Skip to comments.Easter Reflections -- 50 Days of the Easter Season
Posted on 03/27/2005 8:35:18 PM PST by Salvation
Easter Reflections -- 50 Days of the Easter Season
Let everyone fast for the 40 days of Lent, the early Church writers urge, but let no one fast during the 50 days of Easter.
The Easter Season is the Churchs most ancient and beautiful season. For the next 50 days until Pentecost, in the Sunday Gospels, well find the Risen Christ by a lakeshore on a mountain top coming through closed doors. The Paschal Candle will burn brightly in our church as we, like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, feel our hearts burning within us and experience the fire of his love.
Now, a new resolution may be in order not a Lenten resolution, but one for the rest of the year. To keep to your pattern of six minutes of prayer every day.
Through these postings, you have been experiencing one of our oldest traditions of prayer called Lectio Divina holy reading. You may have discovered that the Lord talks to you, personally , through the words of Scripture.
Now is the perfect time to think about making this a regular part of your day.
Give it some thought.
There are two posts for each day. The second one each day (except Sundays) is the key to the daily reflection. Well walk through Lukes resurrection narrative and on into the first part of his Acts of the Apostles.
The first post is different. Its like a buffet table with information about the Easter Season, or various traditions and customs, or the saint whose feast is celebrated on that particular day.
On Sundays there will be a reflections basked on the days Gospel reading.
Start with either post, as you wish. The main thing is to spend some quiet time (6 minutes) in prayer each day.
It is in us to pray. We were made for it, and were physically healthier and happier when we pray. Its been said that when we begin praying regularly, coincidences begin happening.
But sometimes its hard to find a time and a place for prayer. These little posts will give you a time and a place.
Six minutes right here on your screen! Access it anywhere!
On Monday, March 28, we will begin walking through Lukes resurrection narratives.
Lukes Resurrection Narratives
Now, after the long narrative of Jesus crucifixion and burial, comes the resurrection.
No one knows exactly when Christs resurrection took place, only that it was sometimes between his burial late of Friday and the discovery of the empty tomb early Sunday morning. There were no eyewitnesses to describe the resurrection itself. Instead, there are descriptions of appearances of the Risen Lord after the resurrection.
The account of the Passion is one continuous narrative, very similar in all four Gospels. Not so with the narratives of the resurrection appearances. There are isolated scenes and, while there are some similarities, each Gospel has its own stories to tell.
Lukes Gospel account can be divided into five episodes all taking place on Easter Sunday:
(1) the finding of the empty tomb at dawn.
(2) the appearance of the Risen Christ to two disciples walking to Emmaus.
(3) the appearance to the disciples gathered in Jerusalem.
(4) the commissioning of these disciples to witness and preach in his name.
(5) the end of the visible appearances as Christ.
The Last Chapter of Lukes Gospel
At daybreak on the first day of the week the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb; but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. Luke 24:1-3
One of the most familiar phrases in the Apostles Creed is We believe in the resurrection of the body.
Resurrection is not the same as resuscitation (the act of reviving from apparent death or unconsciousness.) This human existence isnt simply continued. Its transformed. This human existence, which for some may not have been so good at all which may have been plagued by mistakes or just bad breaks this human existence will be transformed into something magnificent. The seed will blossom into what it was meant to be.
Thats why the crucifixion means so much. The body that was put in the tomb was a wreck broken, beaten, bloody, ruined. But Jesus went through death to a new transformed, impossible-to-describe human life. On Friday he was a wreck, and on Sunday this broken body was glorious.
We believe in the resurrection of the body. Thats my body were talking about.
Lukes Two Volumes
The New Testament is a collection of 27 books. Luke wrote two of them, which together make up over one-quarter of the entire New Testament.
Volume I: Lukes Gospel, which tells the story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Volume II: The Acts of the Apostles, which tells the story of the Holy Spirit guiding the young Church
The bridge between the two is the resurrection of Christ, and the pouring of his Spirit upon his people. These events flow into one another and are described at the end of Lukes Gospel and the beginning of Acts.
While the women were puzzling over this, behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them. They were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground. Luke 24:4-5
The dazzling garments suggest the other-worldly character of these two men. When the two disciples on the way to Emmaus later talk about this incident, they will say that the women reported that they had seen a vision of angels.
At the beginning of Lukes Gospel an angel explained to shepherds about the birth at Bethlehem.
Now, at the end of Lukes Gospel, angels will explain to these women what happened at Calvary. What happened there was also a birth.
The birth of Jesus at Bethlehem brought joy. His terrible death at Calvary to everyones surprise also brought joy.
God seemed absent during the crucifixion, but God was very much present. Through it God brought about a new day, a new time in history, an unprecedented continuing presence of the Spirit on this earth.
Through the resurrection and sending of the Spirit, God is present and active in our world in a new way.
