Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Meaning of Easter/Easter: The Herald of Peace

The Meaning of Easter

1. Today the Church adorns herself in festival array. Gone are the lengthy lamentations of Holy Saturday and the sorrowful recitations of the Passion, and in their place is the glad cry of Alleluia, the hymn of victory over death and sin. The true joy of Easter lies not merely in external celebration, however, but in the spiritual gladness of the soul. As Jesus has conquered death and sin, so we must purify ourselves of every trace of guilt by a good Confession and must be sure that it will result in a practical renovation of our lives. We should approach Jesus in the Blessed Eucharist with greater fervour and humility, and with greater trust in His goodness and mercy. When we have received Him into our hearts, we should ask Him to renew and transform us in Himself. He is everything, and we arc nothing without Him. He is strong; we are weak. We are capable only of feeble desires to do good, but He can make them effective by His grace. We should not be satisfied with forming general resolutions when we go to Confession and receive Holy Communion at Easter. We should examine the depths of our soul and discover the sin which we are most accustomed to commit and the virtue which we are principally lacking. As a result of our investigation we should form a particular resolution to combat this sin and to practise this virtue. It is only in this way that our celebration of Easter can inaugurate the beginning of a genuine self-renewal which will gain momentum daily until it becomes a true spiritual resurrection. It will be a hard battle which will necessitate a constant vigilance and a readiness to begin again every time we realise that we have fallen. It will require an unfailing spirit of prayer, but the final victory will bring us such happiness that worldly pleasures will seem empty and illusory by comparison.

2. In the course of this battle for our spiritual resurrection it is necessary for us to grow continually in Jesus. When we make a good confession at Easter He favours us anew by means of His grace. When we receive Holy Communion He comes to us and is really present in our souls. But in what way is He present: Sometimes He is silent and hidden. He may seem to be asleep, as He slept in the Apostles' boat on the sea of Galilee when the waves were raging violently all around them. Often we have Jesus within us, but do not listen to His voice. He does not live actively in us; He does not speak to us. Why is this? It is because we are distracted and indifferent, absorbed in the petty affairs of this world. We must be fervent. It is necessary to listen for His voice, to be united to Him, and above all to love Him. Then our actions will not be our own, but His. He will grow in us by His grace and we shall act in Jesus, with Jesus, and for Jesus. Then Jesus will be everything to us and we shall be able to say with St. Paul: It is now no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me (Gal. 2:20). Does this goal seem too difficult to attain? Does it seem that it is not meant for us? Such a doubt is an insult to Our Lord, Who has told us to be perfect as His heavenly Father is perfect (Cf. Mt. 5:48). It is enough, however, that we should earnestly desire to reach this goal and should try with the help of God's grace to come gradually nearer to it every day.

3. This is the resurrection which should take place in us this. Easter. Think seriously. How many Easters have we spent ? Have they represented a constant improvement in our lives, or have we been static or even getting worse e In the Hebrew tongue Pasch means a passing or transit; specifically, it refers to the passing of the Lord. It will be a tragedy if Jesus passes us by without stopping to rest with us in order to claim us as His own and to make us holy. This Easter could be our last. The thought should be a warning for us. God's goodness is infinite, but there is a limit to His graces and favours. We often impose this limit ourselves by the degree of our co-operation. Our eternal salvation depends largely upon ourselves.

Easter: The Herald of Peace

1. When Jesus was born in the manger at Bethlehem, the sky became brilliant aglow and Angels descended singing: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men of good will." When Our Lord had risen from the dead, He greeted the Apostles with the words: "Peace be to you!" Peace is a gift from God; only He can give real peace. The peace of this world has a certain value, but it is nothing like the genuine and soul-satisfying peace which God can give us. This is why Jesus said to His Apostles: Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you (John 14:27). Worldly peace is external and can be disturbed or destroyed by men, but the peace of God is internal and nothing can destroy it except sin. It is possible to be persecuted and slandered and yet to preserve interior peace, as the Martyrs and the Saints did in adversity. It is this inner peace which we must aim at acquiring. We shall be truly content when we have achieved it, because, as St. Thomas says, "the fulness of joy is peace."(Summa, I-II, q. 70, a. 3) St. Thomas defined peace as "tranquillitas ordinis," (Summa, II-II, q. 29, a.1 ad. 1) i.e. "tranquillity of order"; St. Augustine called it "ordinata corcordia," (De Civitate Dei, XIX:13) i.e. "ordered harmony." It is not sufficient for this harmony and order to be established externally among men. It is necessary that this harmony and order should reign first of all in our minds and hearts, and in our actions.

2. For this interior peace to be complete it is necessary that it should exist in our relations with God, with ourselves, and with our neighbour. Peace with God is especially necessary. This involves the subjection of the intellect and will to Him, perfect obedience to His law, the avoidance of sin and the entire surrender of ourselves to Him. When we have prepared ourselves in this way, God will visit us with His grace and we shall experience the joy of inward peace. Jesus came into the world to bring us this peace, which He purchased for us with His Precious Blood, thereby erasing sin and opening the gates of Heaven. So much the worse for us if we destroy the work of God by turning back to sin. We shall no longer be at peace with God, Who hates sin so much that in order to redeem us from it He gave us His only begotten Son, nor with ourselves, because there is no peace to the wicked (Is. 48:22). Remorse and disgust are the necessary results of sin. Let us remember that those who are really content even in this world are those who lead good lives. Whoever extinguishes divine grace in himself destroys the harmony and order which reigned in his soul as a result of the subjection of his passions to right reason and of the subjection of his reason to his Creator and Redeemer. Then, because we are not at peace with God nor with ourselves, we cannot really be at peace with men. It is our faith which teaches us that they are our brothers, redeemed as we have been by the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ, and that therefore we should always love and assist them.

3. At the close of this meditation let us ask the risen Christ to give us His peace, which is the only true peace. My peace I give to you (John 14:27). Although it comes from Jesus, however, this peace requires an effort on our part also. We must build it up carefully within ourselves with the help of God's grace. The foundations of interior peace must be laid down by controlling our passions, by avoiding the slightest trace of sin, by living the life of prayer and of union with God, by loving God above all things, and by living and working for Him alone.