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Easter Sunday

March 23, 2008

Easter Sunday

~~~~~~~~~~~~ H E _ I S _ R I S E N _! ! !~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

~~~~~~~~~ H E _ I S _ R I S E N _ I N D E E D ! ! !~~~~~~~~~

~~~~~ A L L E L U I A ! _ A L L E L U I A ! _ A L L E L U I A ! ~~~~~

The Jewish people scour their homes in preparation for the Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, to rid them of anything that could even conceivably be leavened (getting rid of wheat, oats, barley, rye & spelt). It’s not enough for them to eat matzah (unleavened bread). They guard against the presence of leaven, against even the possibility of leaven, lest they should partake of it by accident. On the night before the feast, the head of the house conducts a ritual search for leaven, carrying a candle, feather and wooden spoon throughout the darkened house. As he finds pre-placed bits of leavened bread, he sweeps them into the wooden spoon with the feather. When the search is complete, the house is formally declared free of leaven. The spoon, feather and leavened crumbs are wrapped together and burned. Only then can the feast begin, a feast that is not just one ceremonial meal, but rather a full week of sacred observance in which matzah is the only bread eaten.

This is the symbol we have brought to fulfillment through the season of Lent. For forty days we have been purging our lives of the leaven of corruption in preparation for the ultimate Passover. We have searched, not only for sin, but for near occasions of sin, for any sources of temptation, any danger zones for spiritual “accidents”, that could possibly be removed or made safer. We have strengthened our wills through self-denial, grown in love through prayer and almsgiving. Our lives are clean, fortified against sin so far as in us lies. The last crumbs of leaven have been burned.

It’s time to celebrate!

We too have a full week of sacred observance, a “week of Sundays”, if you will. This Sacred Triduum opens out into eight Solemnities, eight of the Church’s highest holy days, back to back. The season of Easter then continues for the entire length of time that the Risen Lord appeared to His disciples, and the nine days they spent praying in the upper room after His Ascension, concluding with the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (50 days from now).

This season of light often gets lost. The structured disciplines of Lent provide a focus for our preparation, and one joyous day of Easter celebration lifts our spirits…then what?

We can think of Easter as a sort of “happy Lent”. “Lent”, after all, means “springtime” (snow or no snow!), and this new season is itself a time of preparation for yet another great feast, for the launching of the mission of the Church. The first season of Easter was the disciples’ time to learn from the Risen Lord Jesus the meaning of His Passion, Death and Resurrection. It was their preparation for Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit Himself would fill them with a courageous love they’d never known before–a love that would send them to the ends of the earth and to their deaths joyfully proclaiming the greatest good news the world has ever heard.

We too can spend this time learning from this same Risen Lord, rejoicing with Him, loving Him, listening to Him (see Matthew 17:5). Look in the “Easter Customs” category for some practical suggestions for celebrating this Easter season, for making the most of this time of grace…

God our Father, by raising Christ Your Son
You conquered the power of death
and opened for us the way to eternal life.
Let our celebration today raise us up and renew our lives
by the Spirit that is within us.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen
(Opening Prayer for today’s Mass)

Acts 10: 34, 37-43 (St. Peter proclaims Jesus’ death and resurrection)
Psalm 118: 1-2, 16-17, 22-23 “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad”
Colossians 3:1-4 (set your heart on things above)
or I Corinthians 5:6-8 (celebrate, not with corruption, but with sincerity and truth)
Christians, to the Paschal Victim
Offer your thankful praises!
A Lamb the sheep redeems: Christ,
Who only is sinless,
Reconciles sinners to the Father.
Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous:
The Prince of life, Who died, reigns immortal.
Speak, Mary, declaring
What you saw wayfaring.
“The tomb of Christ, Who is living,
The glory of Jesus’ resurrection;
Bright angels attesting,
The shroud and napkin resting.
Yes, Christ my hope is arisen”
To Galilee He goes before you.”
Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining.
Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!
Amen. Alleluia.
+John 20:1-9 (At Mary Magdalene’s word, Peter and John run to the empty tomb)
or +Matthew 28:1-10 (The women meet an angel at the tomb, then Jesus Himself)

“On my bed at night I sought Him Whom my heart loves–I sought Him but I did not find Him. I will rise then and go about the city; in the streets and the crossings I will seek Him Whom my heart loves. I sought Him but I did not find Him. The watchmen came upon me as they made their rounds of the city: Have you seen Him Whom my heart loves? I had hardly left them when I found Him Whom my heart loves. I took hold of Him and would not let Him go” (Song of Songs 3:1-4).

So did Mary Magdalene rise early on the first day of the week while it was still dark, at her very first opportunity to serve the Body of her Beloved after the Sabbath rest. She rose to come to the tomb, seeking Him Whom her heart loved. She came “with my hands dripping myrrh, with my fingers dripping choice myrrh on the fittings of the lock” (Song of Songs 5:5)–myrrh for the anointing of a crucified Body that lay cold in death (see Mark 16:1).

She sought Him, but she did not find Him! She ran to Simon and John: “The Lord has been taken from the tomb! We don’t know where they have put Him!” (John 20:2), then returned to the empty tomb to bewail the loss of even His Sacred Body. She came upon the angels (the watchmen), blurting out her sad story between sobs. She had hardly left them (she merely turned around!) when she found Him Whom her heart loved, Jesus, Who had to tell her to stop clinging to Him! (see John 20:1-17)

Mary knew what it was like to live in the corruption of “the old yeast”. Jesus had cast seven demons out of her (see Mark 16:9). Her new-found freedom in holiness had blossomed into an irrepressible love of her Redeemer. She didn’t need St. Paul’s admonition to “celebrate the feast not with the old yeast of corruption and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (I Corinthians 5:8). She had “been there, done that”–and there was no turning back! Her old life had died. Her heart was set on things above–where her Beloved reigns! (see Colossians 3:1-2) Her celebration was an exuberance of holy love.

It was too good to keep to herself. “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18) She became the apostle to the Apostles, the messenger to the messengers who would proclaim this glorious news to the ends of the earth.

We too have been rescued from the kingdom of darkness and brought into the Kingdom of God’s beloved Son (see Colossians 1:13). We have died. Our lives are hidden now with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). We too are His witnesses. We eat and drink with Him day after day in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass (see Acts 10:41). With Him, through the power of our Baptismal anointing with His Holy Spirit, we must go about doing good works and healing all who are in the grip of the devil (see Acts 10:38).

So, then, let us celebrate with an irrepressible, uncontainable, contagious holy love–proclaiming this glorious good news to the ends of the earth! Amen. ALLELUIA!

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