God is present and active in my life now, and will be all day. Today, what I need to do is turn off the mute button and listen to God's voice as He speaks to me.
Like right now.
The Ancient Easter Season
Records show that, besides celebrating Easter Sunday, an Easter Season of 50 days was celebrated as far back as the beginning of the third century. There was to be no fasting or kneeling. It was not a time for penitential practices. It was a time to exult in Gods goodness.
Why is the Easter Season so long? Because the resurrection is just too big and too important to celebrate in only one day, or even one week.
Why 50 days not 10 or 20? Because the Jewish feast of Pentecost occurred 50 days after Passover, and this 50-day stretch between Passover and Pentecost was already in place.
For Christians, it became no longer simply a time between two Jewish feasts. It became one great feast, the longest feast ever. They called it one great Sunday. They also called it a week of weeks because it lasted seven weeks.
They said to them, Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day. Luke 24:5-7
The message of the angels is clear: Jesus is the living one.
Jesus didnt come to have a deadening effect upon the world, or upon anything. He came to bring life Gods life. This life isnt something that switches on after we die. It pulses within us now. Paul put it clearly.
If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you. (Rom 8:11)
The Christian way of life has its challenges, but it is never meant to be dull, listless, blank, stale, flat.
Thats something worth remembering, especially on a bad day.
Gods life Gods own life is pulsing within me.
Now. This very moment.
The Easter Outfit
In the early days of the Church, adults baptized at Easter emerged from the baptismal waters and changed into new clothes their baptismal robes. These were not ritual-type robes, but fine clothes expressing their new life.
It was customary to wear the baptismal clothes throughout the Easter Season to dress up as proud members of the Lords disciples.
It was this practice that gave rise to the custom of getting new clothes for Easter.
Mystagogia means to go deeper into the mysteries. i.e. the truths of the faith. It is an ancient custom of spending the first week of Easter with the newly baptized, helping them experience the depths of the truths they had accepted in their baptism, confirmation and Eucharist.
And they remembered his words. Then they returned from the tomb and announced all these things to the eleven and to all the others. Luke 24:8-9
These women were among the disciples of Jesus that Luke described back in the eighth chapter
Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities. Mary called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herods steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources. (8:2-3)
Luke then describes how Jesus began to tell his disciples that he would suffer, die, and rise from the dead. These women had heard all this, but they dont really understand. The angels had to remind them.
The Scriptures, the truths of our faith, our customs and traditions arent brand new to us. But we need angels to remind us of their meaning, to help us see them with fresh eyes, and take them into the changing circumstances of our lives.
Going over the same truths is not like going around in circles. It is more life a spiral staircase. We are in a different place every time we come around again, and we see familiar truths from a new perspective.
There are truths we learned as children that are worth turning over in our minds time and again. There is a god. God loves me. God cares for me. God will take me through death to the other side. God will take me through today.
In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII introduced the new Gregorian Calendar for the Christian world (which is still used today), and the New Year fell on January 1. Some people either didnt know about the change or refused to follow the new calendar and continued to celebrate the New Year on April 1. People played tricks on them and called them April Fools.
Peter, along with his brother Andrew, was part owner of a fishing business. His name was Simon, but Jesus renamed him Rock. It was not a word used at that time as a proper name. Jesus coined it for him. (The Greek word for rock is petros from which his name has passed into most other languages.)
After the resurrection Peter emerges as the leading figure in the Church at Jerusalem.
According to ancient tradition, he eventually went to Rome, became the leader of the Christians there, and was martyred during Neros persecution (64 or 65 A.D.). Early writers tell of his being killed by crucifixion, and that he asked to be put on the cross upside down since he was not worthy to imitate so closely the death of Christ.
Testimony from the end of the second century indicates that he was buried on Vatican Hill. Constantine built a church there in the fourth century and the present St. Peters Basilica was built on the same site in the 16th century. Recent excavations beneath the main altar revealed an honored grave there, and the bones (dating to the first century) are thought to be those of Peter.
The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; the others who accompanied them also told this to the apostles, but their story seemed like nonsense and they did not believe them. Luke 24:10-11
Can you beat that? These women disciples report what happened and the apostles dont believe them. Because they were women? Well, in Johns Gospel, Thomas wouldnt believe the male disciples who had seen the Risen Lord.
We dont live in a culture that automatically supports our faith. Our decision to believe in Christ is more radical than it seemed 50 years ago. The theologigian Karl Rahner said that faith today requires the lonely courage of the first century martyr.
In the end our faith can only be based, not on what others tell us not on indoctrination not on public opinion not on reasoned arguments not on second-hand date but on our own firsthand experience of God.
This is not something that we accomplish. We must simply open ourselves to receive it as a gift when it comes usually in prayer, but other times too.
My own firsthand experience of God?
