Miriam Hogan, O.C.D.
How does one prepare for entering into the Easter mysteries? Who can we listen to concerning such sacred matters? Where in our busy society do we find the time, the peace and the courage to ask the profound questions concerning Life/Death/Resurrection …much less to allow these mysteries to become part of our lived consciousness?
In this article I would like to suggest that Easter is best understood and appreciated by those who have experienced suffering and loss in their lives. Further, that Easter experiences are usually subtle and not easily explained or interpreted with our usual means of communication. For example, we have the post Resurrection scripture stories of Mary Magdalen, who first thought Jesus was a gardener, and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus who asked, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened these days?” (Lk 24:18)
The Voice Of God Deep Within
In these two examples from scripture, I think that we have an important clue as to how to proceed to deepen our understanding of the sacred mysteries. Perhaps at this time we are invited to let go of many sources of noise, even those that are good, and to listen carefully to the voice of God deep within our being calling our name. Simply put, this means we have to pause and stop talking, even to God. For it was not in talking that Mary Magdalen recognized the Lord but in hearing him call her name. Also, it was not in talking that the disciples recognized the Lord but in the “breaking of the bread.”
Hence, we are invited to a special kind of relationship that puts words aside in favor of recognizing the presence of the Word among us. Indeed, a traditional Orthodox Easter greeting states: “Christ is Risen and walks among us!”
We also know that St. Teresa would often see the Risen Christ after she received communion. Rev. Eamon Carroll observed: “The Jesus, whose name became attached to Teresa’s when she chose to be known as Teresa of Jesus at her first foundation of St. Joseph, is the triumphant victorious Christ of the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Eucharist.”1
Teresa advised that everyone can keep the Risen Jesus present in their lives and in their prayers. It is not even necessary to know a lot of theology. In fact that can be a hindrance! She tells us that if all we can do is say an Our Father or Hail Mary, that is enough. “For Teresa, contemplation is not an escape from the body, not evasion, but the concentration of all the faculties on the person of the Risen Jesus.”2
The Fullness Of Human Life
Further, I think that as we ourselves, experience the fullness of human life3 which includes suffering, loss, sickness and pain as well as growth, strength, health and fulfillment, we can of ourselves (as St. Teresa says) be mindful of the sacred humanity of Christ who also experienced these realities as well as Resurrection and Glory. For it is to the wholeness of the Christ life that we are called, and that we can, in faith, experience the presence, the deep peace and joy given to us by the Risen Lord in the now of life’s present moment.
One day, prior to a baby’s baptismal ceremony in the family, some one asked: “What is the highest thing that one can be in the Catholic Church …a pope?” “No!” my quick witted younger sister replied: “A Saint. But first, one has to be dead!” We laughed at the time, but now that many years have passed, and the baby has grown to an adult, we gratefully recall again in our own lives both the baptismal privilege of sharing in the priesthood of Christ, and the promise of sharing in Christ’s Resurrection.
Time passes, and over the years, we as family have experienced the illness and death of our parents and of many who were close to us. Still, the Easter mystery, which encompasses life/death/resurrection, brings us a fresh encounter and understanding of the Communion of Saints to which we are called by our Baptism.
Returning to the example of Mary Magdalen, St. Teresa noted that by the Paschal Mystery, in which “we enter into the dying and rising of Christ, we enter into union with God...[The same is true] with the Lord’s words to the glorious Magdalen that she go in peace.”4 Indeed, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, for us it is a matter of growing in awareness of the presence of Christ who is always present to us and who desires to gift us in this life with His glorious post-Resurrection gifts of peace and love. It is His peace that the world cannot take away and it is His love that sanctifies bread and wine and changes them into His body and blood.
Finally, unable to further describe such realities, we respond “Christ is Risen, Alleluia!” and await the refrain from the community: “He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!, Alleluia!”
1 & 2Cf: Carroll, Rev. Eamon R. The Saving Role of the Human Christ for St. Teresa http://www.catholic.net/rcc/Periodicals/Dossier/MARAPR99/saving.html
3Ibid., The comment of Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. is: “The purification of the human person is realized not merely through the sufferings inherent to the human condition but especially through contact with the person of Christ in his humanity and divinity”
Easter Articles | contents page