Faith & Life




As we sat down to make our plans with family for this  year’s Easter celebrations, I was struck by the  realization that we don’t have many strong annual traditions for Easter. It’s usually different from year to year.

Some of the friends I’ve spoken with have said the same thing about their families. Other friends do have beloved annual Easter traditions, but no one I’ve spoken to has indicated Easter as their most elaborate holiday celebration of the year.

Of the two highest holy days of the Church calendar, Easter is the most important.

I remember being surprised by that when I was a child. Obviously, Christmas is the biggest day of the year! Just look at all the celebrations that crowd the calendar for an entire month!

And it’s true. Here in the U.S., at least, Christmas is a huge holiday among Christians and non-Christians alike. My family has lists of traditions we partake in every year without fail. Maybe your family is the same. Baking, music, decorations, parties and gifts.

If Easter is so far above Christmas, then why don’t we send Easter cards and sing Easter carols?

Now you may think I’m going to spend this whole space advocating for more traditions and celebrations around Eastertide, and while that would be a great thing, if you feel so called, that’s not what I’m doing today.

I think that Easter is not as large of a celebration in our culture simply because Santa has caught on better than the Easter Bunny. In short, non-Christians don’t see the appeal of Easter and have left well enough alone, which I argue is a good thing.

The joyous gospel of the Resurrection is tied unavoidably to the mystery of the Passion. Those who have not experienced the redemptive power of suffering or the healing arms of redemption will necessarily balk at the story of Christ’s suffering and death. As St. Paul says, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor 1:18)

So, what are they left with to put on the tee shirts they sell at Target?

Flowers, bunnies, chicks, chocolate. Secular Easter celebrations are hollow simply because their understanding of what we’re celebrating is hollow. Which is a good thing because it leads us back inside the Church.

I said we don’t have many annual Easter traditions in our family, but we do have three big ones that we never miss: The Holy Triduum. It would be just as much Easter no matter who we hunted eggs with, but we’d never want to miss the three most solemn and sacred liturgies of the year.

I’m always brought to tears upon hearing the Gloria sung on Holy Thursday or participating in the Good Friday reading of the Passion. If you haven’t taken the chance to attend your parish’s Easter Vigil and witness the darkened church light up with hundreds of candles, I strongly encourage you to include it in your plans next year. Alternatively, try seeking out a dawn Mass on Easter morning. Singing out “Alleluia!” with joy at the end of a long Lent feels like speaking for the first time after 40 days of muteness.

We’ll be making a lackluster attempt to hide eggs around our house today, but the real celebration happened in the lead up. Hopefully you’ve had a blessed Holy Week as well.

I wish you and your family all the powerful and pure joy of the Resurrection as you join your family and friends in your traditions today, and I pray that the moving reality of Christ’s love surrounds you as you participate in His Easter joy.

Christ is risen! Alleluia!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!