April 16, 2022 Essay: The Celebration of Eastertide
Have you ever noticed how we sanctify and ritualize our activities in preparation for the celebration of holidays and significant events in our lives? We dare not deviate from the traditions that have been passed down for generations in our families, or, at least, the ones we learned from our parents that have the aura and power of ancestral origins. What I am referring to are the everyday things that take on great importance because of their association with the time-honored, venerable ways we mark an occasion of importance.
We feast on the obligatory hot dogs and hamburgers at our cookouts on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. We lay out a groaning board of food on Thanksgiving Day and make certain there is a selection of pies that will appeal to everyone’s palate. Hold the mincemeat! We wrap birthday, wedding, and Christmas gifts as though we were chiseling the marble of the Pietà. We make certain there are balloons aplenty as we mark the years of our loved ones and include among the birthday candles one that simply refuses to be extinguished. Our little rituals, even the anticipation of them, bring smiles to our faces and warm our hearts as we remember past celebrations where these familiar things had the greatest impact and have now become the requisite essential elements of how to mark occasions when families and friends gather to celebrate.
As I thought about what to write in this essay for Easter Sunday, I reveled in memories of my childhood as my family prepared for Easter. I thought about our cherished rituals. A new dress for my sister and a new suit for me were a given. Heaven knows we needed to wear our Sunday best, as though going to Mass on Easter Sunday in old clothes would be a blasphemous sign of disrespect! Then there was the coloring of eggs that never came out the way I had planned, but they were bright and multi-hued, nonetheless. And oh! those Easter baskets brought to us by the Easter Bunny while we slept, chock full of chocolate bunnies and eggs, jellybeans, and sugary sweets that I jealously guarded when our cousins came to join us for a sumptuous Easter dinner that itself took days of loving preparation. These are the earthly rituals I remember, moments of sheer delight that, for me, became sanctified signs of the grace of Easter.
We take comfort in rituals. They give us a sense of calm certainty. They are a bridge to our individual and collective past and a springboard to the future. We pass them down from generation to generation as treasured family heirlooms. The liturgies of Holy Week, from Palm Sunday through the Easter Vigil, are compelling examples of the force of rituals in our lives. They are filled with meaning. More than mundane, they are ethereal. They unite us in faith, renew our spirits, and bring joy to our souls.
The celebrations of Holy Week and Easter Sunday delight all our senses. It is through the sounds, sights, and fragrances of centuries-old rituals that we experience the wonder of God’s love for us through the suffering, death, and resurrection of God’s Son. On Easter Sunday we savor the realization that our preparations for this day have not been in vain. Our Savior lives! He lives so that we might walk confidently with hope proclaiming the Kingdom of God by the manner in which we live our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ. We celebrate his Resurrection by being fully alive to who we are, created out of love for the glory of God.
Unlike other observances and celebrations in our lives, Easter is not a one-day event, not another instance of “one and done.” How could such a celebration of faith and expression of joy be contained in 24 hours? In fact, Eastertide, the Season of Easter, lasts fifty days, from Easter Sunday through the Solemnity of Pentecost. It is a time to allow the memories of God’s presence in our lives to wash over us, nurture us, and fuel the fire of our love for God and all that God has created. To go to that place of renewal, we often travel into the undiscovered realms of our daily lives where the commonplace meets the transcendent. In those moments, we encounter Jesus at his Resurrection and experience the joy of Easter. Our Savior lives when we walk courageously into the future and truly live what we believe.
May your celebration of Eastertide be filled with an abundance of experiences that bring with them a profound awareness of God’s love for you!
Dennis J. Yesalonia, S.J., Pastor