Alleluia! On Easter Sunday, Christians everywhere celebrate the Paschal Mystery, fulfilling the words of ancient prophets through the Resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Catholics in Albuquerque and elsewhere recognize the great gift of salvation and a real change in the mood of a Church, who just came off a Lenten fast. Like the Christmas Season, Easter has hymns and prayers distinctly its own, as does each of the nights of the sacred Triduum. The art and environment of worship spaces was transformed during Holy Week, first from a somber and self-prophetic dinner party to the cold darkness of a tomb on the following day, and finally, in the dark of night, the Light of the World emerged in all his glory. Alleluia...and remember!
As people of faith revel in the joy of this most magnificent season, some forget that celebrating the miracle of that first Easter is an opportunity that is given us each and every Sunday throughout the year. Even the text from The Order of Mass is built around the wonder of Easter.
Sunday Eucharist begins with an invocation of the Holy Trinity: the Sign of the Cross. Through a series of public, penitential prayers, reminiscent of Lent, the community is led to the Gloria. This prayer, which is sung whenever possible, contains words of angels at Christ’s birth, and is therefore not used during the season of Advent in preparation for the celebration of his nativity. The Gloria is also omitted during Lent because the expression of the faithful is not one of such joy before Eastertide.
After listening to the Word of God interpreted through the ancients and the Gospel of Jesus, the assembly joins in a Profession of Faith, most often the Nicene Creed. This prayer alone is a declaration of all that has figured in the Triduum and Resurrection narratives; it is a summary of the story of Jesus, and the purpose and reality of the Holy Trinity. It may seem commonplace now, but it took the first Christians more than three hundred years before they began to even gather a semblance of an agreement as to what it would say.
But that isn’t the end of it. The Eucharistic Prayer takes on many forms and some of them are only used once a year. Each spells out in more detail the call for one and all to come to the table of the Lord. There, we remember the creation of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. It isn’t a re-creation; that only happened once. This is a remembrance of the night before he died, when he participated in the religious festival of the Jewish Passover and the beginning of Easter’s Paschal Mystery. The priest actually calls the community to recite or sing the Mystery of Faith during the Eucharistic Prayer.
When the Eucharistic Prayer continues, it summons all the faithful alive and dead to come to the table and proclaim the glory of God through Jesus Christ. It is through him and with him, united with the Father and the Holy Spirit that our faith and hope have come to be. Our response is ‘Amen’…I believe.
We pray the prayer that Jesus taught us, which declares the kingdom of God on earth. Then, the faithful receive communion and the mystery grows even deeper. How does the Lord make his presence inside of us through a piece of unleavened bread and few drops of wine? That in itself is living the Eucharist, an act that the human mind can hardly get around, but it’s essential to believing in hope through Jesus Christ. Before they leave, the community is instructed to share the good news of the Gospel with others. We were never called to keep this joy to ourselves.
Originally, Sunday was called the eighth day, being that it followed the Jewish Sabbath, and a few Catholics over the years have been confused by which one was which. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy states that the Eucharistic Liturgy is a tradition handed down by the apostles, celebrating the Paschal Mystery of Easter on the eighth day, and that tradition is founded in the Resurrection. (CSL#106) The document goes on to recognize that certain days need to be set aside and respected for their individual importance to the beliefs of the faithful. Every Sunday falls into that category.
We go to Mass in quest of filling our spiritual hunger, an inner need in everyone. Communion with others is one of the ecclesial purposes for there even being a church. As Jesus brought his followers together that night before he died, he communed with them, served them, prayed with them, and sent them to tell others what they had learned.
In a document titled Dies Domini (Celebrating the Lord’s Day), St Pope John Paul II wrote a reminder that Sunday was set aside by the first disciples, and their gift carries on today. Sunday is a celebration of the Creator’s work, the gift of salvation, and the quickening of the faithful spirit. “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26)
Just as the Gospel reveals on this 3rd Sunday of Easter, the two disciples who fled Jerusalem and tried to return to their normal lives, were startled into reality when they finally saw the Lord in the breaking of the bread. It is when we come to church with our brokenness, our inability to see God in our lives that we grasp for the faith and hope that makes us Christian in the first place. Like the men from Emmaus, we don’t always recognize the real presence of the Lord until we have gathered together in worship. For them and for us, every Sunday is Easter all over again: another opportunity to say ‘thank you.’ Every Sunday is the opportunity to say once again, “He is risen…I believe.”