Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Let the party begin!

by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register

(From the April 8, 2010 edition of the Inland Register)

Father Michael Savelesky As readers pick up this column for a bit of post-Easter spiritual nourishment, perhaps there is a sense of alteration stirring in their hearts. The inspiring celebrations of the Sacred Triduum have come and gone – already! The Eucharistic solemnity of Holy Thursday blended quickly into the sadness of Good Friday, which was gloriously trumped by the awesome magnificence of the Easter Vigil! After weeks of anticipation through Lenten penance and extensive liturgical preparation, this grace-filled moment seemingly has passed.

Or has it? A glance at the Catholic calendar which decorates many a kitchen wall or struggles for its place amid refrigerator photos announces the contrary. Now the Church celebrates the octave of Easter – eight days of stretching out this great day of joy (with its triple “Alleluia!” at the end of Mass!). Then the Church continues in glad song until Day 50, when Pentecost celebrates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, finally closing out the Easter season. This extended celebration is the best we believers can do to wrap our minds around a reality far beyond the expectations of the human heart. The crucified one is risen! He is alive!

In our culture we find it difficult to celebrate anything for more than one day, let alone 50! Like so many other important Christian feasts, the Church’s celebration of Easter can become so ordinary in its pattern of celebration that we may lose track of what we are celebrating. Often we can let society or the needs of commercialism establish the tone and timing of our celebration. Without prayerful sensitivity, the result can be a mere cultural ritual of festivities without substance. We sing with enthusiasm that Easter is “The Day the Lord Has Made!” The day is not one produced by the manufacturers of colored eggs and chocolate bunnies or by the marketers of new spring fashions. Nor is Easter merely a religious holiday which is set according to the cosmic turn of sun and moon. Easter is God’s day. After all, what is so significant about the Easter celebration that the Church would bid us take six weeks of Lenten penance to prepare for it? Fundamental Christian education gives the ready response: the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

But is it possible that we can sometimes approach the feast of Easter and the news of the Resurrection as if Jesus were merely a divine miracle worker? Is this what we celebrate at Easter: that Jesus lives and death is proved powerless? That God has exercised divine mastery over the ultimate law of nature? Is Jesus a victorious mighty man who merely brushes aside the reality of death, quite literally pushing himself out of the tomb? Is his Easter cry, “Look out, Buster – not even the grave can stop me!” – and thereby instilling the kind of fear in the heart of humankind that responds to God out of obedience rather than grateful reverence and awe?

Such a reality may be an easy snap for Divine Power, but what about us mortals? As much as we try to hide from its reality, death confronts us all. None of us can muster the ability to side-step its threat – all the contemporary talk about near-death experiences notwithstanding.

The good news of Jesus’ Resurrection is not that he miraculously set aside the laws of nature, as it were, and defeated death. What makes Jesus’ Resurrection cosmic-shaking news is that through death he has come to fullness of life. He has embraced death – not merely conquered it. In death Jesus has trusted that God’s promise of fullness of life is real, very real indeed. At the sound of such wonder-filled news, the Christian world certainly must cry “Alleluia!” Not just “Awesome!” at some display of death defying power, but “Praise God!” to One whose unconditional love has had – and still has – the final say.

When our Easter songs joyously trumpet Jesus’ victory over death, we rejoice in the full reality of human existence and God’s promise to us in Jesus Christ. For us, death remains very real, but Resurrection in Christ is the full and lasting reality of our lives. The Christian, like Jesus, embraces death, and with him comes to fullness of life in God. As we often pray in the preface at a Mass of Christian Burial, “life truly is changed, not ended.” Our victory is found, not in the miraculous avoidance of death, but in the fulfillment of life we have in God because of Jesus.

Death took its claim on Jesus and just as surely will take its claim on us – regardless how much we hide behind the trappings of the spring season to convince ourselves that resurrection is just part of some subtle evolutionary plan. Because of what has happened in the historical life of Jesus of Nazareth, we know and proclaim that life comes, not just after death, but through it. For the Christian death becomes but a part of living. And we shout “Alleluia!” for 50 days. Indeed, let the party begin!

(Father Savelesky is the diocese's Director of Deacon Formation and pastor of Assumption Parish in Spokane.)

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