2 Apr 2016

Easter isn't over yet!!!

Over at the Irish Catholic, Fr Martin Browne OSB reminds us that Easter isn't over just because the chocolate is finished:

I rarely experience the kind of exhaustion that I experienced on Easter Sunday evening and on Easter Monday. Holy Week – particularly the days of the Triduum from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday – is a time of unparalleled intensity in the life of the Church. 
It can also be a serious test of resilience and stamina for clergy, sacristans, servers, choirs, liturgy teams and others who are involved in leading or facilitating worship in their communities. I happen to be the sacristan (and flower arranger!) and Master of Ceremonies in my community, so it was a particularly hectic time for me. 
I’m not complaining though. It is a great joy to be able to help others to celebrate Easter in this way.
I’m not trying to suggest that monks have a harder time in Holy Week than others. Most parish clergy have as much or more to do. Most have sick calls and multiple homilies to prepare, and many have to celebrate the ceremonies of the Triduum in more than one church. 
The temptation when we reach lunchtime or evening on Easter Sunday is to lock the door, collapse in a comfy chair, and say, ‘Thank God that’s over!’
But it isn’t. The chocolate might be devoured after a day or two, but the Church’s celebration is prolonged for 50 days until the feast of Pentecost. Like Christmas, Easter has an Octave – a prolongation of the celebration over the following week.
Every day of the week is a feast, and the liturgical texts treat them as if each one of them is actually Easter Day itself. We then have seven more Sundays in the Easter season. Seven times seven days – a week of weeks – following on from the ‘Week of Weeks’. That’s a lot of Alleluias…
As I rest after the exertions of Holy Week, reflecting on what all that effort during the Triduum was actually about is a powerful energiser. One scholar puts it: “The great Christian tradition has always considered the liturgy to be the fertile womb of the Church from which Christians are born. The liturgy is parturient. It gives life.” We can extend that striking image by noting that the Paschal Triduum, with its intense and beautiful sacramental representation of the Lord’s Easter mystery, culminating in the blessing of the baptismal water and the celebration of the Eucharist at the Easter Vigil in the Holy Night, is the womb of the Church’s liturgy. It is the source and summit of what we hold to be the source and summit of the Christian life.
In the early Church, the Easter Vigil was the principal time for initiating new Christians through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. Lent was the time of final preparation. If it was, then Easter was the ‘50-days-after-the-night-before’ – a period of joyful afterglow, when the newly-baptised explored more deeply what had happened to them and what they had become when they were baptised. 
For new Christians, the Easter season was a time for ‘unpacking’ what happened at the Vigil. It was a time to be guided into the mystery of their new identity in Christ. This experience of being guided into the mystery was given the name mystagogy. The newly-baptised themselves were called ‘neophytes’, meaning ‘newly-planted’ [neophutos] or ‘newly-enlightened’ [neophotistos]. 
Over time, the rest of the Church, and not just candidates for Easter Baptism, began to observe Lent as a time of prayer, penance and almsgiving. But somehow, spending Eastertide going deeper into what it is to have been planted in Christ and enlightened by the energy of his glorious resurrection from the dead didn’t catch on in the same way. 
When was the last time you heard someone speak about their Easter resolution, like they do about Lenten resolutions?
We still have the Easter season, of course. The Paschal Candle stands tall throughout the 50 days. Choirs and music groups often have nice Easter music that they like to use, and so on, but for many people, Easter is a one-day feast. 
At a time when more and more Catholics have less and less connection with the Church and with the practice of the Faith into which they were baptised, the season of Easter is a treasure to be retrieved. It may have a strange name that some will struggle to pronounce, but whatever we call it, the practice of mystagogy during the Easter season has a lot to offer the Church in Ireland today.
It doesn’t have to be a big programme, needing lots of time and resources. We could make a start by ensuring that the Easter season is celebrated well, embodying what the liturgy proclaims about what it is to be incorporated into the Body of Christ. 
We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song!

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