May this Easter, which is unlike any other, increase our love for the risen Lord, our faith and one another
Apr 12, 2020
(This is the text of Archbishop Wilton Gregory's “What I Have Seen and Heard” 2020 Easter column for the Catholic Standard newspaper and website of the Archdiocese of Washington.)
There are two religious moments that always overlap each year – the Jewish Passover and our own sacred Triduum. The reasons should be obvious; our Christian celebrations were born from their Jewish roots. The Last Supper took place within a Passover supper according to Saints Matthew, Mark and Luke. However, according to Saint John’s Gospel, the Lord’s Crucifixion occurred on the very day when the paschal lambs were being ritually slain for the Passover meal. In any case, Passover and our sacred Triduum are intimately linked.
We Christians ought to hold our Jewish brothers and sisters in special esteem as they observe Passover and we now celebrate the Triduum. Both of these festive ceremonies will be observed under most unusual circumstances this year. They both call for people to be gathered together in prayer. And neither of our communities will be able conveniently to celebrate in that traditional fashion this year.
It is my fondest hope and prayer that both of our communities will use this unfamiliar time to recall and to reaffirm our spiritual heritages and identities. There is nothing like losing something and then the absolute joy of discovering it again. As the saying goes: “Absence makes the heart grow fonder!”
Jesus often described the kingdom of God with images like the finding of the single sheep who had strayed from the 99, or a measure of yeast planted in a portion of unleavened dough, or the woman who lost one valuable coin and then searched the entire house until she found it. Each of those comparative stories has something to reveal about our experience of the Triduum this year as a treasure that has been removed from us and once we can reclaim it, we ought to value it even more intensely.
Some people may worry that our experience of Holy Week this year with livestreamed observances or home-bound services will diminish our desire to share in the church celebrations more festively assembled together next year. I doubt that, since the treasures of the Lord’s stories about God’s kingdom emphasized the intense joy of rediscovering a treasure that had been misplaced.
Like all of you, I long for the time when our churches will be filled with folks who gather to celebrate our faith with palms, candles, choirs, oils, incense, darkness and fire. This year, we miss those moments when we annually use ordinary human elements to enter into the very mystery of the presence of God Himself. Next year, please God, we will recover the joy of being together for those festive ceremonies.
In a special way, I turn my attention to our Elect and Candidates who have been eagerly anticipating their membership within the Church. The delay in that celebration burdens my heart as well as theirs, I am sure.
I feel the pause, perhaps more intensely, because I entered the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil in 1959 in Chicago. Although I was still a youngster, I can vividly recall the baptismal water pouring over my head as I became a Catholic and then tasting for the first time, the Blessed Eucharist. I was so excited as I know our Elect and Candidates are for their moment of membership within this family of faith. May the restrictions that we are currently enduring soon give way to a great, joyful and warm welcome to each one of them.
I now take this occasion, my first Easter as your Archbishop, to extend to all of our faithful, clergy, and religious a sincere and heartfelt happy Easter. It is an Easter like none of us has ever experienced before in our lives. May it also increase our love for the Risen Lord, for our faith, and for one another. Amen!
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