One of the reasons I love being Catholic is that our church knows how to party. Most people think Easter is over now. For Catholics we’re just getting started. We start with the “Octave” meaning that Easter itself is 8 days long. Every day until the Sunday afterwards is considered a feast day. That includes no fasting from meat on Friday. I tell the school kids they have to eat Easter candy every day of the Octave. The more they invested in the fasting of Lent, the more they enjoy the feasting of Easter. And then we get the Easter Season all the way until Pentecost. You fast for 40 days; you feast for 50. Not a bad trade-off.
The Church is trying to teach us about the Paschal Mystery. It takes its name from the Jewish Passover (“the Pasch”). Jesus sacrificed himself at the Last Supper and on the Cross, then rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. Death, when it is offered as a sacrifice, leads to Resurrection. The death-and-resurrection-of-Jesus is known as the Paschal Mystery. It is the central mystery of our Catholic faith.
It also becomes the lens through which we see the world. Seeds fall to the ground and “die”, then they “rise” to a great harvest. The Sun “dies” and “rises” every day. At marriage two people “die” to themselves and “rise” as one flesh. A mother “dies” as she goes into labor and then “rises” when she holds her new baby. An alcoholic who wants t to change must “die” to his old way of life and “rise” as a new life of sobriety. A father dies to himself every time he sacrifices for his family, and new life rises from his sacrifices. The world “dies” in the winter and then “rises” again at spring time.
You don’t have to wait until next year to celebrate Easter again. In fact, every Sunday is a little Easter. Christians gather to celebrate the Resurrection. We literally believe that the Risen Lord joins us for Mass every Sunday anywhere in the world. It’s a time to praise God and to prepare for Eternity. It’s also a great way to reflect on the week and put first things first again. Just as every Sunday is a little Easter, so every Friday is a little Good Friday. This is why we give up meat on Fridays or do another small penance. You “die” a little each Friday and “rise” a little each Sunday. The week bears the marks of the Paschal Mystery.
Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.
It’s not just the weekend. Every day is a little dying and rising. Going to bed is like death. That’s why bedtime prayers traditionally include the Act of Contrition. You prepare for death by asking God pardon for the sins of the day. You “die” to your old self. You rise in the morning to a new day and a new you. Morning prayers are full of praise and also pray for a fresh start. A little death leads to new life.
The more you look, the more you see the Paschal Mystery everywhere. These daily, weekly, and yearly deaths and resurrections start to add up to the great Paschal Mystery of our lives. Our life can become one great sacrifice of love. A lifetime of “dying” leads to an eternity of Easter. Not a bad trade-off, huh? As you enjoy your Easter feasting, just remember: the best is yet to come.