by Sister Ann Marie Emon
What did Easter mean to you when you were little? For me it meant lots of ways to celebrate Easter as a family. My Aunt made me my Easter dress and I had an Easter hat, new shoes and socks. That’s what I wore to church on Easter morning. A few days before Easter, Mom and I would color hard boiled eggs. She boiled onionskins and beets as our colors for the eggs. She also made a cross from sticks of butter. Mom pushed butter in a strainer and decorated the cross with the butter. Mom pulled out the Easter basket but it only had fake green grass in it, otherwise, it was empty. I just had to wait until Easter to see if I would get any chocolate bunnies, Easter eggs or jellybeans. Then my Mom took parts of all the food for Easter brunch in a special basket with a white towel for the covering. She filled it with items like the butter cross, kielbasa, colored Easter eggs, salt, horseradish, ham and coffee cake. She took the basket to church on Holy Saturday afternoon for the blessing of food. On Easter Sunday morning going to church was the most important part of Easter for our family. As I walked into church with my Easter outfit on, I was amazed at all the lilies and azaleas there were on and around the altar. They smelled wonderful! Everywhere you looked there were candles glowing in the church. Bells rang and the choir sang beautiful songs with alleluias in them. My parents told me that Jesus is risen! We had hearts filled with love for all that Jesus did for us.
As an adult Easter is much more than days filled with childhood symbols and traditions. Although there are many rituals throughout the Easter season, my most meaningful celebration is the Easter Vigil. It is a night service held on the eve of Easter. There are four parts to the liturgy. The first part is the liturgy of light. It begins with darkness until after making a small fire there is the lighting of the Pascal Candle. The priest carries the candle into the church singing, “The light of Christ” three times. The congregation then lights their candles until the whole church is aglow with light and sings the ancient chant, the Exultet.
The second part is the liturgy of the word. Some of the readings feature the story of creation, the story of Abraham and Isaac, and the experience of the Exodus. Singing the Gloria with bells tolling throughout the hymn is next. The organ begins playing and we sing familiar hymns with glorious alleluias in them.
The third part is one of the highlights of the Easter Vigil, which is the baptizing of adults who have been participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation during Lent. Catechumens are confirmed at this time in the liturgy as well. All the people renew their baptismal promises followed by the sprinkling of holy water throughout the congregation.
The fourth part is the liturgy of the Eucharist. Jesus comes among us in his body and blood. On Easter morning, all Christians throughout the world celebrate Easter, singing, “The Lord is risen alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!” Centuries ago St. Athanasius wrote these powerful words, which give us hope, “for by the sacrifice of his own body Christ did two things; he put an end to the law of death which barred our way; and he made a new beginning of life for us, by giving us the hope of resurrection.” May you be filled with joy during this entire Easter season.