ORLANDO | We are more than two weeks into what is known as the Eastertide, the 50 days between Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It is a time of rejoicing in the promise of eternal life, which looks forward to Christ’s presence in us through the Holy Spirit. Are you feeling the joy? Does each new day in quarantine fill you with hope? As you don your mask and gloves to go to the grocery store, do you want to spread the joy of the living Christ to all that surround you? This exuberance is what Easter Tide asks of Christians.
In Bishop John Noonan’s recent Easter message, he addressed the ambivalence and doubt that seeks to steal that joy. “Where is your faith? Do you not believe?” he asked. “Faith is the glorious joy of knowing the Lord God without being able to see or touch Him. It can grow deeper day by day or it will shrivel and die, depending upon our attentiveness to the One in whom we commit our faith, our triune God.” These are trying times, but circumstances do not deny that He is Risen; He is risen indeed!
Father Blake Britton, parochial vicar of St. Mary Parish in Rockledge, acclaimed, “The source of joy is always Jesus Christ and our awareness of His being with us.” Noting, “Through His Cross, Jesus suffers the most horrible reality imaginable; the death of God. But, He takes this tragedy and transforms it into a cause of hope; the glory of the Resurrection. The same is true for any negative situation of our lives. Jesus can take things that are hurtful, worrisome or difficult and make them avenues of grace. He truly ‘makes all things new’ (Rev. 21:5). With that in mind, the first response to any stressful scenarios in our lives must be prayer. We have to surrender the situation to the Lord and trust He can make us holier through it, even if we do not see how in the moment.”
To help us recall our union with those feeling Christ’s absence after His crucifixion, then joining Him in the Resurrection, The Directory of Popular Piety and the Liturgy suggests praying the Stations of Light, recalling post-resurrection events. Originally known in the first century as the Via Lucis, or Way of Resurrection, the devotion formalized in the last decade, invites followers to accompany Christ in the days following the Resurrection, until Pentecost. This too can be a tool helping us to focus on the glory and joy of a risen savior who has “overcome the world”.
Bishop Noonan suggests that now, more than ever perhaps, the effort must be made to celebrate these 50 days as did our ancestors. “No longer afraid to proclaim who we are, Easter is the season of hope,” he noted. “We find that hopefulness in the telling of the early Church and we recognize the signs of a community of faith: teaching, fellowship, Communion, and prayer.”
Recalling the early Church, Father Britton added, it was the ancient Church Father Tertullian who claimed: “The Blood of the Martyrs is the seed of the Church.” He emphasized, “Our faith is one hewed from the perseverance of tribulation. … Catholicism shines brightest in the dark. When civilization’s back is against the wall, Mother Church is always there to provide her wisdom and inspire fortitude.” It is that fortitude he asks of those catechumens can candidates awaiting to receive the Sacraments. Father Britton reminds them, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder. Unite your hearts with the thousands of catechumens from the ancient Church who had to await their own Baptism due to the Roman persecution. Allow this to be a time of deepening desire; a time to grow in a deeper appreciation of the great gift that you are about to receive.
“It is at times like these, especially during this COVID-19 crisis, when saints are made,” he said. “I am reminded of a wonderful quote from The Lord of the Rings when Frodo is discussing his fate with Gandalf: ‘Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened. Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.’ These words just as easily apply to our current situation. What is ours to decide is what to do with the time we have been given. Let’s choose holiness!”
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic April 28, 2020