Saturday, April 15, 2006
All the preparations of Lent, when they are employed toward the end of contemplation of holy things, as well as of the abiding need we have for them, pay rich dividends when Easter finally arrives. When you fast, your body tells you throughout the season that you are in need. And when on Easter you feast, your body's satisfaction tells you that your Lord has gained for you all that you need as well: "I shall not want." When toward the end you veil the images, turn down the lights, and turn off the organ, you descend with the mind into the depths of Christ's Passion, as that great Good Friday hymn puts it, stanza two: "O sorrow dread, our God is dead" (literally, "Gott Selbst ist Tod"), the drama of rising from the gloom during the Great Vigil is all the more gripping: the veils are gone, the organ plays, the bells are rung, the organ plays, and we sing Gloria in Excelsis Deo.
Everyone gets to celebrate Easter, it is true. The resurrection of our Lord is for everyone, even the most callous Protestants who haven't even been to church during Holy Week, to say nothing of fasting. As Leo the Great put it in his Easter sermon, which I'm paraphrasing from memory here: "Come all! Come sinners and saints, ye that have fasted and ye that are full; ye that have been diligent and ye that have been slothful; let everyone feast this day." So it is true that none of the great traditional Lenten preparations make better Christians out of anyone, or give anyone a greater claim on Christ. But, I am convinced, those who have better prepared for Easter will simply find greater joy in celebrating. A happy and joyous Easter Feast to all.