An Easter Octave challenge
''This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad."
Easter is here! Alleluia, he is risen! We have made it through our Lenten fast, we have walked with the Lord during his passion and death, and we rejoice now in his resurrection. It is, quite rightly, a time for feasting and celebration.
But how might we appropriately celebrate the Easter season? Too often, I find that my efforts of growing in the spiritual life that begin on Ash Wednesday abruptly end with the Triduum. Sound familiar? Sometimes there is the danger, as we transition from Lent into Easter, of leaving our "best selves" behind. For Lent, we plan. During Lent, we sacrifice. During Lent, we pray more. During Lent, we take time to read Scripture. During Lent, we make sure to go to confession. But what plans do we make for Easter?
It may be worth considering, as we enter into this new season, how we might use the coming weeks to intentionally continue to grow as disciples of Jesus Christ? What fruit might we carry over from our Lenten experiences? How might we be able to have the best Easter yet?
To do this, we might start by considering the Church's great gift of the Easter Octave. There is no better time in the year to celebrate than Easter Sunday and the week that follows. For eight days in a row, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Easter in what is "an unparalleled opportunity for celebration and reflection," D.D. Emmons writes at SimplyCatholic.com.
If your Lenten commitment was to attend daily Mass throughout the season, don't stop now! As Emmons explains: "During the Octave Days of Easter the Mass readings tell us the beautiful Resurrection story so that we can take time to ponder the reality that Calvary was not the end. Each of us can relate to the sadness, confusion and then elation of the disciples on the Emmaus road. Like Mary Magdalene we can encounter the risen Lord in the garden. In our hearts we can race with Peter and John to see the empty tomb."
Continuing to attend daily Mass during the Easter Octave is a powerful way to enter into the new season and to reflect upon the gift of the Resurrection.
There are other ways, too, of celebrating the Octave. Perhaps your family can have ice cream every day? Or make a Lamb cake for Easter Sunday that you snack on all week long. Perhaps you pick one thing you really love to do, but never make time for, to do every day: a hobby, a nap, time with a good book. Perhaps, too, you can involve your parish community in your Easter Octave challenge. How might you be able to celebrate together? One parish I know advocates for turning Easter Friday into "Meating Friday" -- a chance for the community to come together, after weeks of meatless Fridays, to celebrate with a feast on the Friday during the Easter Octave. I kind of love it.
We might also use the Easter Octave to read Scripture -- the Resurrection narratives in all four Gospels are a great place to start -- or commit to additional devotions. Or pick up a new spiritual book? Any healthy habits that we forge during the Easter Octave can be carried over into the whole Easter season, and hopefully beyond.
Pope Benedict XVI, in a 2011 General Audience during the Easter Octave, wrote beautifully: "Easter ... brings the newness of a profound and total passage from a life subjected to the slavery of sin to a life of freedom, enlivened by love, a force that pulls down every barrier and builds a new harmony in one's own heart and in the relationship with others and with things. Every Christian just as every community, if he lives the experience of this passage of resurrection, cannot but be a new leaven in the world, giving himself without reserve for the most urgent and just causes, as the testimonies of the saints in every epoch and in every place show."
What a challenge -- a challenge that can begin by celebrating the Easter Octave to its fullest.
Alleluia, he is risen! What a gift we have in our risen Lord. "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad."
- Gretchen R. Crowe is the editor-in-chief of OSV News. Follow her on Twitter @GretchenOSV.