If you’re a fan of long church services, it’s likely you’ve had a very good couple of weeks.
I have been attending the “Big Three” triad of Roman Catholic Holy Week services for a number of years now – meaning the Holy Thursday and Good Friday liturgies, and concluding with the Easter Vigil. When you actually make the commitment to go to all three services, it’s remarkable how fruitful the experience can be. Yes, they’re long, I agree. (The Vigil in particular is infamous in this regard – seven Old Testament readings, the initiation of new catechumens, extended psalm recitations, and various other fun things along the way.) I will admit that my mind drifts. I get tired. I get bored. I get frustrated by the lector who is reciting Genesis at an infuriatingly slow pace. But at some point along the journey I allow myself to sink into the rhythm, and lose myself in this communal remembrance of the events that define us all as Christians – the redemptive suffering, death, and Resurrection of Jesus – and that’s when I realize just how special this time of year is. Every year over the course of this weekend, something happens. It is not just a show, not just a memorial. The theological tradition teaches us that the events of Good Friday and Easter are eternal and always present to us in our liturgies and in our daily lives.
On Easter Sunday every year, Christ rises and conquers death once more.
But wait…what does this mean for us? If we truly believe this radical statement, it’s not something we can take sitting down. This isn’t just an article we read for class, mull over, and then forget about entirely. If Christ rises from the dead, we can never be the same again! All of our busy-ness and tribulations, hopes, dreams, fears and anxieties are transformed by the Resurrection. This changes everything.
Every day that we live, we live as imperfect beings. We fail. We fall. It can be easy to lose hope in ourselves and in others when we realize the great suffering in the world, the suffering that we ourselves contribute to in so many different ways. Our humanity is a noble birthright, but it is a mixed bag – the greatest acts of charity and compassion side by side with our darkest secrets, our deepest regrets. Which side will win? The Resurrection tells us that yes, the good guys do win. Caryll Houselander, a 20th century British author and mystic, phrased it much more nicely than I ever could:
“There is a likeness between the unconquerable life in broken humanity, and that in Christ’s Body. For sin tried to batter life out of the innocent son of God just as it tries to batter it out of the world, taking that perfection, that flawless beauty, and scourging it, and driving it with thorns and spears, bruising it, overloading it… Yet it is in the poorest, the weakest, the frailest, that life triumphs, for when sin had disfigured even the immaculate body of Christ beyond recognition, it was in that same Body, no other, that He rose. In that same Body, with those same wounds, that the risen life began.”
So too will it be with our own bodies, our own troubled lives: salvation can reach us right where we are. Christ’s Resurrection teaches us that hope, joy, and love are not definitions in a textbook, nor are they ideals unattainable in the “real world” – rather, they rise and grow from the very midst of our everyday lives. We can have hope, here and now. We can be joyful, here and now.
We can love, here and now.
I challenge myself and all who may be reading to take this simple fact to heart. Our lives may be busy, stressed, buzzing, complicated, uncertain, but we can still take the time to remember that there is a point to it all. Our lives at Xavier – our classes, clubs, jobs, commitments, career plans – are all part of a grand human adventure of love and hope and faith. And there is a point to it all: the point is Easter.
Michael Petrany is a junior who keeps busy in the CFJ, Residence Life, and various and sundry clubs in whatever free time he can wrestle away from studying Kant and molecular biology. He hails from the mountains of West Virginia and feels vaguely uncomfortable in flat areas that lack his home-state’s inviting topography. His favorite things are God, Battlestar Galactica, and baklava.