The following was written for publication in a Lenten Book of Reflections for the Church of St. Catherine of Siena in Moscow, Pennsylvania.
There is no day in the Church like Easter Sunday, no celebration so great, yet its foundational relationship to our faith is can get lost in the grandeur of the day. Amid music and flowers, feasts with family and friends, it is easy become distracted and open to criticism by those who do not seek to understand. We can even get so caught up in the pomp and circumstance of the liturgical celebration itself that we miss what we are celebrating.
Yet Christ is so easy to find among it all, for the faithful who seek him.
We come to church in new clothes, fresh from a morning of Easter baskets filled with eggs, candy, and often the latest, most-coveted toys. We proceed from Holy Mass to brunches and dinners with loved ones. Sometimes a bright, sun-lit sky smiles on us; other times a blanket of pure white snow gleams from the earth. It is spring time, a season of new life.
Critics might argue that we, the Catholic faithful, have lost sight of what Easter really is, that we have commercialized it to such a point that we cannot see past our own chocolate. I say no. I say Christ is so present among us on this day that we need only open our eyes to see Him in all His glory.
For forty days and forty nights a fire burns within us as we empty ourselves of worldly pleasures in order to fill ourselves with Christ. We long for the day when Christ will rise from the dead fulfilling His promise of everlasting life. We celebrate exactly what Easter is, and who Christ is. The fire in our hearts is the light of Christ, the very essence of Christ living within us, and our Easter Sunday traditions are driven by that light and reflect Christ in His great glory.
Holy Mass is greater, louder, and more decorative because we proclaim the light of the world. It feels different than any other Sunday Mass because it is. It is a Mass that remembers how our faith began with the miraculous resurrection of the Son of God who humbled Himself to share in our humanity.
Even our traditions, which many onlookers see as merely secular, are reflections of the new life Christ gives us in His resurrection. Easter baskets filled with chocolate show us the beginning of new life—eggs from which life appears. Our new clothes are an outward sign that newness in the world. The fire burns in us as we gather to eat with our family and friends, just as Christ did.
On Easter Sunday, Christ is present in all these things. His light shines on us and His fire burns in us because we do all these things for His greater glory. Christ calls us to new life in Him. Easter is the Church triumphant, Christ triumphant. On Easter we are reborn.