It was quite a journey for me, considering that when I left the Catholic Church as a young woman, I never imagined wanting to return. Everything is still fresh to me, as though I'm seeing things clearly after being asleep for a long time. I keep getting surprised over and over again.
During the years I was away from the Catholic Church and attending non-denominational churches, I attended Easter services and yes, felt somewhat joyful, but it was a subdued joy. Sort of like the feeling you had as a kid when you discovered your Christmas present early and then had to fake the joy of opening that gift on Christmas morning. You knew what you were getting, so the excitement was slightly muffled as a result.
But Catholicism does the whole Easter season right. It's glorious! When I first experienced the Lenten season in 2008, I was still a little in shock that I was back in the Church. In 2009, I was more consumed with receiving the Eucharist. But this year, I was able to take in all the various stages and absorb the beautiful truth of each one.
Lent is a time where the Church enters a somber period. The extra prayers, the fasting, the removal of the "Gloria," the lack of elaborate music - all are intended to get us to a place of deep reflection of what our Lord and Savior was about to do for the entire world. It is a serious time and everything the Catholic Church does emphasizes that seriousness.
Passion Week at my parish, Holy Family, started with all of the statues being covered with purple cloth. No flowers were around the altar. It started off the week on a very somber note. Tenebrae was especially powerful. The sanctuary was lit by a triangle of candles and they were extinguished one by one as portions of Scripture were read, focusing on the prophecies regarding the Messiah suffering and the sacrifice of Christ. The service ended with a loud clapping of wooden rods, people stomped their feet on the floor and slammed the hymnals shut loudly. It symbolized the thunder and lightening when Christ died on the Cross and how nature responded with an uproar.
The lone candle shined brightly as we pondered Jesus Christ as the light of the world and to reassure us resurrection was coming. The sanctuary lights came on halfway as we silently walked out of the service into the night. It was a magnificent way to symbolically remind us of the grief that our Lord's disciples and Mary went through as they realized their beloved Lord and Son was dead.
And now, today.
Today I hope the sun is shining for you, because even if it's not, it hopefully is shining in your heart. Today is the day the Lord made, and He is risen! Now after weeks of abstaining, praying, attending special services to remind me of what this season is all about - now is the day to celebrate! And I feel such a joy in my heart - a true joy that hasn't been muffled by anything else because within the Catholic Church, each week has been a preparation for this day!
Although technically I "knew" what I was getting today, the traditions and rituals of the Church really have made me feel that this knowledge is brand new all over again.
Happy Easter to you! May you rejoice in your Lord and Savior, knowing that death has been overcome and He has risen! Embrace Him in spirit, for it will not be long until we embrace Him in fullness, with eternal life as our reward. Amen and amen!