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Words of Life for Easter
WORDS OF LIFE FOR EASTER
“We praise you with greater joy than ever in this Easter season, when Christ became our paschal sacrifice”. These words will be very familiar to us by the end of the fifty days of Easter as they are included in all five prefaces used at Masses during the season.
Other phrases from the Easter prefaces capture the spirit of this pivotal time of the Christian year. There are some powerful images of Christ to be found here. Christ is described as the true lamb who takes away the sins of the world, the one who makes us children of the light and opens the gates of heaven, our advocate who always pleads our cause, the one in whom a new age has dawned and a broken world has been renewed. Such wonderful words of hope for a time when world events can make us feel despondent and helpless.
The Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel of John form the heart of the Liturgy of the Word throughout the fifty days of Easter. The readings from John focus on how Christ’s dying and rising is shared with us and the demands that this makes on us. They speak of the life of those who have been baptised, of those who have joined in Jesus’ passover meal and of their life in the company of the risen Lord.
Usually the first reading of the Liturgy of the Word comes from the Old Testament. For the seven Sundays of Easter however it is taken from the Acts of the Apostles. This second volume of Luke’s writing is in a sense the first history book of the Church. The real genius of these passages is that they enable us to compare our own experiences with the struggles and joys of the early Christian community in Jerusalem. Even the practical aspects of the life of the community happen within the context of the resurrection of Jesus and the accompanying gift of the spirit. We are challenged to imitate those first witnesses to Christ’s resurrection.
In the Easter psalms we continue to “rejoice and be glad” and “cry out to God with joy” as we sing our Alleluias! The second reading during this year (cycle C) comes from the Book of Revelation, also called the ‘Apocalypse’ from the Greek. Like all apocalyptic writings, these readings can be difficult to understand. The language is so full of symbol and allusion that the message can be interpreted in several ways. The text was written to assure Christians who faced disturbance and bitter persecution that Jesus who triumphed over death is with them through it all. Words of hope for Christians still!
There is a great coherence to the readings of the Easter season because they look at the central event of our salvation history from different perspectives. Through the scriptures we keep returning to the mystery of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, a mystery whose meaning we can never fully fathom.
The words of the solemn blessing of the Easter season send us forth as people to whom the Redeemer has given ‘lasting freedom’ and who have ‘risen with him in baptism’ to bring joy, freedom and hope to the world.