Yes, it’s STILL Easter!

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He looked at me like I was crazy. After I’d paid for my groceries and the cashier had told me to “have a good day,” I smiled at him and said, “Thanks and Happy Easter!” Now this was almost 3 weeks after Easter morning, but it’s still the Easter season for Catholics. This whole “season” thing is something many protestants don’t teach. Catholics and our Orthodox cousins along with a few other churches do. It’s really pretty simple. Easter and Christmas are both so huge for our faith that our celebration of Christ’s Incarnation and Resurrection can’t (and shouldn’t) be contained in a single day. We humans need more than one day to enter into the mysteries of our redemption and immerse ourselves in them. We need time.

The Church understands that and in her wisdom leads us through each year thoughtfully and reflectively, one season at a time. Our Catholic faith is an active and not a passive one. By this I mean that the Church asks us to enter into each celebration of the Mass as informed and engaged participants. We don’t just go to church and get spoon fed. When we understand the events of Christ’s life and ministry more fully we are better disciples. The arrangement of the calendar year into liturgical seasons with feasts and observances proper to each one, we’re more able to put our own lives in step with Christ’s journey through His life.

The liturgical year begins in the late fall with the season of Advent which comprises the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Advent is a time of preparation for Christ’s coming—both at Christmas and at the end of time. We watch, we pray, we confess our sins and ask for His forgiveness. Our culture tends to leap from Thanksgiving (or even Halloween) right to Christmas. We’ve lost our ability to savor the journey to Bethlehem and what it means for us. When Christmas finally does come, our culture forgets the holiday (holy day) as soon as the wrapping paper is cleaned up. The Church reminds us to celebrate and reflect on the mystery of the Incarnation for several weeks more, until the Feast of the Baptism of The Lord in mid-January.

In a similar way, we anticipate Easter by first preparing ourselves during the season of Lent. During the forty days leading up to Jesus’ Passion, Death, and Resurrection, we again enter a time of waiting. We fast, we pray, we help the less fortunate among us. We sacrifice a little in order to share and to give thanks for His great sacrifice of love for us on the Cross. Easter is the baptism of our hearts into the love of Christ. It’s little wonder that the Church formally celebrates the season of Easter for 50 days, until Pentecost. Each Sunday is itself a “little Easter” when we celebrate our new life in Him.

Outside the seasons of Christmas and Easter, of Advent and Lent, the Church reflects and teaches, through the Scripture readings at Mass and the various feasts we celebrate, the events of Jesus’ life and ministry. We read the Gospels, the letters of St. Paul, the history of God’s people in the Old Testament and His unfolding plan for our salvation. Catholics know that the Bible isn’t merely historical but that the mystery of our redemption and salvation is an ongoing event in the present. The time of our faith journey is now, the hour of our salvation is now. Our immersion in the yearly cycles of the liturgical calendar drives this home. We are on a journey through time which will end someday. “Catholic” time is spiraling ever onto that Last Day, with each season leading us closer.

So if someone like me wishes you a “Merry Christmas” in the middle of January or hopes you have a “Happy Easter” a month after you’ve eaten your last jelly bean—just smile and nod. Maybe you’ll be reminded that we’re all on a journey through time. Some of us are on that journey as part of a Church that reminds us every day, at every Mass, that we are creatures caught up in a holy mystery. Seasons come and go, the sun sets and rises again. And through each day, each week, each month, each moment—Jesus lives His life in us. We are never alone.

“He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not weather. In all that he does, he prospers.”
—Psalm 1:3

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