gratitude within our hearts for what we have been given, but the rejoicing is even greater when we put to use the gifts of faith, hope, and love which we were given in Baptism. They rejoice when we use the gifts of wisdom, understanding, right judgment, courage, knowledge, reverence and wonder and awe. They rejoice when we live the Gospels and put into practice the teachings of Jesus which help Him to continue to build the Kingdom of God.
We have been given great power through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Therefore we need to use it! We also have a responsibility to use it. The power we have been given is the very power of the Holy Spirit, it is the power of God. It is easy to be joyful at Easter and to get into the spirit of the liturgies and celebrations in which the joy is palpable. It is easy to belt out the hymns along with the blare of trumpets and the voices of the rousing choir. It is easy to have a smile on one's face as we sing "Alleluia" finally after a long wait. Therefore, we need to keep that joy in our minds and hearts each and every time we go to Mass after Easter and throughout the year. The mysteries are no less great after Easter and the resurrection of Jesus is no less a reality. The power He gives us in the gifts of His Holy Spirit is no less potent during the challenges that will no doubt assail us in the year to follow. He promised us freedom and the power of our faith, hope, and love. He delivered and now it is our turn to deliver on the promises which we made at Baptism and Confirmation, the promises we renewed at the Easter liturgy.
The Good News is that the One who was once dead is now alive. The Good News is that Jesus is Lord and that at His name every knee on earth and under the earth and in Heaven bows because He is Risen. The Good News is that not only did He empower us with so many great gifts, but He helps us to use them when we are weak and the challenge feels too great. He overcame so that we can overcome also: in our weakness He is strong. The Good News is that we do not have to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps anymore. Let us let Him lift us up with Him, not only on the last day, but each and every day of our lives. Now that is truly Good News at which the Heavenly Hosts exult and say: "Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia! He lives! He reigns! Alleluia!"
May we live in Easter joy each and every day! May we have gratitude for so great a Lord and Savior! May we live in love and fidelity to the Lord who never breaks a promise in His faithfulness to us! May we draw on the power of His resurrection in order to live our lives as people of Easter that we may assist in the work of building the Kingdom in humility and simplicity of heart! Let us meet outside the empty tomb, along with the angels, shouting our "Alleluia!" Peace and Easter Joy!!
The photo at the top is from Lourdes; the Stations of the Cross end with the rolled back stone at the tomb.
The icon is The Risen Christ, by Rev. William Hart McNichols and can be found at http://www.standreirublevicons.com/gallery.php?action=viewPicture&id=199 if you are interested in a copy the information is on the page.
Heart Speaks to Heart