Growing up Catholic I was always lead to believe that Easter was our most important holiday, and for us Easter meant Easter Sunday. After all, that’s when the Easter Bunny left us treats. As I grew into adulthood, however, with an ever growing understanding into the depth and breadth of our faith, I learned that Easter Sunday wasn’t our most important Liturgical celebration. Instead that distinction falls on the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday evening… the conclusion of our Pascal Triduum.
Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Colossians 3:1-4, OR 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8
the readings for Easter Sunday are important, they are also just a very
small piece of the story of our relationship with God. It's like
eating only one hors d'oeuvre at a banquet... it gives you a foretaste
of the great food to come, but could hardly be considered nutritious or
filling. Unpacking the readings for this Sunday, like we do every week
in our regular Adult Faith Formation sessions, gives me the same
problem. I can't really give you a sense of the importance of these
readings without grounding them in the stories that precede them.
Sunday’s beautiful Gospel from John about how the tomb was found empty
means nothing if not for our first reading from Acts of the Apostles,
where Peter is explaining to Cornelius (a Roman Centurion) about who
this Jesus fellow is. But even that is not enough context to
substantiate the wonder that is Easter. At the very least, you need to
allow yourself the opportunity... the retreat... the blessing of all
Holy Week has to offer. The Liturgies of Holy Week, the Paschal
Triduum, are like a full three course meal.
The first course:
Holy Thursday and the Mass of the Lord's Supper, with the story of the
Passover from Exodus, Paul's story of the institution of the Eucharist,
and John's glorious Gospel where Jesus washes the feet of his Apostles.
Our second course: Good Friday, where the prophet Isaiah tells
us both the glory and the tragedy that faces God's servant, where Paul
extols to the Romans how Jesus was a high priest who also understood
weakness, and John's deeply moving story of Jesus' passion and death.
comes our main course: The Easter Vigil, where in darkness we re-tell
the tale of our becoming a people of God, from Genesis, through Exodus,
through the Isaiah and the other prophets, and through St. Paul. By the
time we're through with all these readings our Gospel of the
Resurrection now has enough context to reveal it's radiance. Easter
Sunday, if you so wish, then becomes a nice aperitif, a delightful
pallet cleanser for the amazing stories yet to come during the entire
season of Easter.
So for this Easter, don't come just for one
hors d'oeuvre on Easter Sunday. Instead, come to the Feast that is Holy
Week. Only by knowing the whole story will you see why we believe when we find the tomb is empty.
I think of Mass on Easter Sunday I am reminded of Paul’s 1st letter to
the Corinthians (1 Cor 13:11): “When I was a child, I used to talk as a
child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put
aside childish things.” We live in a multi-generational Church, which
is, of course, representative of our lives. Yet so much of our Catholic
practice is rooted in an adult context. When we share our faith with
children, we need to take a simpler approach, to allow them to
experience Christ where they are. But as we grow mentally and
physically we also need to grow in our relationship with God... Grow to
see the depth and richness of our faith and our traditions. We need to
allow ourselves to grow out of our understanding of Easter as just this
one Sunday. The true richness of Easter lies in the real feast that is
in the full three-course celebration of the Triduum, culminating with
the Easter Vigil.