At Home: Lent and Easter
It is strange in this year of 1951, now made holy to all Catholics throughout the world, that two most important feasts stand as rival claimants for the same day. March 25th, this year, is Easter, almost as early as Easter ever comes; and March 25th has always been the day of the Annunciation. With all the docility of the Virgin, Mary relinquishes her claim on the day of March 25th to Christ risen in glory – and her feast must wait.
These three thoughts, a year made holy, acceptance of the will of God, and promise of glory, are, I believe the three keystones for our family apostolate during this month. How can we make these thoughts concrete and true to our own loved ones?
I remember last year how we envied the pilgrims who went to Rome – we wanted so to go with them. I remember how like outcasts we felt as the Holy Father gathered his more fortunate children to his knee. In a very real nostalgia we spent one Saturday afternoon – Alfred, I, and the two older girls, Mary and Ann – drawing a map of the city of Rome with its four great basilicas and its stational churches. We as Roman Catholics felt a real "algos" or pain to return home, "nostos." The model for our map we found in the St Andrew Daily Missal but we enlarged it until it was as big as our dining room table. Then we hung it above the mantle. Each day as the station changed for the Lenten Mass we marked out our imaginary pilgrimage, both its start at the collecta to its finish at the stational church. Somehow Rome was nearer, its hills became more than names, its many churches became ours and we walked in spirit with Christ’s family.
Some claim that any talk of following the stational pattern is like trysting with Hamlet’s ghost. Such antiquated things may have once been useful in uniting the Roman Church on its parochial visitations, but why unbury the dead? Now the stations are only names, they say, and even those names have fallen from the pages of most missals.
After last year’s experience with the children we found more than dead names and empty forms. If great saints like Bernard and Catherine of Siena found Christ walking the streets of Rome during Lent and followed Him to overtake Him in the stational churches, can we dare to miss him? The Lenten liturgy is a solemn drama in forty acts. How can we appreciate the action if we do not know where the play is being given? How can we appreciate the lines when we do not hear them in the proper set?
This year we shall not remake the map. When you marry someone who studied mechanical drawing you learn enlarging the hard way. Alfred insisted that the map be exact and it certainly tried my feminine patience to make an accurate enlargement. Now we have something to be proud of and we shall follow pilgrims again and know our route. This holy year of 1951 however, we shall no longer be just looking on. We have our pilgrimage to make – here in our own city. As a family we shall make it. This year we are united with the whole world as pilgrims seeking the "great return and the great pardon." This year we can all find Christ walking our own roads and visiting our own churches. Pray God we overtake Him.
The second note of our triduum of March-thoughts concerned Mary, the Virgin, and the Annunciation. Only because of the special importance of the feast has it been celebrated even though it be Lent. The one thing which made Mary the most important human being at the most important moment of history was her faith in God’s power. We who are so concerned with our atom bombs and defenses, are we placing our trust in things or in spirit? Suppose after the “great return and the great pardon” God proposes that, since He has given us much, much will now be taken away. How can we and our children learn to say, "Be it done unto me according to Thy word"?
Forty days of Lent are given us in which to learn this lesson, and the only way we can learn any lesson is by practice. Can we give up things in favor of spirit? Can we give up little so the much won’t matter? It is faith in God’s power, in His love, and in His care for us which makes Marys of us all.
Then we are ready for Easter, when Christ risen will fill our self-imposed emptiness with glory. Visit the land with your children. Show them how the pruned branch has the fattest buds. See yourself how the single lamb whose twin has died has the strongest black legs and the softest wool. Mark how the creek that is checked by a dam holds back the precious soil in a spring flood. Even the herb that was most closely shorn is showing the first green. Christ immortal seeks a place to plant, to rise again. You are His soil which must first be harrowed before you can be sown. This is His promise of Easter, that you too may share His divine life, may rise on the last day, and have life everlasting.
Just as all the feasts of the year reflect the glory of Easter and Easter is mother to them all, so this greatest of days has in it elements of all the others. We in America have for the most part forgotten Christ in glory. We tend to sentimentalize His coming at Christmas under the star. We linger with Him at His miracles, always wondering why such signs are not given to our generation. We even dare watch anxiously the gruesome details on Calvary where we see the Man of Sorrows in agony and pity Him. But Christ at Easter is God and Man glorified. This is the Christ we must learn to know more fully. He is the one we await. Will you recognize Him when He comes as gardener, as fellow traveller, as lightning in the east?
"In birth, man’s fellowman was He, His meat, while sitting at the Board; He died his Ransomer to be, He reigns to be his Great Reward."
Florence Berger Cincinatti, Ohio
This item 10504 digitally provided courtesy of CatholicCulture.org