In fact, everything that exists and moves in the Church – the sacraments, doctrine, institutions – draws its strength from Christ’s Resurrection. -Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, Life in Christ, 67
Even though the Church continually invites Catholics to live in the Resurrection of Christ, many of us cling to our suffering. As a result, our spirituality is focused mainly on the Crucifixion even though we celebrate our release from prison liturgically every year. The candles we lit almost two weeks ago at the Easter Vigil symbolically illuminated our path forward, showing us how to move through the darkness of our sin and suffering to victory with Christ. During the Easter Proclamation (Exsultet), the deacon or priest sings:
What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?
The power of this holy night
dispels all evil, washes guilt away,
restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace, and humbles earthly pride.
Yet, as we listened to this prayer, the obvious question we must ask ourselves is, “Do I allow Christ to redeem me, to set me free in truth, in the nitty-gritty of my daily life?” It is not easy to actualize our faith, to move beyond mere ritual and lip service. I know I spent years thinking I was a committed Catholic, but I was in fact closed to the power of Christ’s death and resurrection as it applied to me personally.
Learning How to Live in the Resurrection
Thank God for my kids, because they shook me out of a phony piety by stripping away distractions, stripping my life down to the basics and forcing me to turn to Christ the Savior in desperation.
I was a perfectionist who strove to raise polite, godly children and keep an immaculate house. It took living on a limited income with nine kids, a husband struggling with depression, and overwhelming chores on a small hobby farm to bring me to my knees. Only when I experienced Christ’s redemption could I experience the Resurrection and say with joy, “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!”
Years ago, when my kids were still small, I was ironing dresses and shirts for Easter Sunday the next day. Six-year-old Claire watched for a while and then pointed to the iron and asked,
“What is that, mummy?”
I was shocked and then I laughed and laughed because I realized this little girl had never seen me ironing. I usually used the clothes dryer as my wrinkle-smoother when I wasn’t looking for perfection but rather efficiency. Actually, it was not just the iron which seldom received attention as I mothered a large family. Something I considered essential was eliminated from my life with the birth of each child. Painting portraits went with my firstborn. Other births gave the boot to crafts, dusting, making bread, cooking interesting meals, and folding laundry.
The Cross Comes Before the Resurrection
As every mother knows, a newborn takes at least eight hours a day to nurse, burp, rock, comfort, bath, change, and to wash diapers, clothes, receiving blankets, sheets, and baby blankets. Then you have to deal with your own clothes which tend to get covered in vomit and other nasty surprises. The lack of sleep leads to a rather narrow existence where the best days are when you can sneak in a 10-minute nap or shower and dress before noon.
Those were the days when life was reduced to the basics. It was easy to fall into a trap of thinking of myself as a victim, a martyr on the cross with Christ. It was easy to forget about my call to live with the resurrected Christ.
When life was stripped down to the basics of survival I was forced to turn to God. Suffering was actually the key to learning how to live in joy. My difficult life was miraculous when I relaxed and allowed myself to live in the moment, enjoying my newborn and loving my other children rather than bemoaning all the important activities I couldn’t seem to even start.
Unless I embrace the cross, I cannot embrace the Resurrection. Don’t get stuck on the cross. We draw our strength from the resurrection.
Copyright 2018 Melanie Jean Juneau