Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Tag Archives: Easter

Was it a Morning like This?

The universe is different this morning. All over the world the Easter Vigil was celebrated: the rite of the Lucernarium is processed and intoned, the Exsultet proclaimed, the Gloria once again resounded in creation, the Easter water blessed which culminated in our Easter Eucharistic communion. It is not a celebration of a distant memory but an Anamnesis, a holy remembering, a sacramental participation in the event which makes possible an intentional, intimate and real encounter with the resurrected Christ.

 

Noel-coypel-the-resurrection-of-christ-1700On Good Friday, sin was defeated completely at the root through His crucifixion. During Holy Saturday our Lord rescues the saints of old and creation receives Holy Communion for the first time. The Solemnity of the Resurrection defeats death definitively; the doors of heaven have been unlocked and the through the Easter water, communion with the Father has been made possible again through Holy Baptism. The Church again remembers her Bridegrooms most amazing feat. He crushed death and demonstrated that it is divine love restores all, “Behold! I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5b).

 

And then there is Ol’ Scratch. Well, let’s just say that not only has he been defeated but his reign of terror has been ended. We now share in His victory and even mock his defeat, “He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in him” (Colossians 2:15). For now,

…you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were no people but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy. (1Peter 2:8-9)

 

IMG_0973How do we celebrate? With great joy and festivity. There are, of course, the obligatory baskets full of candy but they are only ancillary. The kids have grown to expect the ikon of the Anastasis to be placed in a prominent place and decorated appropriately with flowers and lamp to mark the octave. We like to come downstairs to Sandi Patti’s, Let the be Praise (couldn’t find the CD last year and the kids were not happy that the song was not blaring). Our oldest son greets me with “Surrexit!” to which I reply, “Surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia!” And finally, I greet friends and family with “Khristós Anésti!” and my friends reply, “Alithós Anésti!”

 

Deacon, what about the food? You’ll have to check out Facebook for that. Let’s just say that the Easter fast is over and “Meat is back on the menu boys!” Mmmmmmmmmmmm!

 

Please make time for recollection and prayer today for it is the Sabbath of Sabbaths! Are you able to sense His resurrection power surging through creation to vivify and restore it? Do you sense it in you? What has changed? Is anything different that yesterday? You should be able to sense it…

My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. (Song of Songs 2:10-13)

Encourage & Teach – A Flame Ignited: A Muslim’s First Encounter with Christ

fire-flameHoly Saturday is very busy in every parish. While the Church encourages us to be still and silent, there is always a team of parishioners that is tasked with decorating the sanctuary, side chapel(s), and vestibule for the Easter Vigil. We do this so that all of our senses are engaged to gain a deeper understanding through beauty, sign, and symbol of the Solemnity of the Resurrection. This year was no different…well, maybe a little. (Read more)

Encourage & Teach – The Triduum: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told

Family gatherings are a particularly joy-filled event for me. I get to catch-up on how everyone is doing (sometimes what they are doing) as well as spending some quality time with family. Inevitably, an aunt or uncle will say, “Remember when……” and all the nieces, nephews, cousins, in-laws (and out-laws) will gather around to hear the tale. We laugh, smile, sometimes even cry remembering our loved ones whom we have lost but always, in the end, embrace and give thanks for each other and for…remembering. Holy Week is like that for Christians. In fact, we have a special word for it: anamnesis. (Read more)

Easter Beyond the Candy Cross

candy crossBe gentle with your clergy this week. Many of us are moving a tad bit slower as we attempt to recover from the liturgical marathon otherwise known as the Triduum. While many are enjoying the joyous delicacies of Easter (read pounds of candy and chocolate) the Church continues meditating on the mystery of the cross in light of the Resurrection. Why? Because the eternal act of redemption by sacrifice is not complete without the Resurrection and Ascension…

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The Triduum: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told

triduum EasterFamily gatherings are a particularly joy-filled event for me. I get to catch-up on how everyone is doing (sometimes what they are doing) as well as just spending some quality time with family. Inevitably, an aunt or uncle will say, “Remember when……” and all the nieces, nephews, cousins, in-laws (and out-laws) will gather around to hear the tale. We laugh, smile, sometimes even cry remembering our loved ones whom we have loss but always, in the end, embrace and give thanks for each other and for…remembering. Holy week is like that for Christians. In fact, we have a special word for it: anamnesis.

