April 2018 Four County Catholic
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
With joy and thanksgiving, we have just concluded the Octave of Easter, the first eight days of the Easter Season. We now look forward to the continuance of the Easter celebration for its full fifty days. Easter is so triumphant and momentous a celebration of our faith that we sometimes lose sight of the continuance of Easter to Pentecost Sunday, this year, May 20th. During those seven weeks and a day, we have a wonderful extended opportunity to reflect on the victory of our Lord’s Resurrection, His Ascension to the Father and the gift of the Holy Spirit upon the Church.
New birth and new beginnings is the essence of this holiest of seasons. Our Diocese was blessed at Easter Vigil to welcome one hundred and eighteen Rite of Election catechumens and candidates, who, as adults, were baptized, received First Holy Communion or were confirmed. What a beautiful beginning to the Easter celebration. We congratulate the newest members of our faith community as they rise to a new life of grace. Our community is enriched and strengthened by their presence. We rejoice with them.
Liturgical signs of the glow of Eastertide are plentiful in all churches of the Diocese as we recognize the Easter season as the center of the Christian year. You will notice the Easter candle is lighted and placed prominently in the sanctuary, signifying the divine Light of Christ. You will also notice the white and gold vestments, sanctuary banners and appointments, Easter lilies -- bright reflections of the sacred light of salvation.
Over recent weeks, I have had the privilege of visiting some of our diocesan schools. What a delight to spend time with the students, visiting classrooms, and answering questions. Their questions are always insightful and often unexpected! One third grade student last week asked me where does the word Easter come from? I did my best to explain that it comes from the root word “east’ – that the sun rises in the east, bringing light, warmth and hope. These are the qualities that represent Christ, the true Light of the world.
Well…before I could start feeling somewhat comfortable that I was able to field the question, another student raised her hand and asked about the meaning of Easter eggs. I can’t say, as a priest and Bishop, I have been faced with that question before. My answer, in short, was that I had once heard that Easter eggs can symbolize the empty tomb of Jesus from which Jesus resurrected – perhaps that’s how the tradition came to be? The student didn’t say anything, just looked at me in a not so convinced way. Then, she slowly nodded affirmatively suggesting she appreciated that somewhere along the line there was a connection. Neither one of us was too sure about that. Certainly, though, we connected on how important Easter is to all of us, whatever symbols and customs exist across the culture of the day.
I have always liked the Easter Season being longer than the forty-day Lenten season of penance and preparation. There is no greater moment of exaltation than the Resurrection on the third day, opening the gates of heaven for us to share in eternal life with our Lord and Savior.
The Lord has risen from the dead, as he said; Let us all exult and rejoice, For he reigns for all eternity, alleluia!
In a world as troubled and divided as it is during this period of history, we must keep the Easter message of new life in Christ and hope alive in our everyday lives. We need to live the message. Let us strive to deepen our understanding of the blessing of Easter, be joyful and bear witness to Christ through our lives.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Bishop Michael R. Cote