NGUYEN: Savoring the Easter joy
May 24, 2022
(TCH file photo)
Over the years, Easter has become commercialized. This has spoiled the true reason of the season: the celebration of Jesus’ Passover from death to life to save mankind from their sins. While people around the world, even non-Christians, enjoy celebrating the festivities of Easter, Catholics solemnly and festively observe it as the most important feast in the liturgical calendar.
Certainly, Easter completes the joy given at Christmas. On Christmas Day, Jesus becomes man and dwells amongst us. At the Eastertide, our cause of joy is escalated and completed in the resurrection of Jesus.
In fact, our unutterable Easter joy cannot be confined to just one day: the Church has stretched it to 50 days. The eight days following Easter Sunday are known as the Easter Octave.
According to the liturgist Adolf Adam, the Easter Octave was originally for the newly baptized, or neophytes, to unfold fully the mysteries of faith, particularly the Sacraments of initiations which they just had received at the Easter Vigil. Henceforth, the Liturgy of the Octave was slowly developed and assumed its present form.
On each day of the Easter Octave, the Liturgy dwells on the joyful mysteries of the resurrection of Christ and our own resurrection through the Sacrament of Baptism.
The encounter between Mary Magdalene and Jesus outside the empty tomb (Jn. 20:11-18) seems fascinating to me. While meditating on this scene, my mind was struck by the dynamic change in Mary Magdalene’s feelings: from sadness and sorrow to happiness and excitement because of Christ’s crucifixion to resurrection.
Mary Magdalene was not only the first to see the risen Christ, but she was also the first to bring the Easter joy to the disciples. Jesus knew the women’s testimony did not count during the first century, but He still entrusted her to share and announce the Good News to His disciples. By selecting her, Jesus ushered in a cultural change, namely, that all can meet Jesus and all are called to be bearers of the Easter joy to others.
On the last day of the Easter Octave, great joy and comfort were granted to me as I was reflecting on the Gospel of John 20:19-31. I found myself in that locked room along with the disciples, pervaded by fear and guilt: fear because the disciples saw Jesus’ cruel passion and death by the Jews and Romans; guilt because they ran away from Jesus’s brutal scourging. Suddenly, in a dark, quiet and gloomy place, Jesus stood in our midst.
With mercy and compassion, Jesus comforted us by saying “Shalom,” or “Peace” in Hebrew.
For Jesus, “Shalom” means more than just a common greeting of peace; it is the gift of reconciliation. Jesus knew well how distressed and devastated the disciples were after all had happened.
All He cared for was to restore their well-being… physically, psychologically and spiritually. I found myself rejoicing with the disciples and believing that I, too, am restored from my shame and sinfulness, particularly at every Mass when Jesus’s “Shalom” is imparted through the priest, “The Peace of the Lord be with you,” right before the sign of peace moment which we offer each other. Since then, I have taken up the challenge not to miss that opportunity during future Masses, so to absorb the invaluable gift of Jesus’ true peace and forgiveness.
Truly, the celebration of Easter around the world is a powerful message that God is not dead, as Nietzsche claimed. Indeed, He has risen! Let us rejoice and be glad.
Sister Maria Goretti Thuy Nguyen, OP, is an associate director with the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.