My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The 50 days that run from Easter Sunday to Pentecost, is referred to as the Easter Season. This Season is taught by the Church as the â€śFeast of feasts,â€ť the â€śSolemnity of solemnities.â€ť St. Athanasius said that these 50 days are to be celebrated in joyful exultation as one feast day, or, as he put it, as one â€śgreat Sunday.â€ť Easter is the most important time in the Liturgical calendar because it is the reason for salvation and the cause of joy and hope.
Throughout the Easter Season, all are called to allow Christ to take possession of their lives. By living in a constant state of awareness of Christâ€™s saving power, all are able to draw upon Godâ€™s grace and goodness to become better than before.
During the Easter Season, this hope and joy is symbolized in many ways. White liturgical vestments are worn by priests consecrated by God to serve in the person of Christ. The Gloria can be used again and the people sing â€śAlleluia.â€ť The Paschal Candle burns as a symbol of the Risen Christ among the people of God. All of these symbols point to the same glorious reality: Christ is Risen, and has set His people free!
Understanding the empty tomb
For a moment, recount what happened when Mary Magdala discovered the open and empty tomb. She ran and told Peter. Peter came and was the first to enter the tomb. The Gospel of John then reads that when the disciple who followed Peter saw the empty tomb, he then believed. After Peter and the disciples returned home, the Gospel of John goes on to say that Jesus appeared to Mary Magdala and told her that He will ascend to the Father. In this way, the truth of Christâ€™s teaching about Himself was fulfilled. She then went and announced to the disciples, â€śI have seen the Lord.â€ť
Now is the time to consider in our own lives, how we might recognize the empty tombâ€”the Risen Christâ€”and tell others. Pope Benedict XVI recently said, â€śToday too the Risen One enters our homes and hearts, although sometimes the doors are closed.â€ť
Christâ€™s emergence from the tomb, the Risen Christ, is more than just a physical raising from the dead; it provides the opportunity for all people to be reborn. It is the very path to salvation!
The Source and Summit of the Faith
During the Easter Season, those who are being brought into the Church are welcomed through Baptism, Holy Communion and Confirmation, and for the first time have the Risen Christ within them.
These holy men and women have travelled their own road to Emmaus. In the Gospel story, two disciples are journeying when they are approached by a man they do not know. They share with this person the story of what happened to Jesus, including His Resurrection. When the person broke bread with them to share, they realized that this man was in fact Jesus Christ risen. It is by breaking bread, by embracing the Eucharist, that the person of Christ is made clear. Similarly, those who have been welcomed into the Church have seen the Light of Christ and have sought Eucharistic communion with Him.
The mystery of the Risen Christ is a demonstration of the power of the Eucharist! The Eucharist is not only mysterious and mystically beautiful because of what it isâ€”the true Body and Blood of Christâ€”but also because this transcendent gift is made available to the Faithful to help see Him more clearly.
Pope Benedict XVI, in speaking about the two disciples on the road Emmaus, says, â€śThe culmination of this journey, then as now, is Eucharistic communion. In communion Jesus nourishes us with His Body and His Blood, becoming present in our lives, making us new and animating us with the power of the Holy Spirit.â€ť
Christ appeared to the Apostles three times following His Resurrection. While he may not appear to each of us in such direct ways, there are many opportunities to find Christ in the Gospel messages and see the light that His Resurrection brought to the world. The responsibility of each Christian is to consider how Christ is present and appearing in oneâ€™s own life, and discern in that the call of Christ.
Will you recognize the Risen Christ as He appears and works in your life? It is my prayer that during this Easter Season you too will find Christ in the Gospel messages, in his Resurrection, in Confession, in your Parish, and in one another.
Sincerely Yours in Christ,
+ Frank J. Dewane
Bishop of the Diocese
of Venice in Florida