Yes, it is still Easter. Even in Ascensiontide (the ten days after Ascension Day to the eve of Pentecost) we are still in Eastertide (Easter Sunday to Pentecost), so the joyful proclamation of the Resurrection still goes on. If you do not believe me, check the calendar. It’s the Seventh Week of Easter. And as CatholicCulture.org states, “The Fifty days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost are celebrated in joyful exultation as one feast day, or better as one “great Sunday.”
This most glorious time of Easter has been going on for quite a while now, but I wonder if this fact is often overlooked as we hustle through the liturgical year. This thought reminds me of another time in the Church’s year where a tremendous event happens, yet it can be easy to forget that it happened at all a week later in the quest to move forward in both our secular and religious calendars. Think back to Christmas. Of course, we remember how it came with great anticipation, but, just as I wrote in an article for Laudare Outreach Ministries in 2016, during that time of the year “it too often appears that when Christmas Day comes everything seems to be over the next day – even for us Christians.” I went on to say, “Our Lord, the King of the Universe, God Himself, has just made it to His crib, and we are already off to the next thing, celebrating another babe (Baby New Year).” “Even the secular world can be found still ‘celebrating’ Christmas, or at least the ‘holiday season,’” I remarked, “with its gleeful offerings of sales and 50 percent markdowns” after Christmas day has come and went. But the truth is that Christmas Day after the long time of Advent, like Easter after Lent, is only the beginning.
As a side note, I continue to say that Christmas and Easter “stopping”altogether after Jesus has been born or has risen from the dead can be a serious problem among the faithful. After all, there is still Christmastide from the Birth of Jesus to the Feast of His Baptism and Eastertide from His Resurrection to Pentecost (as stated above), so there is still plenty to gaudete and laetare about during these times!
This is all because even in the observance of days, you see how much we Christian people are to be different from the world. Think back a few months ago during Lent. What was your goal or goals? Was it to pray more? Was it to volunteer more? Was it to eat less or give up sweets completely? Whatever it was, these goals and others should have worked to achieve the best and most important goal – the same goal Jesus had during His “40 days of Lent” leading up to before He got to rise again – to die. The world did not observe Lent, and it never will. I remember come mid-Lent, maybe even earlier, the stores already had Easter stuff for purchase. The world and all those who belong to it want the very life that they have to die in order to attain like Christ did. But the world does not want to die. Do we? If yes, then how do we begin to die?
Take a lesson from Lent’s corresponding time of Advent. Advent is a time for preparation, and, though it is also easy to forget, it is also a penitential time for the Church. Since it is both preparatory and penitential we must prepare for the great gift of Christmas by penance – chiefly a penance of waiting.
By our Advent waiting, introspection, and humility in preparation for the great Gift we were about to receive we emptied ourselves out to be filled with that Gift in order to receive the only present we ever really need. We took this lesson with us to Lent, and we began to empty ourselves again, but this time we gave up everything. Not even our very lives were left off the list.
By our Lenten penances and mortifications, we experienced passions leading up to our death at Good Friday with Jesus and our lying in the tomb Holy Saturday with the body of Christ. Since it is Christ who lives in us, we truly died to the world, the flesh, and the Devil. By our Easter celebrations (which continue to now) and the renewal of our baptisms, we have truly been brought back to life – reborn and refreshed to do the work of Christ. When Christ suffered we suffered. When Christ died we died. When Christ rose we rose.
So, we are here. We are living Easter itself. Jesus, though He rose from the dead by His resurrection, is not done with us. The Lord is the God who comes and sticks around. Furthermore, as our liturgical calendar teaches us, Easter didn’t just happen and end on the 1st of April this year and now is over. Easter continues, and even after the Ascension we are still in its midst, the midst of the “time above all to laud Him yet more gloriously.” We are presently living in the week of Easter’s seventh Sunday with a few more days of glory to go until Pentecost. While that will close out Easter liturgically, it shall not and will not close out the Risen Christ in our hearts because, as St. John Paul II once proclaimed “we are an Easter people,” so let us continue with our alleluias!
