Easter is a time of great joy, and this Easter is particularly joyful for those who have been able to physically participate in the devotions and liturgies of the season. Last year churches across the country were closed, priests celebrated the Triduum liturgies in empty churches, and for months we were unable to receive the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith.
In most of the country, churches are open and this year Catholics were able to participate in the Triduum and Easter celebrations. What can the difference between these two Easters teach us? Laura DeMaria, a non-profit management professional and writer, stopped by Morning Air® recently to discuss the hope and joy to be found in this particular Easter season.
Morning Air host John Harper noted that in reflecting on last Easter, our definition of hope 12 months ago might be completely different than our definition of hope today.
Looking back to Easter a year ago, Laura said, “My church was closed down at this time last year. And all of this shutdown and pandemic stuff was still pretty new. We were still trying to understand and figure out what was going on, and why this incredibly important part of the liturgical year was out of reach and out of access.”
This year, being able to participate in the Holy Week liturgies once again, Laura shared that she was able to appreciate them in an entirely different way.
“I felt gratitude,” she said. “Because even though we’ve still got every other pew roped off and you have to wear your mask inside, I kind of thought, ‘Oh well! Because at least I’m here.’ A great place to start for each of us (even though things are still not where we would prefer) is to be grateful for what we do have.”
John shared that he and his co-host Glen Lewerenz read the part of the Narrator at the Palm Sunday Mass, and the conversations they had with their priests were a reminder to be grateful and find joy in the things we often take for granted.
“Both of our pastors in the sacristy were sharing that they were just so happy there was a congregation there,” John said. “Because they did everything themselves in an empty church just a year ago. There was a vibe in just hanging out after church with some parishioners, there really was this sense of hope and joy that certainly just wasn’t there last year.”
Laura also pointed out that the past year has required us to really seek out opportunities for worship, prayer, and connection in an active way, rather than passively as we did in the past. In that regard, the Lenten feeling of the pandemic may have made our faith life even stronger.
“Lent is this time that we grow closer to God and are spiritually strengthened,” Laura said. “And I think, whether or not we intended to, if you are still someone who is very engaged in your spiritual life (whether you are able to go back to church or not) it’s like you have been building a muscle over the last year.”
“There are all these ways that, yes, we have been asked to sacrifice,” she acknowledged. “But the gift that God has given us in place is to learn how to be holy, learn how to be Catholic in new and different ways.”
Despite the real grief and suffering of the past year, there are still reasons for hope and joy. The Easter season is a reminder that Christ has given us the greatest gift of eternal life with Him. When we are able to shift our focus to what matters most, we are better able to see the gifts that God gives us.
“It could be that because we have these simpler, more stripped-down lives now hope and joy are more real and more accessible because they are not diluted by our own self-importance,” Laura noted. “Our own sense of I’ve got places to go, things to do, people to meet. So, to me, hope and joy is rooted in that gratitude that it is so nice that I can go to church. God has given this as a gift right now.”
Listen to the full conversation below: