The Living Rite column explores what you will see, hear, taste, touch or smell while at church this weekend.
On Easter we recall the women who came to the tomb of Jesus. Finding it empty, the women served as apostles of hope, quickly making their way to tell the good news of Christ’s resurrection to the people of Jerusalem.
When you come to church on Easter, “white robed apostles of hope” will also greet you. This name has been attributed to the Easter lily. An old legend which states that as Jesus moved through his Passion, each time a drop of his sweat or blood fell to the ground, a white lily sprung up in that spot. The trumpet shape of the flower suggests the angel trumpets that sounded at Jesus’ resurrection. Easter in a Catholic church has us looking at masses of white Easter lilies. Easter is also a particular feast that we can smell as the incense lingering from Holy Saturday night mixes with the distinct scent of the Easter lily.
After 40 days of being silenced, we will hear the Alleluias again. In particular, listen for the special threefold Alleluia that will be sung by the priest at the conclusion of the Mass.
Look for other symbols of the resurrection. Each year there is a new paschal candle. Your candle might be a simple white candle inscribed with the symbols of the alpha and omega and the current year, but more than likely you will see a candle that has elaborate embellishments and symbols on it. For the past five years in my parish, a parishioner who is an iconist, hand paints the paschal candles that grace our sanctuary.
In addition to the white lilies, you will see the colors of gold and white used in vestments, altar cloths and throughout the church. The baptismal area may also be decorated with fresh flowers and fabric. If your church has a baptismal font that does not have water pumped through it, you may notice that a water element with flowing water has been added to the font area.
Can you see a paschal lamb anywhere in your church? This white lamb, holding a banner of white, with a red cross upon it, symbolizes Jesus the Lamb of God, who died and is now risen. If your church has more traditional stained glass windows that will be a good place to begin your search. The symbol of the paschal lamb also holds a special place in many homes on Easter. Perhaps your dinner table will hold a butter lamb or a lamb cake.
Several years ago, I purchased a very old, and well used, cast-iron lamb cake mold at an auction. Each Holy Saturday morning as I bring out the mold to begin baking, I think of the many people, the communion of saints, who shared a lamb cake from that same mold and I can hear their voices proclaiming again, “Jesus is risen, he is risen indeed.”
Zahorik is pastoral associate at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, Oshkosh.