Given all of what I covered connecting Advent and Christmas to Lent and Easter, where am I going with this and what it does all mean practically for the day-to-day spiritual life of Catholics? Well, I believe the Church’s calendar takes us on a Eucharistic journey in which all the seasons are connected beautifully by what happens on the altar. And what is begun at Christmas matures at Easter and takes us all the way to the Feast of Christ the King. To get at this we must look towards the altar and what enters our bodies as a result of what happens on the altar. When the words of institution are spoken and bread and wine are consecrated into Jesus, the Flesh born on the altar is the same Flesh born at Christmas, the same Flesh that died at Calvary, and the same Flesh that rose from the dead. If “Christmas” means, most fundamentally, the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among men, then “Easter” must mean the Word becoming flesh and lifting men up to dwell with God.
Just as I penned in 2016, “Every time we receive the Eucharist we have the chance to make a manger in our souls for Jesus to dwell, be born, and bring life to our souls. We have the chance to become little “Marys” and hold the incarnate Word within us. By the use of Jesus’s words during the consecration the bread and wine become the very same flesh of the Incarnation and dwells amongst us in the earthen vessels of our bodies. Christmas comes to be, quite literally, in us” with all of the same secrecy and silence, this time behind the appearances of bread and wine. And every time we receive the Eucharist we create a chance for the Risen Lord to descend into the hades of souls and pull out what is good and just sanctifying us as He rescues us out of separation into reconciliation with God. Easter too comes to be quite literally in us as well. Moreover, the New Life of Christmas foreshadows the New Life of Easter birthed at the other time of the liturgical year and even prefigures the greater magnitude of it. The New Life of the Birth of Jesus foreshadows both the New Life of His Resurrection and our New Life gained through faith in Him. Furthermore, the New Life of the Resurrection foreshadows the New Life of the complete resurrection of all life at the culmination of existence itself when all redeemed life is reunited with God at the end of time. Christmas sent Jesus on the way to Calvary, to Good Friday. So Christmas must send us on our way to ours as well – to our suffering passions during Lent, to our deaths on Good Friday, and finally to, if we are faithful to God, our resurrection Easter morning.
If all this is true, we have no other choice but to live the Risen Flesh that we ingest. The Risen Christ appears in the hand of the priest, and then He visits us like He did the 500 witnesses when we come up to receive communion. Then, a Pentecost happens. He endows us the Holy Spirit when we receive the Eucharist and then sends us out to preach, teach, and reach with the Good News of Easter – every Mass – every time. We participate so much in the life of Christ that we too can offer up good sacrifices to the Father – our days, our struggles, our pains, and up to and including our lives because it is Christ who lives in us and not ourselves. It is the will of the Father that Jesus gives Himself totally and defenselessly in the Eucharist, and by His exposition to us He teaches us how to become holy – through submitting ourselves to the will of God out of love for the salvation of souls. The Father sees His Son when He peers at us, and when the perfect Sacrifice is re-presented on the altar and Christ’s life and death are made truly present we die too because we are grafted on to Him as His limbs, but when He rises above the priest’s head we rise up like the shining dawn in the east. We receive the Risen Christ when we receive Him in the Eucharist. So, again, we have Easter in us. Thus, we must not die but live and live more abundantly. Let us not swallow up Christ into a bottomless pit of a soul, but rather let Him rest in a living one rising up to meet God.
From Christmas to Easter, this is the God who comes to us and sticks around. Though He left by His Ascension, He remains with us in tabernacles, the ones made of refined gold and the ones made of redeemed flesh. When it comes to the Christian life lived through the Church’s liturgy, this is the God who foreshadows and plants the seeds at Christmas. This is the God who brings what we have received to maturity making it truly alive at Easter. This is the God who takes off the training wheels and appears to leave at the Ascension yet still remains with us like the Sun in the sky. This is the God who enriches us by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost for the Father’s work and charges us to bear fruit. This is the God who blesses us with the grace of time for growth in order to bear that very fruit during Ordinary Time. And at the end of the Church’s year leading to that great feast of Christ’s eternal and all-encompassing Kingship, the God who came and the God who stayed comes again to collect and enjoy the harvest of souls!
This post is a renewed adaptation of a 2017 article written for Laudare Outreach Ministries: