Dearest Friends of the Friars:
In the most unusual way, probably for the first time in our Catholic history, we celebrate the holiest and most ancient days of our Easter Triduum by abstaining from gathering together as the People of God. Yet, this is the central feast of our faith: He is risen! Current global circumstances dampen the Alleluia of our Easter cry.
I personally remember with fondness and joy the several times I was privileged to participate in a celebration of the Easter Triduum in Rome, even the Easter Vigil Liturgy in St. Peter’s. And then came the excitement of Easter morning: thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter’s square for the Easter Urbi et Orbi Blessing. It was a wonderful witness of love for our rich tradition and love for festive celebration!
This Easter, however, both the spaces at St. Peter’s, inside and out, will be empty, shrouded in eerie silence. Heartbreaking!
I mention St. Peter’s as a symbol for what is now the case in nearly every Catholic/Christian community on the globe. Yet, if we pause and think a little deeper, this situation for many of our fellow Catholic brothers and sisters is not new.
I think of Catholics in Japan who persevered and lived their Catholic faith for nearly 200 years without the Eucharist and without any public celebration. Or, in more contemporary realities, I think of Catholics in Amazonia who are deprived not only of celebrations of the Liturgy but also more and more deprived of their homeland and natural environment.
This impoverished reality includes so many others: for example, those who are aged and sick, but also Catholics of the Eastern Churches in Syria and the Middle East who continue to suffer incredible devastation. The list goes on.
Maybe this year we are called to be in solidarity with them. The majority of Catholics across the globe, even without a pandemic, are deprived of regular access to Easter liturgy. Are they thereby less Catholic?
The reality is that our liturgies and celebrations are vitally helpful for nourishing and sharing our faith, but we know God’s grace is not limited to sacraments. St. Peter’s is empty but nevertheless, even alone in the square, our principal pastor, Pope Francis, is there. He encourages us. He calls us to actualize the reality of our “domestic churches” within our homes. We can still open our hearts to enter into deeper communion within the whole Body of Christ.
During the Triduum this year, he encourages us that carrying " ... His cross means finding the courage to embrace all the hardships of the present time.” This accomplishes ultimately what our liturgical celebrations intend, namely, to open our hearts and “make room for the creativity that only the Spirit is capable of inspiring.” By that Spirit, “we uncover our common belonging, … our belonging as brothers and sisters."
Precisely therein is new life of fullness, joy of Easter sending us together on the way to Emmaus. I find solace in the pope’s example and in his words, especially for this Easter. For the first time in my memory, I am to be deprived of full assembly for the Easter Triduum. In case you may have missed Pope Francis’ prayer and encouragement, I have attached links to both. You may find them helpful. I did.
“If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus
from the dead dwells in you…(Rom 8:11)