It is a humbling experience to approach writing about liturgy and life for Easter Sunday. Easter is, as our new Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, the central Christian feast (638) and the “Feast of feasts, the “Solemnity of solemnities” (1169). Easter is the celebration of the day when Jesus Christ rose from the dead, a fact witnessed first by Mary Magdalene in the garden outside the tomb where Christ had been buried on Good Friday, as we hear in the Gospel. He then appeared to Peter and the Apostles on more than one occasion, inviting Thomas, who experienced doubt, to touch his wounds, eating with them on the shore of Lake Galilee, and in Emmaus with two other disciples. It is after Christ’s resurrection that those who believed became known as Christians.
In Quebec, where I live, the Catholic faith once was very strong, with a high level of attendance at daily and Sunday mass. Sadly this is no longer the situation. The liturgies of the mass throughout the year no longer seem to be part of everyday life of Catholics. In the relatively new small town where we live we have never had a church building. Instead, we have the use of one end of the main hall of a large new city community centre, which has a raised sanctuary for the altar, closed off during the week. This entire hall is full at our Christmas Eve mass, which is understandable as it is about God coming to earth to live as one of us.
We are delighted to see and welcome all the families that come each year to celebrate this happy event, but it is not the same at Easter, the “Feast of feasts.” Even though Easter heralds spring and new life, perhaps the difference is because we feel it is a more serious event, dealing not only with life but also with death?
In fact, it is impossible to talk about Easter without the three days leading up it, the Triduum. The story of the last days of Jesus’ life on earth: the introduction of the eucharist at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, leading to Christ’s torture and death on Good Friday, which Peter in the first reading at Easter refers to: “They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day. . . .” On Holy Saturday, the day after the devastating death of Christ, the readings relate the story of God gradually revealing himself from creation through to his prophets.
Jesus Christ, Son of God, one person of the Holy Trinity, came to earth and from his birth to his death experienced every aspect of human life — no experience any of us can ever have in our lives has not been experienced by him.
On Easter Sunday we learn that we can all live in the hope of forgiveness of our sins and in the hope of eternal life. As Paul reminds us in the second reading: “When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.”
At one time or another we have all heard that there is no greater love than that someone should give up their life for another. How profoundly blessed each of us is to be so loved.
This is what we are reminded of every Easter, and it is a time to rejoice and “Share the Good News, singing joyfully: His death is victory!” (Sequence).
Noble was pastoral animator in an elementary Catholic school for 30 years, produced community television programs for 11 years in the 1980s and ’90s, was animator for her diocesan English Region from 2000-2006 and is past national president of the CWL (2006-2008). She lives in Candiac, Que.