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 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinApril 18, 2003 Issue 

Three Easter words of enlightment

Easter is a time for joyful expression in celebration of God's ultimate victory

April 20, 2003 -- Easter Sunday

By Bishop Robert Morneau

Bishop Robert Morneau
Robert Morneau

Questions for reflection:

1. How extensive is your religious vocabulary?

2. What does glory, alleluia, and joy mean to you?

3.Do you have certain words that speak to you about Easter joy?

Each season has its vocabulary. Here in Wisconsin winter's lexicon includes cold, frigid, snow, blizzard, ice. In summer's dictionary we find green, warm/hot, baseball, lake, vacation. So too do autumn and spring. Each has its reality expressed to us in a unique language.

 • Easter-related articles

What about Easter? Does this feast have words which direct us toward the mystery of Jesus' resurrection? Three words are offered in the liturgy that illumine, however slightly, the great event of our salvation.

Glory! "I saw the glory of Christ, now risen," exclaims Mary in the Sequence after the second reading. Mary saw the glory of Jesus -- the fullness of his life, light, and love. This was not the historical Jesus that she knew in the flesh but the risen Christ who conquered sin and death and whose love set her and us free. This was a whole new mode of existence, not a resuscitation. The radiance of Christ astounded her and she became the first great evangelist. Paradoxically the glory was in the "emptiness," the life was in the death, the freedom in the obedience. God's glory is far different than ours.

St. Paul confirms this Easter word. "When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory." We are bound for glory. We are, like homing pigeons, programmed to get back home where we came from. Jesus lived, died, and rose that we might make that journey and be in the splendor of God's presence, God's radiant glory.

A second Easter word helping us to plunge into this glorious mystery is Alleluia, a Hebrew word meaning "praise Yahweh." All during Lent we have refrained from this joyful expression. We held ourselves in waiting until that moment when God's victory in Jesus became manifest. Now, having experienced in liturgy once again God's faithful love, we shout out our Alleluias. Indeed, "how can we keep from singing?"

Praise is a central theme of Easter. Whereas thanksgiving tends to focus on the gift received, praise directs its gaze to the intrinsic beauty of the Giver. Easter is a Trinitarian celebration: we praise God our creator for the gift of life, we praise Jesus our redeemer for coming to us that we might be reconciled, we praise the Spirit of mercy and love who now abides with us in a new fashion. "Alleluia. Christ has become our paschal sacrifice; let us feast with joy in the Lord. Alleluia."

A third Easter word: "rejoice!" Easter is the day the Lord has made, "let us rejoice and be glad in it." Is Christianity a truly joyful religion? How is it that so many Christians are sad, depressed, filled with anxiety and fear? Granted, the world has its brutality and suffering, its war and violence. But if God has broken the bonds of death and sin, if Jesus is truly risen, if the Spirit dwells within us, we do have cause for rejoicing.

Nor is this being flippant about the mystery of redemption. Each one of us is on a pilgrim journey and each one of us will have many Good Fridays to deal with. Yet, Easter speaks of ultimate victory and provides grounds for joyful trust. As one theologian asserts, joy is the infallible sign of God's presence.

Easter's lexicon is not large and it's free for the taking. Glory, alleluia, joy! Words bearing mystery. Words pointing to Jesus and the mystery of God's faithful love.

(Bp. Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay.)

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