It is now the Octave of Easter. We will celebrate Easter Sunday for eight days and the Easter season for fifty days. It is Easter, not Christmas, which are the highest, holiest, and most important days of the year. Without the Resurrection and the Paschal Mystery of Our Lord there would be no Church and there would be no Christians. Jesus would have been a failed religious leader with some interesting insights, but he would still be in the tomb and we would still be in the darkness of sin and death without the Resurrection. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI put it in the second part of his book on Jesus Christ, “The Christian faith stands or falls with the truth of the testimony that Christ is risen from the dead.” It is precisely those people who deny the Resurrection and look to Jesus as some kind of guru who have completely lost the mystery and truth of the Christian message. The Resurrection is everything for the Christian, without it we would be nothing.
Only if Jesus is risen has anything really new occurred that changes the world and the situation of mankind. Then he becomes the criterion on which we can rely. For then God has truly revealed himself.
Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, 242.
During this Easter season we should meditate on this great mystery and truth of our Faith. Do we truly believe that Jesus Christ, who gave himself in total love and obedience to the Father for us, rose from the dead? Christ asks us this question over and over again throughout our lives as we make choices and battle along the path to holiness. Do we testify that Jesus is Lord? Is he the Lord of our lives? The entire Easter season is about us celebrating that Jesus is risen and is the Lord of all.
The Resurrection is so great a mystery that it can overpower us with awe, wonder, and its sheer magnitude. This is no different from how the first witnesses to Jesus’ Resurrection felt.
What actually happened? Clearly, for the witnesses who encountered the risen Lord, it was not easy to say. They were confronted with what for them was an entirely new reality, far beyond the limits of their experience. Much as the reality of the event overwhelmed them and impelled them to bear witness, it was still utterly unlike anything they had previously known.
The enormity of the Resurrection and the human response has not changed much over the last 2000 years. The Resurrection as an event in history, and of eternity, means that it transcends all time and reaches all people. The Resurrection completely changed the course of history and eschatology both then and now, until the end of time.
The New Testament testimonies leave us in no doubt that what happened in the “Resurrection of the Son of Man” was utterly different. Jesus’ Resurrection was about breaking out into an entirely new form of life, into a life that is no longer subject to the law of dying and becoming, but lies beyond it—a life that opens up a new dimension of human existence. Therefore, the Resurrection of Jesus is not an isolated even that we could set aside as something limited to the past, but it constitutes an “evolutionary leap” (to draw an analogy, albeit one that is easily misunderstood). In Jesus’ Resurrection a new possibility of human existence is attained that affects everyone and that opens up a future, a new kind of future, for mankind.
Even in our understanding of the enormity of the Resurrection, it can be difficult in our culture to follow the liturgical rhythms of the Church. Much like Christmas, at least in Western culture, Easter lasts a single day and then it is business as usual. In the Catholic Church, Easter is a lengthy season at fifty days. In the next few weeks we will walk with the disciples who encountered the risen Lord until his Ascension and then we will await the Holy Spirit’s coming at Pentecost. We have begun living the greatest mysteries of our Faith in the Sacred Triduum and will continue to do so through the Easter season. So how do we keep celebrating when those around us have moved on?
Testify to the Easter season by our lives.
I live in an area where Catholics are a minority. We are about 2% of the population. The day after Easter Sunday, I tend to go out and buy discounted Easter items, especially Easter Lilies. Most people are preparing for next year while I am ramping up to keep the season going until Pentecost. As I went through checkout lines and people noted the good sales to me, I would politely say that I am actually Catholic and it is still Easter for us, so we will be continuing the celebration. It’s a very small thing, but it means that I am sharing the joy of the Resurrection for more than just one day. It also means that my daughter can explain to other people that Easter lasts for weeks and it is glorious to celebrate the Paschal Mystery for an entire season.
Live Easter in our homes.
We can live the spirit of Easter in our homes by keeping them decorated throughout the entire season. The Easter Lilies may not last that long, but depending on where you live you can plant them in your yard and enjoy them for years to come. Icons, pictures, or statues depicting the Resurrection are great reminders of the season. As Catholics we have a deep appreciation for beauty and art that should be celebrated in our homes. If you can’t afford to buy items, then print some depictions of the Resurrection and put them up in your home. Pick up discounted crafts to do with your kids as a way of celebrating each day or do the crafts yourself. Human beings need visual reminders and ques.
Attend daily Mass in the Octave and beyond.
This one may not be an option for everyone. Unfortunately, our parish priest is dying of cancer and so our daily masses have been suspended. Please pray for him. But, for those of you where this is an option, attending daily Mass during the Octave or throughout the Easter season allows you to walk the steps of Jesus and the witnesses to his Resurrection while also receiving Holy Communion. There is no better place to be united to the Glorified Christ than at Mass.
Meditate on the Resurrection in Scripture.
Whether it be the Gospels or the testimony of St. Paul to the Resurrection, spend time meditating on the various Chapters of Scripture related to the Resurrection. We should allow ourselves to go deeper into this great mystery and into the experiences of those who saw the risen Lord. Make Easter the central aspect of prayer during this beautiful season.
If we attend to the witnesses with listening hearts and open ourselves to the signs by which the Lord again and again authenticates both them and himself, then we know that he is truly risen. He is alive. Let us entrust ourselves to him, knowing that we are on the right path. With Thomas let us place our hands into Jesus’ pierced side and confess: My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).
Pray the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary throughout Easter.
One of the greatest meditative prayers we have been given is the Rosary. During Easter, make a point of meditating on the Glorious Mysteries, which focus on the Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost, the Assumption, and the Coronation of Mary. In praying these mysteries, we can walk with our Heavenly Mother through these joyous mysteries of the Faith. We are able to deepen our understanding and unite ourselves to Christ and his Mother in prayer.
It is important for the Mystical Body, ourselves, and the world that we truly live and proclaim Jesus as Lord, as the risen One. The Resurrection has changed everything for every person who has ever lived, is alive today, or will live in the future. Let us learn to live as Resurrection people constantly bringing the Good News and joy we have received to others. It is through Easter and the glorification of Christ that we are saved. Without the Paschal Mystery the world would still dwell in darkness, so we must share the great light of Christ and the Church. Easter is far from over. Let’s share the Resurrection with a Fallen world that is still battling sin and evil. There should be no question of Whom we belong to during this season and throughout the entire year and years of our lives. We must truly let the great mystery of the Resurrection transform our lives, so we can go out into the world and bring all people into conformation with the Most Holy Trinity, which is our mission and task.
“We are an Easter people, and ‘Alleluia’ is our song!”
—St. John Paul II