By Bob Hiller –
Isn’t it weird what a come down Easter is? I mean, we spend forty days in the repentant darkness of Lent, withholding “alleluias” from our lips and fasting from some pleasure in order to drive us to more focused prayer. Then Easter comes, the Alleluias return, lilies cover the altar, and we all log back on to Facebook with mouthfuls of chocolate. The fast is over, and it is time for the feast. So we do—for one day.
But strangely, the forty-day fast only ends in a one-day feast. We celebrate Easter and quickly move on. We forget the forty days leading to the Ascension are to be full of Easter joy. And I’m not talking about pastel ties or fluffy bunny kind of joy. I’m talking about the “war is over and the boys are coming home” joy. It’s the joy as on the last day of school before summer or the joy that comes when she said “yes” and you began planning your future together. Easter is the good news that “Jesus has come and brings pleasure eternal,” as we sing in church. We celebrate it for one day with chocolate bunnies and soft-hued shirts.
I’m not a fan of wearing pink and sea green, so I get why we kind of want to move past the culture’s distortion of Easter as quickly as possible. But in the Church, this is the time to celebrate! We should want to stay in Easter as long as we possibly can. Whatever we did to encourage a time of solemnity and repentance during Lent should be counterbalanced (and then some) by our Easter practices. Lenten disciplines should turn into Easter celebrations.
We are encouraged to fast for Lent, so perhaps during Easter we should be celebrating that the bridegroom is with us (Mark 2:19) and that death has lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15:56). So, instead of fish fries on Fridays, the Catholics could smoke beef ribs and try various rubs throughout the season. Did you give up chocolate for Lent? Well, perhaps you should head to your local Ghirardelli’s to buy a different type of chocolate each week. Instead of midweek services, maybe churches should be organizing wine tastings and dinner parties. Perhaps we should be enjoying the fruits of God’s creation during Easter just as much as we faithfully withheld them from ourselves during Lent.
One year, a dear woman came to me on Easter morning to confess that she had already taken a bite of chocolate before church. I looked at her strange and said, “Sounds like a great breakfast.” She responded that she felt guilty because she had already broken her Lenten fast. She promised not to eat anymore chocolate that day. I said, “No more chocolate? Jesus isn’t dead, and you are free! You need to go buy yourself a king-size Hershey bar and work that thing for lunch!”
Lent is a season for reflection and repentance. It is good and necessary for us to fast at that time. But this is Easter! We Christians ought to take the joy we have in Christ just as seriously as we take our sorrow over our sins. No, we ought to take the joy even more seriously! Jesus has conquered death, fulfilled the Law, defeated Satan, and freed you from your sin and guilt! Take something up for Easter! Find what brings you joy, and with prayers of thanksgiving and praise, and dive in. Lent is for fasting; Easter is for feasting. Revel in the freedom you have in Christ Jesus! For He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!