Easter Entails: Suns Out. Guns Out.

Mother Nature is such a tease…occasionally even a temptress. If she was a real woman I bet she would be a swimsuit model.

Early spring…almost time for my favorite season. Keyword = almost.

Now is about that time of year I start waking up to the rays of sunlight peeking through the shades and arising with the glimmer of hope that today will be the day that I can finally throw on some shorts and a snap-back, and start fooling the world into thinking I’m a pro at roller-blading. But, yet again, I open the door to that temptress’ bitter slap-in-the-face…It’s still friggin cold!!

When oh when will you, dearest Mother Nature, make me comfortable enough to merely stroll outside without consulting the Weather App?

Soon, though, I am no longer being played the fool: the plants begin to blossom; the birds are chirping (sometimes all too early); people are actually happy – it’s that time of year for the ladies to spend several hours outside then try to convince us all that your accidental red skin is merely you trying to get a “base tan” to kick off the summer.  (BTW, it’s also that time of year to remind the guys that you don’t have to secure your plastic frat-shades with croakies if you’re nowhere near water.)

My Chaco tan lines are soon to follow…

But, the truth is, spring is not only about bro-tanks and Frisbees.

The changing of seasons is striking, even surprising. The changing of seasons is one of the most insightful processes in nature. If we let them, the seasons can teach us profound lessons, and for many of us, their changing leaves deep subconscious effects.

I still remember, as a young boy, taking a drive with my family along the Mississippi River in the late Fall. Perhaps I was just then old enough to have mature sense perception, and I noticed something was different. The trees…they were accented by leaves that were darkening in color and wilting in texture. Some of them were completely barren. Outside seemed damper and gloomier. The wind was no longer pleasant. I learned something that day...

Over time, the windows of the car started being rolled down less often. Music was more scarce. Joking less. Adults started to seem more serious. Lightheartedness wasn’t a thing. As the daylight grew shorter over the weeks, the world simply seemed to be in a mode of “making-it-through”…waiting for some light at the end of the tunnel. And soon enough, here it comes…

The truth of the matter is, I think the warmth of spring is only a symbol of something deeper for which the season causes me to long. The colors! the smells! the sounds! Now lively with a vibrancy that contrasts the depth of winter. It’s bright; it’s fresh; it’s a little something called new life…

It can strike you in such a way to stop you in your tracts and give a change of perspective.

The seasons can teach us profound lessons, and, more so than the plants and the weather, I learned from how people lived the seasons. Fall taught me about the process of dying, spring taught me about new life, summer and winter taught me about living extended periods of “ordinary” time in joy and sorrow. Seasons teach us lessons based on the path of human life. Seasons teach us certain lessons about life precisely because they are meant to be lived. And these lessons themselves are meant to be lived. We long for certain seasons because we long for certain ways of living.

Scripture talks about the seasons as being fixed by God “so that people might seek God, even perhaps grope for him and find him…” (Acts 17: 26-27; cf. Acts 1:7). Seasons teach us in such a way that they point us towards divine discovery.

The Jews picked up on God’s message: they saw the “signs and seasons” established in Genesis 1 as serving a liturgical purpose, and the Old Testament liturgical calendar was largely structured based on the rotation of natural seasons, with many feasts being celebrated in unison with harvest festivals, and the rotation of the moon determining their timing. This should be nothing weird to a Catholic: our tradition has always understood that we first learn spiritual realities through the physical (i.e. the purifying and life-giving effects of water teach us about the effects baptism).

The seasons teach us lessons, and those lessons are meant to be lived.

In fact, since the “Word became flesh” and eternity entered time, these very physical realities have not so much been done away with, but have been elevated by Christ Himself to have a certain spiritual importance, and our natural seasons are subsumed under liturgical seasons. We don’t’ structure our liturgical year only based on the harvest but on the very events of Christ’s life. If we can acknowledge so quickly just how true it is that natural seasons teach us about life and how to live it, how much more should we abandon ourselves to the living that our liturgical season call us to.

And now we may approach Catechism:

In the course of the liturgical year, moreover, she unfolds the whole mystery of Christ. . . . she opens up to the faithful the riches of her Lord’s powers and merits, so that these are in some way made present in every age… When the Church celebrates the mystery of Christ, there is a word that marks her prayer: “Today!” - a word echoing the prayer her Lord taught her and the call of the Holy Spirit. This “today” of the living God which man is called to enter…
— CCC 1163-1165

The liturgy makes the events of Christ life present “today”. The Church proclaims the mystery of Christ in her liturgy so “the faithful may live from it” (CCC 1068). It is a sign of the shared life between God and man (CCC 1071). As Alan said in his previous post on Good Friday we are not meant to be spectators – and the liturgical year moves us from being spectators to active participants in the life of God.

You could say liturgy makes time the arena of the shared life between God and man – if natural seasons give a way of living based on the path of human life, liturgical seasons give us a way of living based on Christ’s life. When we live liturgically, we live Christ’s life.

The Catechism everyone as a liturgical celebrant in some way. As a priest is ordained to offer Christ’s sacrifice at the Mass, we are ordained a priest at baptism to offer the sacrifice of our own life back to God. And, this liturgical sacrifice of self happens in a profound way in daily life when we live according to the season: we give ourselves in patience when we wait on the Lord in Advent; we have hope for salvation when we celebrate Christmas; we offer our commitment and fidelity during “ordinary time”; we die to self when we fast during Lent; and we rise again with Christ when we rejoice during Easter. If spring teaches us how to rejoice in new natural life, Easter teaches us how to rejoice in new spiritual life.

And now we may approach the Catechism about the present liturgical season:

Easter is not simply one feast among others, but the “Feast of feasts,” the “Solemnity of solemnities,” … The mystery of the Resurrection, in which Christ crushed death, permeates with its powerful energy our old time…
— Catechism of the Catholic 1169
The Resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of our faith in Christ, a faith believed and lived as the central truth by the first Christians…
— Catechism of the Catholic Church 638

And how did the very first Christians actually respond to the Resurrection? In both utter shock and rejoicing - Mary Magdalene, Thomas, Peter, the disciples on the Road to Emmaus. They allowed themselves to be blown away by what was going on, have a change of perspective, and rejoice!

So, during this liturgical season of Easter I encourage you to actually live new life. Make a sacrifice of praise by actually rejoicing. Get off the spectator bench, enter into this arena of shared life with God and participate in the Resurrection. Allow yourself to be shocked with Mary Magdalene at the tomb when she heard her name said. Allow your doubt to be transformed into faith and cry “My Lord and my God!” with Thomas. Walk the Road to Emmaus and allow Him to open your eyes in the breaking of the bread as your heart burns within you. As the Catechism says, let our old time be permeated by the powerful energy of the Resurrection.

If Scripture is where Christ is written, life is where He is lived. If Scripture is where the Resurrection is written, Easter is when it is lived “This "today" of the living God which man is called to enter..”

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Stephen Estes is Missionary Formation and Base Leader for Life Teen’s Camp Hidden Lake in Dahlonega, GA, having previously served as a missionary, university campus minister, and a theology teacher. He speaks, he writes, and he makes weird faces at people in public – generally all warranting about the same response. Get in contact: @StevoEstes; stephenestes.org