Feast of St. Francis of Paola
Today is the feast of St. Francis of Paola, the patron saint of sailors. Born in 1416, his parents named him after St. Francis of Assisi. At 14, he decided to become a hermit. Over the years, others were attracted to his austere lifestyle, and eventually he founded a community which became known as the Franciscan Friars, meaning the least of all religious.
Many centuries later, a cloistered community of monks in the Bavarian Alps produced a heavy, dopplebock beer to sustain them through Lenten fasting. Today, Munichs Paulaner brewery derives its name from that monastery which was dedicated to St. Francis of Paola.
But Peter got up and ran to the tomb, bent down, and saw the burial cloths alone; then he went home amazed at what had happened. Luke 24:12
The Greek word here translated amazed might also be translated. he went home wondering at what had happened. Luke uses the same word several times throughout his Gospel:
After the birth of Jesus, when Simeon took the child in his arms and spoke of his destiny, Joseph and Mary were amazed/wondering at what was said about him.
When, at the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus spoke in the synagogue at Nazareth, all were amazed/wondering at the gracious words that came from his mouth.
When Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee, the disciples were filled with awe and amazed/wondering
We should allow ourselves to experience the wonder of the truths we hold. The last words of the prayer said over those being confirmed are: Fill them with the spirit of wonder and awe in your presence.
We need to enjoy the wonder and awe of the truths about our God: There is a God. God became part of the human family. Christ died, rose, ascended. Christ sends his Spirit upon us.
These are colossal truths. Someone who never heard of them before would say, You believe what?! In this Easter Season, we spend 50 days stepping back and experiencing the wonder and awe of the truths weve gotten used to.
Take the passage, above, and walk home with Peter as he thinks, ponders, wonders, is filled with amazement.
The Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation (sometimes mistakenly called the Book of Revelations) was written about 95 A.D. for Christians living in the part of the Roman Empire that is modern-day Turkey. The Roman emperor had ordered his subjects to worship him as a god. When the Christians resisted, they were persecuted.
The author of the Book of Revelation, intending to encourage these persecuted Christians, vividly describes visions of how God would overcome the evils they faced, and ultimately all evil.
Because of these visions and the symbolic language used, many people read the Book of Revelation as though it gives secret information about future events, including the end of the world. But the Book of Revelation was not intended to give coded messages about actual people and events in later times. The author was only concerned about the people and events at that time, and was given no privileged information about the future.
Yet the Book of Revelation is timeless because whatever time in history, it is the same struggle between good and evil, and the same God.
This is an unusual time in the liturgical year. The only Old Testament reading that is used at Mass is from a Psalm.
In todays Gospel, belief is a main theme Jesus urges Thomas to be believing, not unbelieving, and the author also urges us to believe.
For many years now, people have been drifting away from regular Mass attendance. People speculate on the reasons for this and there is probably a combination of reasons. But one possibility is: They dont believe any more, or at least their belief has weakened.
It may be harder to believe today because of the conditions of society. For a long time, people took faith for granted. We assumed that we all believed in God, and Jesus Christ, and life after death. We spent our time talking about what we do, not what we believe.
We need to take a hard look at our faith, because we cant take faith for granted. Faith is a gift of God, but it takes participation, courage and conviction to believe. You have to take a risk. You have to think about faith and reflect on it. You have to be attentive to it and wrestle with it.
Belief gives color and meaning to life and to death, and even to suffering. When you have faith, you are no longer dealing with a flat, dull world. It is luminous with the presence of God, and holds the promise of a destiny in Gods hands. It brings life and verve to our existence. And it is always within reach of everyone.
Dont ever take belief for granted. Think about it. Theres more to faith than simply coming to Mass, but, my, how it helps to gather at Eucharist. This is where we experience Gods presence in a unique way.
Its where we come together with other people who honestly admit their belief.
Feast of the Annunciation
For nearly 1,500 years Christians have celebrated the Annunciation on March 25. Besides being nine months before Christmas, it is also the time of the year when daylight gradually increases appropriate for the feast celebrating the conception of the Light of the World.
This year, however, because March 25 was Good Friday, the Church transferred the Annunciation to today, Monday of the Second Week of Easter.
A popular artistic portrayal of the Annunciation hangs in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Created by African American artist Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937), it depicts a simply-dressed Mary sitting on her bed, with the angel Gabriel represented as a column of light.
Tanner was the son of a Methodist bishop. A self-taught painter, he specialized in biblical themes.
|The Annunciation, 1898
by Henry Ossawa Tanner
(American, born 1859, died 1937)
Oil on canvas
57 x 71 1/4 in.
Excerpt from the back of the poster
This painting is an unusual version of one of the oldest themes in European art, the Annunciation (which means announcement). In this New Testament Bible story, the angel Gabriel tells Mary that she will become the mother of Jesus. Traditional paintings of the Annunciation show Mary wearing fancy blue robes and seated in a European palace or cathedral, as she listens calmly to an angel with glorious wings and a halo
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