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Origin of the Easter Egg

Thanks to The New Theological Movement for its blog on the Easter egg. Here is a re-post in toto:

The origins of the Easter egg: The Resurrection, St. Mary Magdalene, and the Lenten Fast

In the United States, it is common for children (and even adults) to partake in an Easter egg hunt as part of the Easter Sunday celebrations. In other parts of the world, the Easter egg tradition is incorporated not through games but through the blessing of eggs by the parish priest. Indeed, even in the secular world, the Easter egg could be the most prominent symbol used for the “holiday season”. But what is the origin of the Easter egg?

The egg as a symbol of the Resurrection

Probably the most well known explanation of the Easter egg today is the symbolic representation of the Resurrection. As the egg appears to be lifeless, yet holds much life within itself; so too, the tomb appeared to be utterly lifeless, but from it Christ arose. Of course, we mention here that there is a great difference in the way a chick comes forth from the egg and the way Christ came forth from the tomb – for our Savior walked through the walls of the sealed tomb.

St. Mary Magdalene and the Easter egg

There are numerous traditions which connect St. Mary Magdalene with the Easter egg. According to one account, the Magdalene had brought a basket of eggs with her to the tomb on that first Eastern morning. Upon reaching the tomb, at the angelic proclamation of the Resurrection, the eggs turned red. Another tradition connects the Easter egg with Mary Magdalene’s later preaching about the Resurrection.

The historical origins of the Easter egg traditions

Whatever we think of the symbolic nature of eggs and the traditions surrounding St. Mary Magdalene, the most likely origin for the modern tradition of the Easter egg is rooted in the ancient practice of the Lenten fast. In times past (and still today in some places in the East), in addition to abstaining from meat, Christians abstained also from eggs and from all milk-foods (e.g. milk, cheese, etc.). Moreover, this fast was not only kept on every Friday, but was maintained on all days throughout the entire season of Lent. Thus, on Easter Sunday, the children (and, I am sure, the adults) were very happy to be able to eat meat and eggs again. This looking-forward to the end of the fast eventually developed into the tradition of the Easter egg. Consider the following words from the Catholic Encyclopedia: “Because the use of eggs was forbidden during Lent, they were brought to the table on Easter Day, coloured red to symbolize the Easter joy. This custom is found not only in the Latin but also in the Oriental Churches.” For more on why we fast from meat (and, in times past, also from eggs and milk-foods), consider our previous article.

The Paschal Homily of St. John Chrysostom

Let all Pious men and all lovers of God rejoice in the splendor of this feast; let the wise servants blissfully enter into the joy of their Lord; let those who have borne the burden of Lent now receive their pay, and those who have toiled since the first hour, let them now receive their due reward; let any who came after the third hour be grateful to join in the feast, and those who may have come after the sixth, let them not be afraid of being too late, for the Lord is gracious and He receives the last even as the first.  He gives rest to him who comes on the eleventh hour as well as to him who has toiled since the first: yes, He has pity on the last and He serves the first; He rewards the one and is generous to the other; he repays the deed and praises the effort.

Come you all: enter into the joy of your Lord.  You the first and you the last, receive alike your reward; you rich and you poor, dance together; you sober and you weaklings, celebrate the day; you who have kept the fast and you who have not, rejoice today.  The table is richly loaded: enjoy its royal banquet.  The calf is a fatted one: let no one go away hungry.  All of you enjoy the banquet of faith; all of you receive the riches of his goodness.

Let no one grieve over his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed; let no one weep over his sins, for pardon has shone from the grave; let no one fear death, for the death of our Savior has set us free: He has destroyed it by enduring it, He has despoiled Hades by going down into its kingdom, He has angered it by allowing it to taste of his flesh.

When Isaiah foresaw all this, he cried out: “O Hades, you have been angered by encountering Him in the nether world.”  Hades is angered because frustrated, it is angered because it has been mocked, it is angered because it has been destroyed, it is angered because it has been reduced to naught, it is angered because it is now captive.  It seized a body, and lo! it discovered God; it seized earth, and, behold! it encountered heaven; it seized the visible, and was overcome by the invisible.

O death, where is your sting?  O Hades, where is your victory?  Christ is risen and life is freed, Christ is risen and the tomb is emptied of the dead: for Christ, being risen from the dead, has become the Leader and Reviver of those who had fallen asleep.  To Him be glory and power for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Easter Garden: Death=Victory

On Easter morning, we again find ourselves in a garden (Mt 28:8 and Mk 16:8).  The enemy believes that he has won. But Aslan’s words in C.S. Lewis’ classic, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, illustrate a truth that the accuser of the brethren had not considered,

“It means,” said Aslan, “that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge only goes back to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.”[1]

As we have been discussing, a covenant includes mediation of a single individual for the entire people – by a High Priest. All the former covenant curses the Christ absorbed for His bride.  Why? In order for the curses to be lifted, and the human race to continue, either God or all of Israel had to die.  Our Lord’s humanity, taken on by a divine person qualified to settle a divine debt.  It was always in His deliberate plan of attack – the enemy had no idea.  More importantly, he had no idea that our Lord would resurrect.  The Warrior’s game plan was to yield Himself completely, totally, and without reserve.  It is at this point that the Warrior became the Bridegroom.  That is what the Bridegroom does for His Bride.  He offers himself in a complete exchange of persons.  What our Lord experiences eternally in the Blessed Trinity, He now brings to earth for us to participate in and experience a foretaste of the life to come.

Scriptures says that early on the morning of the first day of the week (Mt 28:1, Mk 16:1-2, Lk 24:1, and Jn 20:1) an earthquake took place (Mt 28:2-4) and rolled the stone away (Mt 28:4, Mk 16:4, Lk 24:2, and Jn 20:1).  The gospels recount that the ones who came into the garden to anoint the Lord were women.  Had Adam defended Eve, he too would have found his bride coming to anoint his body.  Many Rabbi’s even suspect that the Tree of Life, which was in the Garden of Eden, could have brought the First Adam back to life.  The Garden of Eden was also the primordial seed of all creation.  It was there the God gave all creation to Adam in order for him to adovah (work) and shamar (protect).  The Father also turned the garden into a temple by making it holy on that seventh day of creation. After a short slumber, induced by God on day six, Adam awakens to find His bride before him in a temple (also known as a Church) on the Sabbath.

It is no wonder that the Christ finds more than one Eve in the garden this morning.  On Good Friday, the Church was birthed.  His bride was no longer one person but the Church as a whole.  This is symbolically shown by the three women in the garden.  And how do we know it was love at first sight?  The women immediately run to the disciples to tell them that they have seen the Lord (Mt 28:8, Mk 24:9). They run to tell the disciples.  LOVE NEVER CONCEALS ITSELF!  Someone in love cannot help but share the love that they received through their words, actions and yes, their very person.  What is the message?  The Bridegroom is awake, He is here!

More importantly, two of the Gospels say that our Lord appeared to Mary Magdalene (Mk 16:9 and Jn 20:14-17) who ran to tell Peter and John (Jn 20:2).  Our Lord desires a spotless bride and Good Friday is proven effective in the person of Mary Magdalene.

Scripture then says Peter and John ran to the tomb. (Jn 20:3-4) John arrived first, knelt down, saw the linens, and believed.  He did not enter though. He waited for Peter. (Jn 20:4-8)  So it is with all true mystics of the Church.  They may arrive first at understanding what our Lord is saying or doing but always wait for Peter and the Church to investigate and believe.

What did Peter and John see that made His resurrection so believable – besides the fact that He foretold it?  The following are a few thoughts from Peter and John’s view.

The Sepulcher

The sepulcher was a newly carved tomb (Jn 19:31). Archeologists tell us that the Jews had some interesting beliefs about the dead and where they buried them. In the Jewish burial ritual, the body is placed on a carved out rock table in the center of the cave.  Along the edges of the cave, boxes would be carved out where the bones of their ancestors were place.  The Jews would come back to view the body on four separate occasions over an eighteen month period.  The quicker the body decayed the more sin the individual committed in their lifetime.

So, what does it say that not only did Jesus’ body not decay but instead resurrected?  It confirms the belief from the earliest Christian times that Jesus not only did not sin but He did not possess Original Sin.  Not sinning would only mean His body would not decay. Resurrecting on the other hand, that would mean the chains of Original Sin that bound us to death did not bind Him at all.   Additionally, Jesus was laid in a tomb with no bones of His forefathers.  Scripture gives no indication that they planned to move His bones like Joseph (Gn 49:29-32) or David (1 Kings 2:10), to be put to rest with His forefathers.  This detail provides a two-fold meaning.  The first is that He had no ancestors.  It is true that Mary is His mother who determines His Jewish heritage but He was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  He is the Alpha and Omega the Beginning and the End (Rv 1:8) – the divine nature of the second person of the Blessed Trinity has no ancestors.  He always is.  The second relates to the new order of creation that Jesus established by His resurrection – He is the First-born of the Dead (Rv 1:5).  The new Adam (1Cor 15:45) has established a new race where all find their heritage in Him.

Our Lord also knew that He would have detractors who would claim grave-robbers.  St. John states:

When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. (Jn 20:4-8)

Why is it so important that the cloth that covered the head was separate and rolled up and not with the other cloths?  Grave-robbers only broke in to steal the head cloth which was made of fine linen and could be sold for a large sum of money.  They also would leave the body in the tomb.  Rolled up is also an important detail.  We would say folded neatly.  Robbers do not fold and if they do, it is in haste. Our Lord wanted to make it clear that no grave robbers were here.

As we have noted in the past, Scriptually speaking, gardens are only meant for the consummation of love between the Bridegroom and the Bride.  In times past, the enemy has been a source of division and fear within the garden.  Today is a new day and the enemy has everything to fear.  The reign of Christ the King has begun. The accuser of the breathern has been cast out. Here today, the Warrior-Bridegroom appears perfectly healthy and the enemy and his minions, they find themselves defeated and cowering in fear.

The guards were shaken with fear of him and became like dead men. (Mt 28:4)

To add insult to injury, the Lord rises with glorified wounds. Why? To remind the enemy that the mortal wounds He received have begun the salvation of all mankind of course.  They were the wedding present of the Bride to her Bridegroom which He shows freely with pride and honor. The devil had played right into the Father’s plan.

Again, in this garden the daughters of Eve are found.  This time, unlike the original Eve, they trust and believe the Bridegroom.  They are the now the daughters of the New Eve – Our Lady and thus His Church.  So what is the battle cry of the Warrior-Bridegroom?  It is the ancient greeting and response that signals the defeat of the enemy:

Greeter: Surrexit Christus! (Christ is risen!)

Response: Surrexit Dominus vere! (The Lord has risen indeed!)

Every general has his standard or colors.  For the Christian, it is the Paschal candle that is lit at the Easter Vigil.  The ancient prayer that prepares the Easter (Paschal) Candle is all we need to hear and understand St. Paul when he wrote,

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 15:55-57)

Sacred Calendar

When the Father eternally reflects upon Himself infinitely, a person is generated – the Son. When he reflects upon Himself finitely in space and time, a multitudinous array of  things or “res” were created in differing complexities and beauty. All things were created in relation to each other at the service of Man whose stewardship demands that he cooperates with the Blessed Trinity to assist in their perfection.

We live in a hierarchical world.  Sometimes that does not work out so well especially when it is a challenge with a supervisor or boss.  Still, our Lord instilled within creation a natural hierarchical order by means of complexity which also reflects the perfections of the Blessed Trinity: Mineral → Plant → Animal → Man → Angel.

After the Fall of Man, the relationships within creation were wounded and thus in need of salvation and sanctification.  Through His life, passion, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, our Lord Jesus won for us our salvation and then poured out His Holy Spirit to sanctify all of creation.

At the center of His soteriological work is the Liturgy.  Not only does the Liturgy continue to re-present His saving work but sanctifies us and all of creation. This renewal of salvation includes time through the liturgical year.

