Whatever prayers you’ve taken on for Lent, continue them for Easter as acts of thanksgiving
By Bob Hunt
So, how’s your Lent going? We’re in early April now, so by this time our Lenten commitments, much like our New Year’s resolutions come the first week of February, have either proven the test of time or petered out long ago.
I’m holding up pretty well, though not perfectly. I’ve had to drop a couple of things I wanted to do. I’ve found that I can’t fast the way I used to. My blood sugar protests too loudly. Still, I’ve managed to keep up most of my commitments, having turned some years ago from an emphasis on giving up things to one of taking on extra activities: prayer, worship, giving, small sacrifices. My imperfect practice is tempered by my faith that Lent is a season of mercy and every day is a beginning. I pick myself up and start the journey anew. Today is the day of salvation.
Lent gets a lot of attention among Catholics. The pews are generally full on Ash Wednesday, signaling, I believe, a desire in all of us to start the journey anew. The pews become less and less full each succeeding week of the long Lenten season, signaling, perhaps, a loss of faith manifested by a loss of energy. Do we lose faith in ourselves or in God? Do we lose faith in God’s mercy or in our need for His mercy? Either way, it’s a loss. That lost faith in God or in ourselves ought not keep us from the pews or from the confessional. Lent and Easter are all about recovering what is lost.
Palm Sunday introduces Holy Week, and finally the Easter Triduum. I love the Triduum, though I’ve often missed some or all of it over the years because of my schedule as a nurse (I work nights, and hospitals don’t close). I love the Easter Vigil, the darkness of the church, broken by the lighting of the Easter candle and that light slowly disseminating throughout the congregation as it is shared among all. I love the readings that tell the story of salvation from creation to the empty tomb. I love the chanting of the Exultet that proclaims our faith that God lives in the eternal now, and He has broken into human history on this night.
The liturgical season of Easter gets short shrift, I think. So much attention is given to Lent, to sacrificial practices, penance services, extra devotions, days of recollection, etc., that Easter seems almost going back to normal. Easter is seven weeks of rejoicing and celebrating the resurrection, ending with the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Could anything be further from normal?
At this point, Easter is only two short weeks away. Let me suggest beginning to reflect now on how you can each make the Easter season a memorable one, a season of deeper spirituality and communion with our Risen Lord. Here are a few ideas:
Whatever added prayers you’ve taken on during Lent, continue them for Easter, only this time not as acts of penance but as acts of thanksgiving for the fulfillment of God’s promises.
As well, there is nothing that recommends that the giving of our time, our talents, and our treasure need stop because Lent is over. Like our prayers, whatever offerings of time, talent, or treasure we make can be offered in thanksgiving for God’s grace won for us by the death and resurrection of Christ.
Easter isn’t a season for fasting. Rather, a family celebration would be in order. Gather as many family members together as possible for an Easter reunion and celebrate with family prayer and good times.
Speaking of family prayer, Easter is a time to renew a commitment to pray together as a family. Choose something as simple as an evening prayer. Read the Gospel for the day and offer the prayers of the Church together, giving family members an opportunity to offer their intentions. Read a spiritual classic. Lots of folks have added this to their Lenten devotion, and Easter is an excellent time to take up the practice, too.
I recommend any of the following:
- Treatise on the Love of God by St. Francis de Sales;
- Autobiography of a Soul by St. Thérèse of Lisieux;
- Abandonment to Divine Providence by Jean-Pierre de Caussade;
- Loaves and Fishes by Dorothy Day; or
- Love Is Stronger Than Death by Peter Kreeft.
We’ve spent almost seven long weeks in penance preparing for Easter. Let’s take the seven weeks of the Easter season to celebrate and give thanks.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.
Bob Hunt is a husband, father, and parishioner at All Saints Church in Knoxville.