The Greatest Feast of the Year

In years past on Easter Sunday, I would be packing after celebrating the Easter Masses, getting ready to join the annual pilgrimage of children with disabilities, and adults, to Lourdes. I found this to be a wonderful time for me; I was going to celebrate the first days of Easter in the spring sunshine of southern France, and to reflect, together with the children and adults of my group, on the resurrection stories in the liturgy for that week.

As we heard the story of Bernadette and the eighteen appearances of Mary, at the grotto, we experienced again the hope and the joy of healing. We all felt very much a part of the pilgrim church, confident in knowing that Jesus had conquered death and was calling us to share this good news with all; the Good News we were living, together in Lourdes.

This week we celebrate the Octave of Easter (eight days). It is our opportunity to savour the greatest feast of the year.

In the earliest days of the church, Christians met in secret, in the catacombs. The images scratched on the walls depicted scenes such as Lazarus being called out of the tomb, Jonah emerging from the belly of the Whale and Noah and the ark.

As one writer said,

‘These representations of victorious delivery were even more meaningful to the Christians when martyrdom became the order of the day. The martyrs saw their death in union with Christ as the gateway to victorious resurrection with Him. This is what made them “witnesses” with that exuberant joy and unflinching courage which broke the weary spell of paganism and infused fresh life into a world hypnotised with selfish fatigue.’ (Daniel Hanlon S.J.)

Images of the crucifixion didn’t appear till much later — until the fifth century — and in Western Europe it was not till the end of the 13th century that emphasis in representations of the crucifixion turned from the triumph of Jesus to his suffering.

There is this tension in some people’s minds when they see, in some churches, images of Christ the King reigning from the cross, I have even read in one American priest’s blog that he thought it smacked of ‘political correctness’.

In my last parish, when we commissioned a new crucifix for the sanctuary, the artist, Theodore Gillick, crafted a crucifix on which there was a Sun behind the figure of Christ. And he shaped the corpus in such a way as to give the impression that Christ was about to be lifted up.

Let this be your Easter prayer:

Today, O God, the joy of Christ’s resurrection has spread throughout the world. May his risen presence remain among us and fill our hearts; may his peace be with us and make us free, until the coming of the eternal day when we enter with Christ into the glory of his kingdom where he lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen

Father John, Father Mark and I wish you every blessing for the wonderful time of Easter. May the joy of the Risen Christ fill your hearts.

Canon Father Anthony Charlton
Canon Father Anthony CharltonParish Priest