Easter: Joyful Beginning
or Disappointing Letdown?
In our flawed human existence, we often experience a letdown after major holidays (holy days). The buildup leading to the event, in this case Easter, has been fruit-filled and intense. We may have ramped up one, or all, of the three expressions of faith during the Lenten season – sacrifice, prayer, and alms-giving.
Perhaps, this year, we were even moderately successful in creating ourselves anew in anticipation of His rising. Even if we were less than successful, awareness and anticipation insinuated their way into our lives.
With the Triduum, our efforts intensified. Our God is a forgiving God, given to second and endless chances – right up until the moment of our death. Holy Thursday brought the delight of sharing, in our small way, in the elation and wonder of that first Holy Mass. Of the institution of priesthood and Eucharist. And the command to go out, mercifully, and serve others.
Then came the somber, exquisite pain of Good Friday. The empty tabernacle left us feeling desolate and mournful. An entrance and recessional of silence only emphasized that this day was like no other.
No Mass – how could that be? The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, readily available 364 days of the year, was taken from us. Yet, the nourishment of His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity sustained us still, having been reserved the night before.
Saturday, the anticipation became palatable. The Vigil Mass, the candle light (His Light) leading us toward hope as it brightened with each succeeding participant. Readings, telling and thorough, guided us toward the tomorrow of Easter joy. Yet still, we waited.
The bells ringing, Gloria triumphantly singing, and Alleluias resounding on Easter morning all called us Home. The parish church, whether a cathedral or modest country chapel, was resplendent in festive flowers, white vestments, love-filled faces, and joyful hearts. The springing of hope was resounding and rose to the rafters. The long anticipated Resurrection had come. He has risen! He is alive!
As our Easter Joy spilled into the afternoon, family and friends gathered. An atmosphere of celebration was in the air. Souls, cleansed from confession and nourished by the Eucharist, exulted in an atmosphere of joy. Prayers and meals shared, we were reunited with coveted pleasures formerly sacrificed.
So why is there now a letdown? Our human experience leads us down this path because we are weak. Lent holds us accountable. It reminds us, day after penitent day, that there is something magnificent coming. Because we know it has an end, we feel a false sense of finality. This, too, shall end and we will once again take up our earthly pleasures.
Is this the righteous mindset? The tomb is empty but our resolve should not be. The true test comes from maintaining what Lent has taught us. The cross is still a reality. Eucharist still brings us to the foot of that bloody sacrifice – at each and every celebration of Mass. Sin is still real, relevant.
Lent As a Stepping Stone
Flying without the net, the accountability of the Lenten season of penitence, alms-giving, and prayer leads us to temptation. Our earthly vessels need the reminder. Easter is not over; it is a season that gives us the opportunity to mold Lenten habits more firmly into our lives. Our spiritual duty is to avoid falling back into old habits – to move forward and seek more.
Living Easter Joy
That extra scripture reading, that prayer life more fully developed, and those small mortifications performed in the name of love need to be nurtured. Each year’s Lent should be a stepping stone toward sainthood as we train for more spiritual endurance. With each subsequent Lent, we become stronger and stronger soldiers for Christ – the Church Militant. Together with the Church Suffering and the Church Triumphant (the Community of Saints), we are tasked with developing a stronger Church – through our combined prayer.
The Easter Octave is the perfect time to hone our spiritual skills. Taking advantage of the opportunity of turning Lenten sacrifice into holy habit will reap much fruit. In turn, our lives will joyfully march toward the holiness so vaunted by God Our Father and Jesus Our Brother. The Holy Spirit whispers encouragement if only we will heed it.
Living Easter Joy, while maintaining our Lenten growth, is well worth the effort. Growing in faith is the only way to prevent the stagnation on the other side of the spiritual coin.
“But they that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall take wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31