“He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again’” (Luke 24 6:7).
Easter, the most sacred of the Christian holy days, is a time for celebration and new life as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The celebration of Easter Sunday follows forty days of Lenten preparation of fasting, penance and sacrifice.
The word Lent is derived from the Middle English word Lenten, which means springtime, or the time of lengthening days. For Catholics, Lent is a time to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays, and to fast on certain days, including Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, which means eating only one full meal each day. There is also the tradition of giving something up for Lent, like chocolate or some other favorite treat, which Catholics are taught as children. This type of sacrifice is a form of penance. Today many Catholics add a good behavior into their lives, such serving the community, rather than give something up.
We celebrate the Paschal Triduum, including Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, in anticipation of the glorious celebration on Easter Sunday. Holy Thursday Mass is a celebration of the Last Supper, during which Jesus washed his disciples’ feet as an act of humility and service. It also emphasizes the importance of cleansing with water, a sign of Baptism. Good Friday is a day of fasting, mourning and prayer in memory of Jesus’ complete sacrifice as he was nailed to the cross. We pray the Stations of the Cross as we contemplate Jesus’ suffering. On Holy Saturday, we celebrate the Easter Vigil in the dark of evening, during which we must “stay dressed for action and keep our lamps full and burning” (Luke 12:35), in anticipation of Jesus’ glorious resurrection on Easter Sunday.
After the Triduum, we are ready to celebrate the wondrous resurrection of Jesus from the dead. This holiest day of the liturgical calendar is full of joy and gladness. Jesus is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, according to John 1:29. Through his death, we are saved from sin and redeemed in the eyes of God.
Easter symbols include daffodils, eggs, lambs, baby chicks and bunny rabbits- all signs of new life. The Easter egg has an interesting tradition. People have been decorating eggs with bright colors for Easter for many years. The Easter egg symbolizes the resurrection. Just as a baby chick pecks its way out of the egg to be born, so Jesus exited the rock tomb to emerge into new and everlasting life.
Just as Jesus was resurrected into new life, you can enter into a new life of service to your neighbors in need, following Jesus’ example of humble service. Transforming lives is possible- for both the giver and the receiver. The Saint Vincent de Paul Society of Philadelphia has many ways, customized to each local community for you to transform the lives of your neighbors as well as your own life, including through participation and building up the community. Like that of its founder, blessed Frédéric Ozanam, the vision of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul “is to embrace the world in a network of charity.”