AS YOU PICK UP this edition of Columbia, Lent is reaching its final days and Holy Week is upon us. Soon we will celebrate Easter, the victory of the Risen Lord over sin and death.
The end of Lent can be the beginning of a temptation — the temptation to let down our guard, to return to our old way of life. If you went to Mass every morning during Lent, Easter Monday might seem like a good day to sleep in. If you fasted or gave up drinking, the season of Easter might seem like a good time to indulge and eat or drink whatever you wish.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not proposing a perpetual Lent. But I am suggesting that Easter is not a time to backslide, to undo whatever progress God enabled us to make in our struggle for holiness and virtue. That would be like regressing to a steady diet of fatty foods after a good report from our cardiologist or putting excessive strain on a broken leg that is just beginning to mend. Rather, the Easter season is a time to open our hearts more widely and more gratefully to God, our Father, who has come to our rescue and sent us his Son for our salvation.
What, then, am I proposing? I am suggesting that we join all those newly baptized at Easter in the ancient discipline of mystagogy. “What in the world is that?” you might be thinking. “It’s even hard to pronounce!” Mystagogy, a Greek word that means “to lead through the mysteries,” is considered the final stage of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. “Liturgical catechesis,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes, “aims to initiate people into the mystery of Christ” (1075). In other words, through the liturgy and sacraments, especially during the 40 days of the Easter season, the Church earnestly desires to lead the newly baptized — and indeed all of us — to grasp more fully the inner meaning and reality of the Lord’s life, death and resurrection.
‘This should bring about in our lives an ongoing conversion — not a slackening of prayer but a deepening of our prayer life; not a return to selfcentered living but a life of charity, unity and fraternity.’
This is less a program and more an invitation to participate deeply in the Church’s liturgy, which, through sign and symbol, leads us into the mystery of faith. As we listen to the Gospels, we are caught up in the drama of the Risen Lord’s appearances to his disciples. With them, we confront the reality that Jesus Christ, who died on the cross, is standing before us alive, still bearing the wounds of his Passion, the marks of his love. Reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we share the Apostles’ amazement as, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Risen Lord speaks and acts through them. As the Eucharistic Prayer is offered, we enter into the paschal mystery, the death and resurrection of the Christ, and in holy Communion, we receive the body and blood of the Risen Lord. Before long, it dawns on us that the Risen Lord is present and active in our lives no less than in the earliest days of the Church.
This should bring about in our lives an ongoing conversion — not a slackening of prayer but a deepening of our prayer life; not a return to self-centered living but a life of charity, unity and fraternity. Above all, it should lead us to what St. John Paul II called “eucharistic amazement” — a heightened and deepened sense that the Lord is truly among us, that he loves me and gave his life for me, that through the Spirit, the Lord lives, acts and speaks in me.
As Knights of Columbus, our principles of charity, unity and fraternity sum up the Gospels and invite us to deepen our relationship with Christ and one another. Let us beg the intercession of Blessed Michael McGivney that during the Easter season, we might allow the Spirit of God to lead us through the mysteries of Christ to continual Easter joy.
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