For weeks the grocery shelves have been stocked with Easter candy and chocolate bunnies, but today is our day of celebration.
The fasting is over and Lenten sacrifices can once again be indulged as we rejoice in the risen Christ.
But is that truly the takeaway from our 40 days of Lent? Surely, we’re called to do more than forgo the weekly fish fries until next year.
This year, I gave up eating in between meals for Lent. No snacking whatsoever. This was particularly difficult during departmental events with receptions. The polite, “No, thank you” only goes so far, before admitting that snacks are a weakness and that it is my Lenten sacrifice.
At one such event, a fellow graduate student overheard me and mentioned that she never fully understood the concept of giving something up for 40 days. She compared it to a New Year’s resolution: We intend to make change, but how many of us follow through?
The comparison stuck with me. I dwelled on it, acknowledging the similarities. And ultimately I failed to come to a satisfactory resolution. Perhaps this is one of the problems with giving up some food item for Lent: literally, yes, it’s meant to be a sacrifice – we give up something we enjoy. But the underlying meaning of that sacrifice is an offering to God, and this is the part that causes some confusion for non-Catholics.
We deprive ourselves of a small pleasure and offer up that sacrifice to God. Such an experience is meant to ask us to consider our capability of giving something up. Our wants allow us to reflect on and appreciate the abundance we have in our lives.
This is what our Holy Week stands for: we are invited to be joyful, to bear witness to the fact that there is good waiting on the other side of the dark nights that we all experience. Our sacrifices now are the prices we pay for the joy of spending our eternity alongside the risen Jesus.
The jarring suddenness of the Triduum readjusts our perspective of the penitential and purgative season of Lent. With Holy Thursday, we participate in the Last Supper – we experience Jesus’ agony in the garden and realize the harsh injustice of the world leading its Lamb to slaughter. It is the night of expectation: setting up Good Friday’s remembrance of the physical and spiritual violence undergone by Christ.
The heavy sadness that we feel exiting the church in silence reminds us of the same darkness we see today in our own world: hatred, injustice, terrorism.
The saddest day leads to our happiest day on Easter Sunday. But not before the coldness of Holy Saturday: the entombment of our Lord. We remember the apostles who lived for an entire day with their teacher and Savior gone, hidden from view, as they mourned the entombed Christ.
We intend to make change, but how many of us follow through?
Perhaps Holy Saturday is one answer, then. We can admit, through our own experience, the cold, harsh reality that sometimes we ourselves hide Jesus from our lives: we entomb him with our disbelief, with our turning away.
That is the change we need to make – the hardest change of all. And yet despite our actions, we know that he will always rise: the true Easter celebration has yet to come.
There is still a tomorrow – when we will encounter the miracle experienced by Jesus’s disciples. And it is that Easter resurrection that we prepare our souls for with the smallness of our Lenten promise.
Against our despair and sins, joy and the Risen Christ will prevail and the good will overcome the bad.
Heather Bozant Witcher can be reached at email@example.com.