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Easter: Through the Octave and Beyond!

By Randy Sly
April 10th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

While Easter is a Solemnity and an Octave Feast, it is also a 50-day journey until Pentecost. We continue to remember his resurrection with special devotion. Saint Augustine shares this perspective: "The season before Easter signifies the troubles in which we live here and now, while the time after Easter, which we are celebrating at present, signifies the happiness that will be ours in the future."

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - "I think Catholics enjoy Lent more than Easter. I think we are just more comfortable suffering than celebrating." When a speaker at a Lenten Mission I attended said that, I was taken back. He was trying to offer it as a bit of humor but also stated that there was some truth in it.

This particularly struck me as a convert from Protestantism where, in many denominations and independent churches, Lent is ignored, Good Friday minimized and Easter is a huge celebration often preceded by Cantata season, when the choir presents a special dramatized account of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ.

Even the least liturgically oriented churches implement a time of response at the beginning of the Easter service, shouting "Alleluia! He is risen!" The congregation responds back enthusiastically "He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!"

For many Protestants, Easter is over after the Sunday service. On Monday, it is back to regular routine; one could say they have entered back into ordinary time.

As Catholics, however, we're not finished. We have the eight days - the Octave Easter. For example, in the Office of Morning Prayer the psalms for Easter Sunday are recited each day. We have eight Easters, ending with Divine Mercy Sunday.

While Easter is a Solemnity and an Octave Feast, it is also a 50-day journey until Pentecost. We continue to remember his resurrection with special devotion. But why focus on Easter as a season? Isn't every Sunday a "little Easter?" Don't we commemorate his passion, death and resurrection every day of the year?

Saint Augustine shares this perspective: "The season before Easter signifies the troubles in which we live here and now, while the time after Easter which we are celebrating at present signifies the happiness that will be ours in the future.

"What we commemorate before Easter is what we experience in this life; what we celebrate after Easter points to something we do not yet possess."

The Season of Easter is not just about His resurrection but ours.  St. Maximus of Turin wrote in the 5th Century, "Christ is risen! He has burst open the gates of hell and let the dead go free; he has renewed the earth through the members of his Church now born again in baptism, and has made it blossom afresh with men brought back to life.

"His Holy Spirit has unlocked the doors of heaven, which stand wide open to receive those who rise up from the earth."

How much time do we really spend meditating on or contemplating heaven? Have we read much on the subject? How about the resurrection of the body?

I know that now, as I get older, heaven is taking on a more important aspect in my life. With my "second half of life" growing shorter, I think more about eternity and heaven. Every time my knees creek and my back hurts, I'm thankful that there can come a day when I will have a resurrected body.  This is our Easter hope!

Heaven is not just a place where our souls will float around in some kind of nirvana. The Catechism states, "God will definitely grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls. All will rise: 'Those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment' (Jn 5:29)."

During the season of Easter our particular focus is on a hope beyond this world - a hope that is a great equalizer for those who are infirm or healthy, rich or poor. It is a hope that transcends our current situation with the hope of something better. and eternal!

Anthony DeStefano, in his book "Travel Guide to Heaven" says that any discussion of heaven needs to include fun. "It's a place of unlimited pleasure, unlimited happiness and unlimited joy!"

Now, that's worth think about, worth celebrating and worth telling others.

In the year's Easter Vigil, Pope Benedict declared, "At Easter, on the morning of the first day of the week, God said once again: 'Let there be light.'

"The night on the Mount of Olives, the solar eclipse of Jesus' passion and death, the night of the grave had all passed. Now it is the first day once again - creation is beginning anew. 'Let there be light,' says God, 'and there was light:' Jesus rises from the grave. Life is stronger than death. Good is stronger than evil. Love is stronger than hate. Truth is stronger than lies.

"The darkness of the previous days is driven away the moment Jesus rises from the grave and himself becomes God's pure light. But this applies not only to him, not only to the darkness of those days. With the resurrection of Jesus, light itself is created anew. He draws all of us after him into the new light of the resurrection and he conquers all darkness. He is God's new day, new for all of us."

As we now journey the 50 days to Pentecost, we are walking in the new light - the light of new creation which we each experience through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. We don't have to live out as those who have no hope. Our hope is fixed, our pathway is lit and our voyage is refreshed by resurrection's sun and again underway.

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Randy Sly is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online and the CEO/Associate Publisher for the Northern Virginia Local Edition of Catholic Online (http://virginia.catholic.org). He is a former Archbishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Church who laid aside that ministry to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church.

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