How does one write about the joy of the Easter season in the midst of a pandemic? That was the question rattling around my mind for the past few weeks. I don’t want to be a PollyAnna with my head in the sand pretending everything is OK. Everything is not OK. There is real suffering. But I also don’t want to dwell on the negative because that helps no one.
It is important for us to give this season its due because it is the apex of Christianity. Without Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have no chance of eternal life with God. Said Fr. Jean C.J. D’Elbee in I Believe in Love:
“The only real drama is the death of Jesus. All our own dramas are melted into the great drama of Calvary. But that is then followed by His Resurrection and ours.”’
The Pinnacle of Our Faith
So I will attempt to balance between being respectful of the uncertain times and the joyousness of the Easter season. The fifty days from Easter to Pentecost are “characterized by the joy of glorified life and the victory over death, expressed most fully in the great resounding cry of the Christian: Alleluia!” (USCCB)
Yes! Alleluia! These days are to be celebrated as one long, glorious feast. But we start with death because we can only rise if we first die. Memento mori is the consideration of our own death. During a pandemic who among us hasn’t given at least a little more thought to our own demise? It’s going to happen. This is one event we cannot avoid, yet we expend a lot of our resources trying to keep it as far away as possible. Even though we as Catholic Christians believe in heaven, most of us are in no rush to get there.
My husband works with elderly sisters. They are largely unperturbed by this virus because they are OK with their death and ready to go. They have faith that heaven is way better than earth. This is born of a lifetime of Easter seasons. At Easter and during the Easter season, we return to that pinnacle of our faith: Christ’s passion, crucifixion, and resurrection. During Holy Week we immerse ourselves in his suffering. This year especially, we can unite our suffering to his. We let his agony pierce our hearts. We feel the emptiness on Good Friday, the sorrow of knowing our Savior died and not only did he die a horrible, painful, barbaric death, he died because he loves us. He died to expiate our sins.
Dance with Joy!
When God created the world, heaven and earth were united. The pipeline between the two was clear. Adam and Eve enjoyed a loving, comfortable relationship with the Creator. Along galloped sin and that pipeline was destroyed. It was replaced, said St. Catherine of Siena, by an impassable, roaring river. We were unable to cross it on our own. We were separated from God by sin and death. There was no hope. Imagine if that were still the case during this pandemic. People are dying and there is no hope for eternity, just separation from God.
But it’s not like that and that’s why we must rejoice. Jesus’ cross is the bridge that wiped out sin and death. It is the bridge to heaven. It is where our hope comes from.
“Hope is the theological virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.” (CCC 1817)
If only we could forget each year, the splendorous surprise of Sunday, when he rises victorious over death. If we could enter into Holy Week not remembering the happy ending, we could celebrate even more joyfully and genuinely because Easter is a wild feast. We should be dancing in the streets, exclaiming loudly like fools, dizzy in our happiness. Jesus’ resurrection changed everything.
It changed everything. We don’t need to fear our death because Jesus conquered death. Thanks to him we can live in eternal happiness in heaven with our Father.
So how can we be joyful this season? How can we not? Our future has even more question marks than usual. We are holed up in our homes. Some of us have lost jobs. Our cities are ghostly quiet. We don’t know when it will end and what normal is going to look like when it does, but we know that Jesus is risen and we have a whole season of fifty days to celebrate.
Yep, life is confusing right now but we must be a hopeful people. I say we give this season what is due. We celebrate, we feast, we hope, we bask in the love of God and we place our trust in him. Alleluia! He is risen!
Merridith Frediani’s perfect day includes prayer, writing, unrushed morning coffee, reading, tending to dahlias, and playing Sheepshead with her husband and three teenagers. She loves leading small faith groups for moms and looking for God in the silly and ordinary. She blogs and writes for her local Catholic Herald in Milwaukee.