Christ has died! Christ is Risen! Christ will come again!
My dear brothers and sisters, the grace and peace of God the Father and our Risen Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. The month of April is very significant especially for reasons quite obvious to us all as a Church. I pray that the blessings and joy of the mystery of the Resurrection may fill your hearts always.
During the season of Lent, the period of the great forty days fast, we were like “those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing”. Nonetheless, on that great dawn, the Easter morning, we “come home with shouts of joy, carrying sheaves” (Psalm 126:6). What an awesome revolution which every genuine Christian cannot help but also be transformed by it since all is changed: darkness to light, doubt to faith, selfishness to generosity, despair to hope, sin to grace, and death to eternal life. Easter joy is living in gratitude for the gift of life, especially the new life in Christ that has come at great cost. This joy is understood in a special way by those who know what it means to have life because of the sacrifice of others.
A careful reading of Peter Kreeft’s Catholic Christianity well informed by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, reveals that “every religion has three aspects: creed, code and cult; words, works and worship; theology, morality and liturgy. In our Catholic religion, these three parts feature in these ways: (1) What we believe (2) How we live our lives (3) How we worship.”
In this hallowed month, we arrive at that wonderful time in the life of the Church when the beauty of our Catholic faith is expressed in the way we worship and celebrate the rites of the Holy Week. Indeed, many devout Catholics long for these days as the solemnity of the Liturgical Ceremonies evoke a deeper consciousness of the Divine. It is truly the mystery of our faith, for in the season of Easter the Church echoes anew to men and women of all cultures the glory and power of the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Death has no power over him since he by his own accord laid down his life, he has power also to take it up again. This is the Christ we reckon with, a saviour who brings life and light to a previously darkened and scary world. We are an Easter people, a people marked by joy informed by the Lord’s defeat of sin and death. His victory becomes our very own victory, His death means our redemption and His resurrection means our salvation. This is what we convincingly say at the proclamation of the mystery of faith during our Eucharistic liturgy.
Before we are overwhelmed by the Easter joy, it is important that we use this opportunity to remind ourselves that the rites of the Liturgy of Holy Week beginning with Palm Sunday through the Sacred Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday) are rich in spirituality and offer us great insights into the love which God has for humanity. We are taken back to places where Jesus spent his last moments before his crucifixion and death. We relive the drama of complete self-giving in the events that are recalled. And most importantly, we are called to believe in this great mystery of our faith.
In the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, we are reminded of the extraordinary significance of the Triduum: "Christ redeemed us all and gave perfect glory to God principally through his paschal mystery: dying he destroyed our death and rising he restored our life. Therefore the Easter Triduum of the passion and resurrection of Christ is the culmination of the entire liturgical year." (General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, # 18).
Dear people of God, let nothing disturb us from participating actively in the ceremonies of the season. Adequate arrangements should be made to ensure that no member of the family misses out on the beautiful acts of worship which the Church has cherished and passed on for centuries. In the Book of Exodus, chapter 12, verses 26-27, we read: “Then your children will ask, ‘What does this ceremony mean?’ And you will reply, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice of the Lord…’” Indeed, we are to teach our children, even before they ask, the meaning of the liturgical rites and symbols that will fill our Catholic worship this season. As teachers of faith in the family, let parents and young adults ensure that our children understand, appreciate and cherish the worship of the Church during the celebration of the Sacred Triduum.
Swiss priest Pascal Desthieux gives us a wonderful perspective into the mystery of faith: “When a husband and wife celebrate their anniversary, this is not just about the past. The fact that they are celebrating the date has to do with their ongoing relationship. Although anything is possible in the absurd and anarchic way people live nowadays, it is not likely that a couple not committed to each other would memorialize the day they were joined together if it did not have a meaning in the present. The two of them remember the past but the event they celebrate has ramifications in the present and for the future. In a similar way, the community of faith remembers the most important events in human history, the sacrificial death of Jesus the Christ not just to look toward the past. The present action (the memorial) is about our relationship with Christ now. It refers back to the past, speaking about the death and resurrection of Jesus. Nevertheless, there is a clear reference to the future.”
To you dear brothers and sisters, I wish you a very happy Easter and may the power of the Risen Christ dispel all darkness from our hearts and land. As we celebrate the mystery of our faith, may we enjoy more heavenly graces and blessings.
Peace be with you.
+ Alfred Adewale Martins
Archbishop of Lagos
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