Wednesday, April 11, 2007

IC Column On Easter

Easter renews faith

By: Patrick Beeman

Posted: 4/5/07

Christianity is alive and well. No better is this seen than today, Maundy Thursday, as most of the world's two billion Christians countdown the final days of Lent to welcome the unspeakable joy of Easter. The Easter Triduum begins on Holy (Maundy) Thursday, continues with Good Friday, and culminates with the Feast of Feasts, this Saturday night's Easter Vigil, in which, as the Catechism teaches, "the mystery of the Resurrection, in which Christ crushed death, permeates with its powerful energy our old time, until all is subject to him."

Easter is more than simply the Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox (this is how the date of Easter has been determined ever since the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D.). It is certainly more than a bunny as well. For all Christians, but most especially the liturgically-minded Catholic Christian, Easter is a long-awaited and welcome vivification of "our old time" by this special feast of the mystery of Christ's suffering, death and resurrection - that is the Paschal Mystery, which we re-celebrate each year.

The Easter Mystery makes all things new once again, and Christ comes alive in the hearts of his people as new Christians are welcomed into the Church through the gift of Baptism, separated Christians enter into and are welcomed by the Church that Christ founded, and all Christians - new and old - renew their baptismal promises, reject Satan and open themselves to Christ's Redemption (this all usually occurs during the Easter Vigil, on Holy Saturday).

Easter is my favorite day of the year. To see the joy on the faces of the newly baptized and those Christians who have chosen to enter the Church is exhilarating. One can tell they are supremely happy in that moment, like the weight of the world's sin and agony is lifted from their burdened hearts by God's consuming love. And actually that is kind of what happens. I know; I am a convert.

The funny thing is all of us converts describe a unique and ineffable joy attendant upon our entrance into the Church, something like coming home or finding true happiness. The long list of Catholic converts - St. Augustine of Hippo, Gerard Manley Hopkins, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jacques Maritain, Walker Percy, Oscar Wilde (a deathbed conversion, but a convincingly authentic one nonetheless), G.E.M. Anscombe, G.K. Chesterton and Alasdair MacIntyre (a Scotsman, but that's OK) - attests to the kind of great intellectual, aesthetic or literary genius that finds a home within the Church.

Yet some people say Catholicism is for the unenlightened. Well sure, if by "enlightenment" you mean a rejection of great literature, music, philosophy, theology, art and all the best of Western culture. No, Catholicism is, without being pretentious or recondite, all at once a rigorous theology for those with the minds to comprehend it, a persuasive worldview for those with the wills to believe it, a beautiful aesthetic for those with sensitive and refined imaginations, and above all, the way to a vibrant relationship with God for those with simple faith and child-like hearts: pauper and polymath alike.

I believe Catholicism because it is true, which is the only good reason for believing anything. What is sad to me is so many people, even Catholics, are indifferent to the coming Easter joy. They are of the "different strokes for different folks" type.

A consideration of truth-claims never enters into their thoughts about religion. Yet religion itself makes demanding claims of truth. It really does make a difference to Christianity whether Christ resurrected on Easter. To deny this is to delude yourself.

Pope Benedict XVI invites us to consider, "how a Christianity grown weary of faith has abandoned the Lord. The great ideologies and the banal existence of those who, no longer believing anything, simply drift through life, have built a new and worse paganism, which in its attempt to do away with God once and for all, has ended up doing away with man."

One way you, O Christian, can reclaim your faith, the dignity of man and affirm the reality of God's love, is to embrace the mystery of Easter these next three days. I'll see you at Mass.
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