The Glory of Eastertide
Discover ways to make the Easter season come to life for your family.
by Catholic Faith & Family Magazi | Source: Catholic.net
The Easter Vigil
This is the night when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin.
This is the night when Jesus Christ
Broke the chains of death and rose triumphant from the grave.
Father, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave,
You gave away your Son,
O happy fault,
O necessary sin of Adam,
Which gained for us so great a Redeemer!
Most blessed of all nights,
Chosen by God to see Christ
Rising from the dead!
The power of this holy night
Dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence.
Brings mourners joy:
It casts out hatred,
Brings us peace,
And humbles earthly pride
Accept this Easter candle,
A flame divided but undimmed,
A pillar of fire that glows
To the honor of God.
May the Morning Star
Which never sets
Find this flame still burning;
Christ, that Morning Star,
Who came back from the dead.
Shed his peaceful light on all mankind, your Son who lives
And reigns for ever and ever.
From the Easter Hymn “Exultet”
Relive the Resurrection
The Gospel narrative of the Resurrection – you’ve heard it recited every Easter Sunday morning since you were old enough to sit still in a pew. For centuries, the Church mounted theatrical productions of the Easter mystery and other blessed events inside the sanctuaries of cathedrals, complete with actors, set, costumes, props and music. So this year, why not make this drama come alive at home?
Over the centuries, liturgical dramas became so elaborate and popular that the whole community got involved. The plays developed into longer works, staged outside in the town square to commemorate feast days. Many plays toured the countryside in wagons that converted into makeshift stages. From these humble beginnings grew the great theatrical traditions of Europe, culminating in works of Shakespeare’s plays.
The term “drama” is loosely derived from a Greek word meaning “to do.” That’s important. Liturgical drama worked to enrich the faith of our ancestors precisely because neighbors and families became the biblical personages and “did” the story, instead of just hearing or reading it. With a little planning, a few pieces of fabric, and a lot of enthusiasm, religious plays can work today in your family too.
The easiest liturgical drama to produce at home is the first piece of theater added to the Easter Mass, the Queen Queritis (“Whom do you seek?”). This playlet offers only three lines of dialogue and plenty of creative possibilities for improvising.
Originally chanted by priests or the choir, the play celebrates the Easter morning visit of the three women who approached Christ’s tomb. As we all know, when they are informed by an angel (or angels) that Christ has risen, the sad story gives way to a happy ending.
Happy New Year!
The Annunciation of the Lord
In parts of Medieval Europe, this feast marked New Year’s Day, since on it began the story of our salvation. Because life begins at conception, the Incarnation of Christ really started today, when the angel offered Mary the privilege of bearing the Messiah, and Mary said yes.
The Annunciation is usually celebrated on March 25, exactly nine months before Christmas Day. But since March 25 falls in Holy Week this year, the feast is moved to give it proper celebration.
Send your friends a surprising New Year’s greeting, in the form of a lovely icon Annunciation card from Conception Abbey (www.printeryhouse.org/mall/Icons/Mary/CA6772.asp).
Major Rogation Day
Bless the Seeds
The Major Rogation Day is an observance going back to the very early Church, and was made official by St. Gregory the Great in the sixth century, to ask God for forgiveness, protection against calamities, and a bountiful harvest. At that time, it replaced the heathen “Robigalia,” or feast of processions and supplications to the gods. This Church feast is marked in many places by a procession through the fields of the parish, led by a priest who blesses the soil, while the laymen sing the Litany of the Saints. (For the prayers, see http://hometown.aol.com/cfortunato/Rogation/RuralRogationDays.htm.) This custom is still observed in rural parishes throughout the Catholic world; in recent years, the Diocese of Fargo, North Dakota, has sent out a priest in a crop-duster plane to sprinkle holy water across the sprawling family farms!
Activity: You can bring the celebration home with a family procession around your yard or garden, with the oldest boy at its head, carrying a crucifix. Mom can lead the Litany while Dad sprinkles the ground with holy water, finally blessing the seeds you plan to plant. The rest of the children may hold blessed palms while chanting the responses. Small wooden crosses, purchased beforehand and marked with the date, may be nailed to the trees on the property as a visible reminder of God’s protection. (You can see standing Rogation crucifixes in vast wheat fields from Portugal to Poland – some quite elaborate and hundreds of years old.) You might finish the family march with a stirring hymn such as “O God, Our Help In Ages Past,” then repair to the kitchen to enjoy a treat made with the fruits of last year’s harvest, such as a berry-laden shortcake or a big fruit salad.
The May Magnificat
May is Mary’s month, and I
Muse at that and wonder why:
Her feasts follow reason,
Dated due to season –
Candlemas, Lady Day:
But the Lady Month, May,
Why fasten that upon her,
With a feasting in her honor?
Is it only its being brighter
Than the most are must delight her?
Is it opportunest
And flowers finds soonest?
Ask of her, the mighty mother:
Her reply puts this other
Question: What is Spring –
Growth in every thing –
Flesh and fleece, fur and feather,
Grass and greenworld all together:
Throstle above her nested
Cluster of bugle blue eggs thin
Forms and warms the life within;
And bird and blossom swell
In sod or sheath or shell.
All things rising, all things sizing
Mary sees, sympathizing
With that world of good,
Their magnifying of each in its kind
With delight calls to mind
How she did in her stored
Magnify the Lord
Well but there was more than this:
Spring’s universal bliss
Much, had much to say
To offering Mary May.
