06 May 2024

Living Easter

Archbishop O'Regan crop Photo Nat Rogers-46.jpg

The Southern Cross | May 2024

For some, Easter is a day. For us it is a season. For St Augustine it is a sacrament.

We have grown accustomed to doing that little bit more during Lent: becoming more charitable; hollowing out our small-heartedness and enlarging the space therein for God, for others, our best self and the whole of creation. We join in deeper prayer, we fast from criticism, and feast on praise.

Easter snuck up on us this year. It was early. Hardly had we finished the Christmas season and bang, straight into Lent. The annual retreat getting ready for Easter took on a little more urgent tone.

Numbers of catechumen were up this year. Frantic efforts to get ready for Easter Vigils all around the Diocese occurred apace. Expectant hearts thirsting for the living God beamed as the living waters of baptism cascaded over them, welling up to eternal life.

Baptismal promises were renewed, candles re-lit, faith renewed; we turned away from sin and turned, once again, towards God. We pledged to live not by our own light, but rather by the light of Him who rose from the dead. We summoned the courage to say, ‘Lord, in your light we see light’. We summoned the courage to look away from ourselves, to the one who has embraced sin and death, and by doing so has extinguished them. We dared to believe that what God has done for Jesus, he does for us, giving us a dignity and a destiny.

Lent and Easter occur in Australia during autumn. That time between the intensities of summer and winter; that time that gentles the harshnesses of life and puts things into perspective.

Yet somehow, we have yet to learn how to live Easter. We know that we are Easter people; we know that our song is Alleluia, yet we are given 50 days to unpack what that means.

We know that no one saw Jesus rise from the dead: the soldiers guarding the tomb; the disciples locked in their homes; the Scribes and Pharisees conspiring with Pilate.

The greatest event since the foundation of the world went unnoticed. In the stillness and silence Jesus rose from the dead triumphant over sin and death. No-one saw it happen. To Mary Magdalene weeping at the tomb, the Apostles locked behind closed doors; to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and to Peter on the shore of the sea of Galilee, the Risen Lord appeared.

Easter had to be that way to teach us that when we don’t see the Risen Lord, he is still with us. In our daily lives, in moments of suffering and trials such as we are undergoing at the moment, Jesus is with us, He is Risen, he does not abandon us.

The calm of Easter has been shattered with events such as the shocking stabbings in Sydney and seemingly unending war and violence around the world.

This year, surrounded with such uncertainty, cloistered in the haven of our own homes, we have entered the Paschal Mystery. We join our suffering and sorrows with Jesus’ own suffering and death knowing that he has smashed the gates of hell, and he has been raised from the dead.

The Lord is truly Risen and he offers us hope; he comes to us wherever we are, in our fears and uncertainty. His pierced hands embrace us, upholding us close to his hearts that we can feel his love and not lose faith. He comes that we might have life and have it in abundance.

The season of Easter is a training ground not for another season as is Lent, but rather for being missionary disciples, on the road together, together with the Risen One who is our true light.

Easter teaches over its week-of-weeks to place our trust in God: to live by His light.

At the Easter Vigil the Easter Proclamation is sung after a procession with the Paschal Candle before the beginning of the Liturgy of the Word. It is a lengthy sung proclamation delivered before the paschal candle. It is called by its Latin title, the Exultet.

A few phrases from it are:

‘O wonder of your humble care for us!
O love, O charity beyond all telling,
to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!
O truly necessary sin of Adam,
destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!
O happy fault
that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!’

‘The sanctifying power of this night
dispels wickedness, washes faults away,
restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,
drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.’

Might I suggest for the remaining days of Easter you might take some time to pray through this dazzling prayer. It helps us to live the Easter season.

Once again, I wish you and all your family the joy and the peace and the hope of a happy and Blessed 50 days.

God is good, good indeed.

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