One little guy had it all figured out. Right before the Easter egg hunt he told me, “I’m going to run as fast as I can to the far end. So when everybody else is fighting over the up-close eggs, I will snatch up all of the far-away eggs.”
A savvy strategy indeed, young man! Those eggs don’t just magically leap into your basket. You need a game plan.
That goes for you toddlers too. I’ve seen some of you wee ones hunt Easter eggs. You start by getting distracted by a stick or a leaf or something. Then you plop down on the grass, pick up the stick and sniff it, and scratch the dirt with it. If you ever do get an egg in your basket it immediately falls out the next time you wobblingly bend over to pick up yet another stick.
So here’s a tip for you toddlers. Wear a cute bonnet to the hunt – or go to Party City and get a pair of those fuzzy bunny ears on the plastic headband to wear. The more adorable you look the less likely the bigger kids will trip and trample you. And though you won’t amass many eggs through wit or physical ability, you likely will have people openly handing them to you because you are such a little hunny bunny.
One does not simply hunt Easter eggs. One is graced by them. That is the secret to Easter.
In 1876 Gerard Manley Hopkins composed a stirring poem in which he used the phrase “Let him easter in us.” He employed it as a nautical phrase. To “easter” means to steer the course of a ship to the east and toward the rising sun. He also intended it as a lesson in grace. We are to let the Lord commandeer our lives and bring us to the rising light.
We persevere through Holy Week with the assurance that Jesus is risen and He simply wants to hand over His gift of unconquerable grace and life to us – because we are so adorable and beloved to Him. He has appeared to the apostles and now He makes Himself present to us so that we can be reconciled with the Father.
As the angel at the tomb asked, “Why do you seek the living one among the dead?” (Luke 24:5b). Seek and receive the gift where it may be found.
Blessed Holy Week and Easter to you all, Nativity of Mary! Let’s give it all to Him. Promises will be fulfilled and miracles will spring up.
Your humble, hopeful parish priest.
We prepare to enter into Holy Week – or, better stated, Holy Week pierces into us.
This is the week in which we remember that Jesus surrendered Himself and emptied Himself. It is a week that invites us to do the same.
In 1952 a German philosopher named Josef Pieper released a book entitled, “Leisure: The Basis of Culture.” It is a book that, when I first read it, stopped me in my tracks. I have returned to it often and, if I were to study this book for a lifetime, it would always bring me fresh insight and challenge me deeply.
Pieper wrote his masterpiece shortly after World War II. He wrote to a world that was frenetically busy trying to reconstruct a war-ravaged Europe. Pieper tried to help them to see that their rush to accomplish, achieve, produce, and build was hollow – unless they first learned in the depths of their spirits how to rest and worship – to receive wisdom and open one’s heart to wonder.
The first page of his book cites Psalm 46:11 – “Be still and know that I am God.”
We are beings with incarnated souls. When we become distracted and disconnected from timeless truths and the ineffable things beyond us, all of our busy activities and overtime pursuits leave us less than human and even will annihilate us.
This is the week that stills us and brings us, like human commas, to our knees. We pause from all else this week to look deep within. As we do the ancient Word is revealed to us.
I have heard there were times and places where businesses would close and all other activities would cease so that people could observe the Triduum. Now it seems the Paschal Mystery must somehow “fit in” around all of our other busy pursuits.
The Triduum Sacrum – the Holy Triduum. It begins on Holy Thursday and will lift us into Easter. This is the most sacred time of the year. It is the hour “for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:23). We need to know that glory.
It’s almost time to plant the grass – the Easter grass. Real grass is my favorite Easter decoration. At my former parish the crew would take pots of soil. Seven to ten days before Easter they would plant in the pots seeds or berries for wheatgrass or ryegrass. For the Easter Vigil they would bring out pots of real, lovely, plush, green grass several inches high. No other church decoration would stoke as well the Easter spirit within me.
Scripture reminds us that “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flower wilts; but the word of the Lord remains forever” (1 Peter 1:24). So the grass reminds us of our mortality, yet it also is a sign of the promise of Easter. Grass rises up quickly from the moment it is laid in the earth – with its face to the sun and with its green as the color of hope.
Here is an excerpt from the poem “Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman, one of the most influential and all-American of our nation’s poets. Whitman refers to grass as the “hair of graves.” He reflects on all of the men, women, and children who lie buried beneath the grass:
What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?
Yet also in the poem he reflects,
A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he.
I guess it must be the flag of my disposition,
out of hopeful green stuff woven.
Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord,
A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt,
Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners,
that we may see and remark, and say Whose?
Lent, as it does every year, is coming to an end – and that is a greatly hopeful thing. Lent serves only for a time to prepare us for Easter and the new and eternally lasting life come. So may we be filled with the belief that one day when we are laid to the earth, like the grass of the fields, we will rise quickly with our faces beaming to the Son.
As we reflect on our lives and ask “Whose?” we remember that we belong to God. God grant that our Lenten journey to Easter keep us always on the right and holy path.
Every year, often and throughout Lent, I have people approach me with some variation of this same question: “Father, what’s with Lenten sacrifices? Somebody told me that Sundays are always feast days – so if you give up something for Lent, you are allowed to partake of it on Sundays. Is that true? If I gave up candy for Lent, can I pig out on candy on Sundays of Lent with a good conscience? Isn’t that cheating?”
Ah, finding the compass to navigate, amidst the fog, the moral life.
I don’t remember ever having read anything authoritative, or anything that would give certain direction from the Church, on the subject. I have, however, recently read an article that bravely attempts to tackle the dilemma. The article is called “To Cheat or Not to Cheat; That Is My Question” by Tommy Tighe on a website called “Aleteia”.
The author points out that:
Catholics line up on both sides of the issue... On one side you have the folks who consider making a sacrifice for just six days of the week to be “wimping out.” They feel that you should maintain your sacrifice for the entirety of Lent if you want it to have full spiritual value.
On the other side, you have the folks who insist upon the fact that Sunday is not a penitential day. They don’t feel that fasting or abstinence have any place on the Lord’s Day and often use Matthew 9:15 as the defense for their position: “How can the guests of the Bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the Bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.”
He also dug up a statement from the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops which advised:
(Our Lenten sacrifices) are disciplinary in nature and often more effective if they are continuous, i.e., kept on Sundays as well. That being said, such practices are not regulated by the Church, but by individual conscience.
So the author concludes that we are left to look into our hearts and to discern the reasons by which we are motivated. In other words, it’s up to you – but be sure you are acting in good conscience. So there. Whether feasting or fasting – be prayerful and faith-filled.
Fr. Zehren's Blog
Fr. Dennis Zehren is the pastor of Nativity of Mary Parish and School. Fr. Zehren has been at Nativity since June 2012. Pray that he may be a faithful servant leading us higher up and deeper into the life and love of our Triune God.