Q: Dear Father John, The wonderful season of Easter is upon us. Lent has been a great time to prepare for the victory of the cross over death. Thank-you Jesus Christ, Holy Redeemer. What are appropriate things we can do to celebrate Easter, especially for the entire season?
A: I love this question! Ever since I was ordained, I have been struck every year by the decrease in daily Mass attendance as soon as Lent ends. I am not trying to say that everyone is obliged to go to Mass on a daily basis (though it’s certainly not a bad idea, if you can work it out), but I often wonder if the benefits of our Lenten spiritual disciplines are sometimes eviscerated by our Easter laxity. Lent, after all, is only six weeks long, while the liturgical season of Easter lasts for eight weeks. What would happen if we lived the Easter season with as much fervor as we live Lent? Your question gives us a chance to reflect on this.
The Color of Easter
Every liturgical season has its color – both physically (violent for Lent, white for Easter, for example, as shown in the sacred vestments used for Mass), but also spiritually. Trying to echo in our own spiritual lives the color of the seasons is a wise practice. For the saints, it happens almost without thinking – they are simply in tune with the spiritual rhythms of the Church. For the rest of us, a concerted effort can help.
The color of Easter is joy, the joy of the definitive victory. Christ has taken all sin and evil into his own soul, in a sense, and done away with it. God’s mercy has shown itself infinitely stronger than the devil’s poison. This is the message so beautifully expressed in the Easter Sequence, sung before the Gospel is read for the Mass of Our Lord’s Resurrection.
What can we do to color our spiritual lives with Easter joy during this liturgical season? I will offer three suggestions, but I also invite our readers to share their own personal and family traditions, and any experiences that have helped them make this season fruitful for growing in holiness.
First, stay connected to the liturgy. The readings for daily Mass during Easter take us on an exciting journey through the Last Supper discourse and through the amazing and frightening experience of the early Church. We should spend time reading commentaries about these biblical passages, meditating on them, and allowing God to speak to our hearts through them. The main message of the liturgical readings throughout Easter is that Christ is still among us, even after his Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension, and he is among us precisely through his Church. I always find it deeply encouraging to read a book or two about the history of the Church, or about the life of a saint, during Easter. It reminds me that my own Christian journey is a part of a much bigger story, and that I am not alone in my defeats and victories.
Second, find ways to rejoice. This time of year tends to be quite busy – especially if you have kids in school. Make a point of doing some things that you enjoy. Just as in Lent we denied ourselves some legitimate delights as a way to unite ourselves to Christ’s self-sacrifice, so during Easter we should intentionally enjoy the good things of life, as a way to unite ourselves to Christ’s victory and triumph. We always have a victory celebration when our team wins the championship – well, Jesus has won the eternal championship, and we are on his team; we need to celebrate that.
Obviously, I am not recommending that you dive into sinful pleasures, or that you over-indulge in self-centered activities. But I am recommending that we intentionally look for ways to rejoice, to enjoy God’s goodness such that joy overflows from our spirits, into our emotions, and even into our bodies. Why not make Sunday lunch a truly festive occasion for your family and friends every Sunday of Easter (different family members can be in charge of the menu each week)? Why not make a special trip or two to your favorite museum or take some extra time to enjoy your favorite music or a favorite author? Why not carve out some extra time during Easter for your whole family, or a few of you, to enjoy some activities that you haven’t had a chance to do for a long time? Why not reflect Easter joy in your wardrobe when you go to work (tastefully, of course)? If we surround these activities with a spiritual and prayerful intention – celebrating Christ’s victory – they become more than vacation activities; they becomes means of worship. God rejoices to see his children rejoice.
Spread the Light
Third, reach out. Jesus taught us that “there is more joy in giving than receiving” (Acts 20:35). Like the candlelight service during the Easter Vigil, we can share with others the light of Christ’s victory that we have received, and roll back the tattered shadows of the kingdom of darkness. Renewing our efforts to bring others closer to Christ, to help others who are in need – those close to us or those far away – can color our lives with Easter joy, if we season those efforts with prayer and faith. Christians should smile more during Easter, because true joy draws forth joy.
I hope these thoughts will inspire you to make some Easter resolutions. Why should Lent be the only time we make resolutions? God has graces in store for us this season, just as he did during Lent. We only need to keep our eyes peeled so that we don’t miss them.
What “Easter resolutions” have helped you in the past? Let us know!