In his encyclical, Meditor Dei no. 39, Pope Pius XII provides us a definition for the liturgical year:

The Liturgical year is Christ himself who lives on in the Church.

He continues to explain:

…the liturgical year is the person of Christ who journeys with the Church along the path of the calendar year.  The journey is marked by the liturgical feasts that unfold the entire mystery of Christ from his birth to his return in glory.

The Liturgy assists us in celebrating the salvific mission of our Lord as He sanctifies time by the very fact that He stepped into time. As we know by experience, there are some events in our life that we have deemed to be more important than other.  And, it is no different with the Body of Christ.

Much to no ones’ surprise, the secular calendar competes for the same allegiance – many times distracting us from the homily proclaimed by the liturgical calendar. The world has its own sacrosanct cycle based on the seasons and the vestiges of corrupted Catholic feasts. In some cases, it has set up parallel feasts that are meant to overshadow our Christian heritage. The Church however is not concerned for she continues to respond by taking back what is rightful hers – time. For instance, can you explain why the Church has placed the following feasts on its corresponding day (no cheating by using Google):

  • January 1 – Mary, Mother of God
  • February 14 – Sts. Cyril and Methodius
  • March 25 – Annunciation
  • April 23 – St. George
  • May 1 – St. Joseph the Worker
  • June 24 – Nativity of St. John the Baptist
  • November 1 – All Saints
  • December 25 – The Incarnation

In fact, our culture is a reflection of how we live out our liturgical life in time. The word culture comes from the Latin cultus from which we also receive the word cult. A culture is defined by what it worships – what is at the center of its heart.

CCC1207 It is fitting that liturgical celebration tends to express itself in the culture of the people where the Church finds herself, though without being submissive to it. Moreover, the liturgy itself generates cultures and shapes them.

Our hearts should ask, “Do we pay more attention to the secular cycle than we do to the Sacred Liturgical year?” We all know the old saying, “Tell me how you spend your time and I will tell you what is really important to you.” Within the context of the liturgical year, we could easily adapt the question and ask “What and how do we celebrate” which would begin to reveal what is important to us. Whose allegiance has captured our heart’s attention?

Our year is laid out to slowly reveal the mystery of the our Lord while calling us to deep union by penance, sacrifice, and prayer through physical, mental and spiritual purification and celebration. We have our major and minor Lents. Times of celebration during the Easter season and Christmastide. Periods of reflection and quiet supplication during Ordinal time. In her wisdom, Mother Church continues to redeem time with her liturgies to win back the hearts of man and help them conform their lives to the Gospel.

Join me today and consider the two following questions, “Do I participate in the liturgical year or do I pick and choose what appeals to me without regard to the context in which that Solemnity, Feast,  and/or Memorial has been placed?” and “Which do I prefer to celebrate – the secular feasts or the feasts of our Sacred Tradition?”

May our Lord conform our minds to His watch and thus sanctify us through the sacerdotal calendar.

P.S. – Answers can be found tomorrow.

Easter Established on the Lord’s Day

Pope St. Victor

Did you ever wonder how the Church chose to celebrate Easter on a Sunday? No, not the fact that it is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox – just that it is celebrated on a Sunday. I know you are probably thinking, “Jesus rose on Sunday therefore it makes sense we celebrate it on a Sunday.” Great logic but hindsight is always 20/20. For the early Church, it was not as clear.  But if you are still wondering, well you are in luck today!  The answer is….Pope St. Victor.

Pope St. Victor reigned from 189-199. Popular custom says that he died a martyr bearing witness with his own life for our Lord Jesus Christ. He was a native African and his dad’s name was Felix.  There are some really notable facts about him.  They include:

  • Obtaining the release of Christians from the prison mines of Sardinia
  • Celebrating the liturgy (the first Pope to do so)
  • Writing Church documents in Latin and not Greek

But the most notable act that we continue use in the Church (besides the patrimony of our Latin language) is that he decreed that Easter should be celebrated universally on Sunday. While this was common in the West it was no so in the East. And now you know!

Pope St. Victor, ora pro nobis!