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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Living Out Easter

"Catholics like to party." -Fr. Mike Dandurand

Living the Liturgical Year
The priest at the university parish where I work once made this eloquent statement to describe Catholics, and contrary to popular belief, it's true! The Catholic Church operates within a "liturgical calendar," which takes us through the life of Christ throughout the year, that we may unite ourselves to His life while we're living our own. As defined by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the liturgical year is, "The celebration throughout the year of the mysteries of the Lord's birth, life, death, and Resurrection in such a way that the entire year becomes a 'year of the Lord's grace.' Thus the cycle of the liturgical year and the great feasts constitute the basic rhythm of the Christian's life of prayer, with its focal point at Easter" (§1168). This cycle often prescribes periods of penance, suffering, and anticipation... but there are also times when it prescribes great rejoicing.

And what were Jesus and His apostles doing after He conquered death and rose from the dead? They were rejoicing! 

"After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord." John 20:20

Jesus was celebrating the new life given Him by God, His Father, and the life that flows to us from that sacrifice. The apostles were celebrating the return of their Savior who they thought was dead forever. Jesus had taken all of their sins upon Him, and they had, in a sense, died along with Him. Now, it was time to rise out of the ashes and allow the new life within them to catch on fire... a fire that was meant to spread to the whole world. And it did.

Catholic Celebration of the Easter Season
In the Catholic Church, we don't just celebrate Easter Sunday and move on with our lives. The Church celebrates what is called the "Easter Octave," a continual celebration of Easter that lasts for eight days. At Daily Mass during this time, we pray the same Easter prayers, meditate on light and hopeful readings, sing "Alleluia!" as often as the music minister's heart desires. In our lives, we are called to be joyful, to feast, and to meditate on the Resurrection. Then, we go on to celebrate an entire season of Easter - made up of the days that Jesus walked the earth in His resurrected body before returning to Heaven. This season ends with Pentecost on the 50th day of Easter, when we celebrate the arrival of the Holy Spirit, the promised "Advocate," who guides us in the world.

The Paschal Mystery in Our Lives
And once the Easter season is over, do you think that means we need to stop celebrating Easter? No! We should live the "Paschal Mystery" - Jesus' death and resurrection - as often as the natural course of our life calls for. We all have our moments of weakness, our shortcomings, our trials and tribulations. It is in those moments that we must die a spiritual death, as Christ died a physical death. But it never ends there, just as Christ's life did not end on Good Friday. We are then called to turn to Jesus - whether in Confession or simply lifting our hearts to Him in prayer - and allow Him to restore within us a new life. Then, we are called to take that new life out into the world, spread our love and joy to others, and, in the words of Fr. Mike, to party!

He is Risen! Alleluia!

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