Recently, a wise woman pointed out to me that while Catholics tend to spend a lot of time and energy thinking about the season of Lent, we often celebrate Easter Sunday and then forget that we are in the midst of the longest special liturgical season of the church year. The Easter season extends from Easter through Pentecost, which comes fifty days after Easter. On a liturgical calendar, the Easter season is marked in gold, a color of joy and victory, as the Easter season is the time when we celebrate the fulfillment of our faith—the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the promise of new life this brings.
As I have blogged about over the past number of weeks, prayer, fasting and abstinence, and almsgiving are three traditional pillars of practice for Catholics during Lent that help us prepare for Holy Week and Easter. These practices encourage us to see and engage the world in a different way focusing on ideas like penance, sacrifice, and living our baptismal calling. But now that Easter is here—now that Jesus Christ is indeed risen, Alleluia!—what can we do that will help us see and engage the world with an Easter mindset? In other words, how can we live the joy of Easter during this season?
A baseline form of obligation for all Catholics is to receive Eucharist at least once during the Easter season. This is sort of like a minimal membership requirement for being Catholic. And while it is important to receive Eucharist, it seems like there is more we can do to celebrate the miracle of Easter that is at the center of our faith. Yet there do not seem to be too many widespread practices associated with the Easter season, something that would be similar to lighting Advent wreath candles during Advent or abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent. Given that Easter is the greatest feast of the church year, it seems like we should have things to do, things that keep us in the celebratory mindset that takes hold during the Easter liturgy.
I read on-line this week that a group of monks answers the phone with the greeting, “Christus resurrexit!” (Christ is risen) during the eight days following Easter. I have to admit that I would be hesitant to answer my own phone this way (or to post this as my status update on Facebook). So what can I do to celebrate the Easter season? Here are a few ideas I came up with:
• Focus on joy: Start a list of things that bring you joy in your life and add to it as more things come to mind. Read through the list daily. Offer prayers of thanksgiving for the joy that is in your life. Consider how your faith adds to this joy.
• Celebrate new life: It might sound cheesy, but plant a tree, a small vegetable garden, or some flowers and take the time to pay attention to the new plant as it grows. Visit a farm or a pond or some other place where baby animals have just been born and wonder at the process of learning that takes place as a young animal makes its way in the world.
• Live with hope: Pick out a situation in your life that seems hopeless. (For example, for me, it is politics. I ignore politics as much as possible because it seems hopeless to me that politicians will ever move beyond partisanship and really work together to focus on the common good.) Find a way to bring hope to this situation, perhaps with a purposeful change of attitude. (For example, I could stop looking at everything that is wrong with politics and purposefully attend to and get involved in things that seem to be going right.)