Bloom lights the orchard-apple
And thicket and thorp are merry
With silver-surfed cherry
And azuring-over greybell makes
Wood banks and brakes wash wet like lakes
And magic cuckoo call
Caps, clears and clinches all –
This ecstasy all through the mothering earth
Tells Mary her mirth till Christ’s birth
To remember and exultation
In God who was her salvation.
- Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)
The Ascension of Our Lord
This major feast day marks the end of Jesus’ earthly mission, as he completed the work of our salvation. Falling 40 days after Easter, and ten days before Pentecost Sunday; it marks the beginning of the season of Pentecost – when we focus on the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the Church. Pope Leo XIII issued a special novena for Catholics to say during the nine days following Ascension Thursday, to prepare for the coming of the Spirit, whom Jesus called “the Comforter.”
Come, O Holy Ghost, the Lord and Lifegiver; take up your dwelling within my soul, and make of it your sacred temple. Make me live by grace as an adopted son of God. Pervade all the powers of my soul, and create in me a fountain of living water springing up into life everlasting. Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, etc.
Come, O Spirit of Wisdom, and reveal to my soul the mysteries of heavenly things, their exceeding greatness, and power, and beauty. Teach me to love them above and beyond all the passing joys and satisfactions of the earth. Show me the way by which I may be able to attain to them and possess them, and hold them hereafter, my own forever. Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, etc.
Come, O Spirit of Understanding, and enlighten our minds, that we may know and believe all the mysteries of salvation, and may merit at last to see the eternal light in your light; and in the light of glory to have the clear vision of you and the Father and the Son. Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, etc.
Come, O Spirit of Counsel, help and guide me in all my ways, that I may always do your holy will. Incline my heart to that which is good, turn it away from all that is evil, and direct me by the path of your Commandments to the goal of eternal life for which I long. Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, etc.
Come, O Spirit of Fortitude, and give fortitude to our souls. Make our hearts strong in all trials and in all distress, pouring forth abundantly into them the gifts of strength, that we may be able to resist the attacks of the devil. Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, etc.
Come, O Spirit of Knowledge and make us understand and despise the emptiness and nothingness of the world. Give us grace to use the world only for your glory and the salvation of your creatures. May we always be very faithful in putting your rewards before every earthly gift. Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, etc.
Come, O Spirit of Piety, possess my heart, incline it to a true faith in you, to a holy love of you, my God, that with my whole soul I may seek you, and find you my best, my truest joy. Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, etc.
Come, O Spirit of holy Fear, penetrate my inmost heart, that I may set you, my Lord and God, before my face forever; and shun off things that can offend you, so that I may be made worthy to appear before the pure eyes of your divine Majesty in the heaven of heavens, where you live and reign in the unity of the ever-blessed Trinity, God, world without end. Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, etc.
Come, O Holy Comforter, and grant us a relish for heavenly things. Produce in our souls the flowers and fruits of virtue, so that, being filled with all sweetness and joy in the pursuit of good, we may attain unto eternal blessedness. Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, etc.
The Likeness of Fire
Let us with one mind be incited to pay reverence to Pentecost, exulting in honor of the Holy Ghost, through whom the whole Catholic Church is sanctified, and every rational soul quickened; who is the Inspirer of Faith, the Teacher of Knowledge, the Fount of Love, the Seal of Chastity, and the Cause of all Power.
Let the minds of the faithful rejoice, that throughout the world One God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is praised by the confession of all tongues, and that that sign of his Presence, which appeared in the likeness of fire, is still perpetuated in his work and gift. For the Spirit of Truth himself makes the house of his glory shine with the brightness of his light, and will have nothing dark nor lukewarm in his temple.
- Pope St. Leo the Great (+461)
The Holy Trinity
One thing theologians agree upon is that the Trinity is an impenetrable mystery, which will elude human reason even in Heaven. But the doctrine of the Trinity does provide Christians with a privileged glimpse into the inner life of God: God does not engage in an egoistic celebration of himself, but dwells in an uncreated light of vital, creative love reflected among three eternal Persons – equal and distinct. This central fact of Faith ties God’s own being to our everyday lives as family members, citizens, and neighbors.
That great lover of God, St. Therese of Lisieux (1873-1897), offered this prayer to the Trinity:
From “My Heaven on Earth”
My heaven is God alone, the Trinity Divine,
Who dwells within my heart, the Prisoner of my love.
There, contemplating you, I tell you, you are mine;
You will I love and serve until we meet above.
My heaven it is to smile on you, whom I adore,
Even when, to try my faith, you hide from me;
Calmly on you to smile, until you smile once more.
Oh, this is heaven to me!
This Is My Body
This feast has been popular since the High Middle Ages as the public celebration of love for the Body of Christ present sacramentally on earth. Since then, Catholics have marked it by solemn or boisterous parades with music, banners – and in Spain, fireworks – centered on a priest, carrying the host in a golden monstrance, covered by a golden canopy. In medieval England, this feast spawned a series of outdoor “Mystery Plays,” designed to teach unlettered Christians, the doctrines of the Faith.
By the 17th century, in Catholic lands, people began to carry flowers and wear costumes to accompany the procession: Some dressed as saints or angels, others as pagan gods showing deference to Christ, still others as devils, scampering alongside the Sacrament in fear. During the German Reformation, non-Catholics sometimes attacked these processions, considering them idolatrous. So Catholic hunters and marksmen began to accompany the Sacrament. To prepare, they held shooting competitions at local fairs called “Schutzenfeste”; winners were dubbed King or Queen, and granted the privilege to march in defense of the Blessed Sacrament. Such shooting competitions are still the most popular sports in Switzerland.
Reprinted with permission from Catholic Faith & Family Magazine. All rights reserved.