Every year I have the privilege of being a lector at the Easter Vigil. It is the highlight of my liturgical year, to be sure, and the solemn warmth of the candlelight that slowly fills the church at the beginning of the Mass complements the profound joy of the liturgy.
“Let all corners of the earth be glad,” cries out the Exsultet, that exquisite hymn of joy for the fulfillment of God’s covenant in the Passion and Resurrection of Christ. At the darkest moments of our lives, we can find profound comfort in the fact that the Christ lives and we with him.
In our secular world, Christmas has overtaken Easter as the most celebrated Christian festival. Indeed, there is a powerful reason to celebrate Christmas; all the traditions and trappings that have evolved around this holiday have their roots in a moment in history when God powerfully touched the earth. To be clear, I have no argument with Christmas cheer.
But Easter represents a different kind of joy—a quieter, softer, more personal sense of contentment and gratitude for God’s demonstration that he keeps his people in his heart. It is much harder to commercialize (thank God for that), but more satisfying, more lasting, more powerful.
In fact, it is literally longer lasting. We celebrate Easter season until Pentecost, drawing out the post-resurrection period and recalling the mission Jesus bestowed upon us. For Easter is both a fulfillment and a call to action: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,” Jesus told his disciples at the end of the Gospel of Matthew. “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28, 19-20)