…I command you: Awake, sleeper, I have not made you to be held a prisoner in the underworld. Arise from the dead; I am the life of the dead. Arise, O man, work of my hands, arise, you who were fashioned in my image. Rise, let us go hence; for you in me and I in you, together we are one undivided person.” ~Reading from an ancient homily for Holy Saturday
I’ve always thought that we get gypped a little bit as Catholics – that the fasting lasts for 40 long and solemn days, but the feasting only really lasts for one week. I fully realize that liturgically the Easter Season lasts for 50 days following Easter, culminating with Pentecost, but I’m talking about the fact that after that first glorious week(end?) of Easter, we go back to the same old same old.
We certainly still have our sufferings and crosses. Our burdens didn’t magically disappear because Christ rose from the dead. We still struggle with cancer, depression, famine, war, infertility, financial hardships, difficult marriages, etc. Easter doesn’t (normally) change the physical circumstances of our lives. Perhaps we can forget about them for a while as we celebrate, but the reality of our crosses slams back into our faces when the feasting stops.
Yet, are we really the same?
My husband and I discussed suffering the other day, and how much “easier” it is to suffer when you’re in the right frame of mind. We both agreed that suffering can be tolerated, or even embraced, when we know there will be an end to it – that it will not last forever. We talked about how something happens psychologically to us both when we know that we will heal, despite the pain still being present, and that change in perspective helps to make the suffering less painful sometimes, and even a joy.
Perhaps this is the gift that Easter is to us? The gift of a different perspective for our lives here on earth, which will always be full to the brim with suffering and want. On earth we will always be a ‘have-not’ people. We will always be hungry and thirsty, full of failures, resentments, pains, needs and unrest. But Easter reminds us that things don’t end there – WE don’t end there. With Christ’s descent into Hell to awake all the sleepers there, and then his subsequent Resurrection from the dead, He gives us the promise of a New Hope and a New Life, one that we won’t necessarily see right away. He will not let us languish, “a prisoner of the underworld”. Christ is the “life of the dead”. We were fashioned in his image and we are in him, and he is in us! Oh joy of all joys!
We aren’t the same, and we never will be. We are promised life, happiness, prosperity, love, joy and immense satisfaction for all eternity. Yet it is our crosses that lead us on the road to that New Life – just like the cross, the “victorious weapon”, was Jesus’ road to his resurrection.
It’s all so contradictory, isn’t it – life being so closely linked to death, pain with joy, suffering with prosperity – but it’s the type of contradiction that only makes sense in and because of Our Lord’s Passion and Resurrection. We can hold this contradiction close to our hearts as we continue in our daily struggles, knowing that it – He – gives us that precious Hope which whispers encouragement to us and eventually ushers us into the dawn of a New and Glorious Life with God.
“But arise, let us go hence. The enemy brought you out of the land of paradise; I will reinstate you, no longer in paradise, but on the throne of heaven. I denied you the tree of life, which was a figure, but now I myself am united to you, I who am life. I posted the cherubim to guard you as they would slaves; now I make the cherubim worship you as they would God.”
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