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Bible Reflections View Comments

Easter Is Only the Beginning
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, March 31, 2013
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Brides and grooms have said this of their wedding days, when after months and months of planning every perfect detail, they have little recollection of the day itself. Sometimes when we put everything we have into anticipating a great event—planning, preparing, hoping, dreaming—the event itself can sometimes seem almost anticlimactic, as though it couldn’t live up to the hype.

Easter can be a little bit like this. We think of it as one glorious day, the culmination of our Lenten sacrifices. We often think of it as the final scene of a play that begins on Palm Sunday, and so we expect it to be grand finale. We know that we are celebrating the greatest single event in God’s covenant with his people, the triumph over death itself. But somehow we can’t wrap our understanding and emotions around something so intense, so unique, so utterly beyond our own experience.

Ironically, this letdown is almost built into the Easter readings. At the heart of the Easter story is the empty tomb. The stories of the appearances will come later, unfolding the mystery of the resurrection. But the first message to the apostles is that the tomb is empty. Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb in the early hours of the morning. John and Peter go together to the tomb but each enters separately. We must do likewise. The first apostles gathered in the Upper Room trying to make sense of what had happened between the Last Supper and that first Easter morning. Our response to our individual conversion is to gather with those who can share that experience.

Throughout the Gospels, the apostles appear in shifting groups or more often as individuals, following Jesus and relying on his leadership to hold them together and settle their disputes. It is only the fear of the crucifixion and then confrontation of the empty tomb that gathers them together into a single group, relying on each other for protection, reassurance and support. The empty tomb compels them to rely on their faith. Together they recall the stories Jesus told of the resurrection, stories they may not have heard or understood because they were preoccupied with their own success and advancement. Alone none of them is able to fully comprehend the experience; together they discover new insights in a shared belief. From Easter to Pentecost, they are most often referred to as the Eleven, a sign that their identity is as a cohesive group rather than a collection of individuals. Like those first disciples, we discover the presence of the Risen Lord by retelling the same stories. We center more on Jesus’s life than on our own.

Any personal experience of the Risen Lord is marked by the command or the impulse to “go and tell the others.” The Christian life is characterized by reaching out to others, sharing the good news of the resurrection, caring for the poor, becoming the healing presence of Christ to those in need.

Just as a wedding day is followed by years of marriage, the day-to-day life of learning to live and love in a committed relationship, so Easter Sunday stretches first to the Easter Octave, then throughout the fifty days of the Easter season and into each expression of the paschal mystery in our weekly Eucharists and in our lives. Easter only marks the beginning of this great adventure.


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Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi: Mystical ecstasy is the elevation of the spirit to God in such a way that the person is aware of this union with God while both internal and external senses are detached from the sensible world. Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi was so generously given this special gift of God that she is called the "ecstatic saint." 
<p>She was born into a noble family in Florence in 1566. The normal course would have been for Catherine de' Pazzi to have married wealth and enjoyed comfort, but she chose to follow her own path. At nine she learned to meditate from the family confessor. She made her first Communion at the then-early age of 10 and made a vow of virginity one month later. When 16, she entered the Carmelite convent in Florence because she could receive Communion daily there. </p><p>Catherine had taken the name Mary Magdalene and had been a novice for a year when she became critically ill. Death seemed near so her superiors let her make her profession of vows from a cot in the chapel in a private ceremony. Immediately after, she fell into an ecstasy that lasted about two hours. This was repeated after Communion on the following 40 mornings. These ecstasies were rich experiences of union with God and contained marvelous insights into divine truths. </p><p>As a safeguard against deception and to preserve the revelations, her confessor asked Mary Magdalene to dictate her experiences to sister secretaries. Over the next six years, five large volumes were filled. The first three books record ecstasies from May of 1584 through Pentecost week the following year. This week was a preparation for a severe five-year trial. The fourth book records that trial and the fifth is a collection of letters concerning reform and renewal. Another book, <i>Admonitions</i>, is a collection of her sayings arising from her experiences in the formation of women religious. </p><p>The extraordinary was ordinary for this saint. She read the thoughts of others and predicted future events. During her lifetime, she appeared to several persons in distant places and cured a number of sick people. </p><p>It would be easy to dwell on the ecstasies and pretend that Mary Magdalene only had spiritual highs. This is far from true. It seems that God permitted her this special closeness to prepare her for the five years of desolation that followed when she experienced spiritual dryness. She was plunged into a state of darkness in which she saw nothing but what was horrible in herself and all around her. She had violent temptations and endured great physical suffering. She died in 1607 at 41, and was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Lord, keep me in your care. Guard me in my actions. Teach me to love, and help me to turn to you throughout the day. The world is filled with temptations. As I move through my day, keep me close. May those I encounter feel your loving presence. Lord, be the work of my hands and my heart. Amen.

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