Easter Vigil, 11th of April 2020
Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul, Ennis
Easter means different things for different people…
The welcome Spring weather, longer days, the tail end of the late daffodils, the emergence of the hyacinths, tulips and cherry blossoms that are well established by now.
For more it a time of Easter lilies, Lambs and calves in the fields, holiday time, family, visitors, lamb for dinner, chocolate, Easter bunnies, Easter eggs and good times! They are some things that we look forward to and greet so much in normal times. But as you well know, 2020 is not normal times. Even though it is Easter Sunday we struggle after the long time of social isolation we have had to endure over the past five weeks due to the Corona Virus to let the light of better times dawn. At a time like this we need more than ever a message of hope like Easter might bring us.
A celebration of Faith!
Easter is a special time in which we celebrate the core of our faith. Some even claim that the Sun dances with delight on Easter Sunday morning in tune with the joy of the Resurrection! In other years we would have the opportunity to check that out, but this year, even the dawn Masses that had become so popular had to be knocked on the head!
Paschal Mystery – Pasch
The last week, with Holy Week and the last 3 days with the celebration of the Triduum we had an intense few days of celebrating and commemorating the core of our faith, the Paschal Mystery of the Life, Death and jut now during this vigil the Resurrection of Jesus.
This night we have a radical shift in gear to the mode of joy, gladness and delight of the Resurrection and 6 weeks of celebration with the season of Eastertide until Ascension and Pentecost!
The Sun Dancing – Domhnach Cásga!
I love that image from our Celtic tradition of the Sun dancing… on Easter Sunday morning and it is captured so well by the priest writer from the West of Ireland Fr. Pádraig Standún in his classic poem Domhnach Cásga:
Ar dhamhsaigh sí duit i mbliana?
Ar dhamhsaigh an ghrian faoi Cháisc?
An bhfaca tú í ag damhsa,
Damhsa deiridh an bháis.
Instruments of the Passion in West Clare Graveyards Donal de Barra
It’s always helpful to have an image of something in your mind’s eye in order to get deeper into its meaning. For many the image of the Resurrection is impossible to grasp and maybe that’s why like doubting Thomas so many people find it hard to believe. Any of the films on the life of Jesus find it so hard when it comes to the resurrection to capture it in reality!
Image of the Rooster and the Pot
I love the image of the rooster and the Pot – the ancient image in many cultures, our own included of the Resurrection. There is a great depiction of it in the lawn of the pastoral centre, outside the Maria Assumpta hall here in Ennis with the caption Tá Mac na hÓighe slán! The son of the virgin is saved.
The Passion in West Clare Graveyards
I came across this tradition at one stage in a fascinating article by a man called Donal de Barra called Instruments of the passion in West Clare graveyards. He claims that some of the flagstones in the old Friary in Ennis capture many great images at the core of our Easter faith, including this special one of the rooster and the pot.
The rooster and the pot is a very common motif, representing the story of Peter telling his wife of the crucifixion and anticipated resurrection after three days. His wife replies to the effect that the resurrection of Jesus is as likely as that the chicken which is boiling in a pot nearby will come back to life. Immediately, the rooster flies up and crows from the top of the pot. Folklore tells us that what the cock actually said when he crew was ‘Tá Mac na hÓighe slán’, the Son of the Virgin is saved. And roosters have been saying that ever since, even though pedants might only hear it as cock-a-doodle-do!
Two great images of the Resurrection. The sun dancing. The rooster and the pot!
Lenten talk on Joy
Some time ago I was at a Lenten talk and the speaker posed an important question “Why as Christians are we not more people of Joy!”. It was a good and valid question. It’s a question that has intrigued me often. I think it is just a case that we in Ireland simply don’t do joy as well as we do sadness! I’m not sure why?
- Maybe it’s because of our sometimes drab climate and weather!
- It may have something to do with the ruggedness of our landscape!
- Maybe it’s because of our history and background of famine and penal laws and political oppression.
In Christian terms, I think there are a number of parallels.
Why does Sadness trump over Joy?
Why in Christian terms do we take the Cross more seriously than the Resurrection?
For some reason, in my opinion we don’t “do” joy well.
Good Friday and the Cross, seem to speak to us on a more personal and serious level and speak more loudly to us. That may be very much the case in this difficult and challenging time! We certainly may have felt that yesterday evening when we heard of the extension of the current restrictions until May 5th.
However, to paraphrase yet again the words of Seamus Heaney used by the Taoiseach in his address to the nation yesterday and dubbed by one of the national papers today as the Heaney habit testing patience – nonetheless it contains much wisdom – if we can Winter this we will Summer anywhere!
Easter a time of Joy and Celebration
This night is after all a day of celebration and joy and hope and courage and faith and dare I say it in the current climate delight and a cause for celebration. Why not let it in? It’s worth exploring and trying and if this welcome shaft of light can penetrate the cracks of darkness, I believe it can make a concrete and real difference to the happiness, contentment, calmness and serenity of our lives, even in the midst of the confinement and near captivity and social isolation we are in the midst of.
Letting the Message of the Resurrection in – Rolling away the Boulders of unbelief
There is one final great image that I find helpful in letting the joy of the Resurrection in: it’s the image of Rolling back the stones of our hearts. In the words of Peter Chrysologus in this 5th century text “To behold the resurrection, the stone must first be rolled away from our hearts”.
So, what are the stones on our hearts that block or impede our joy of faith or hope or joy. Excessive caution, lack of courage, fear of failure, sadness, addiction, bereavement, sadness, laziness, apathy, fear of the Corona virus? Whatever it is why not roll that boulder away and let the light of the joy of the Resurrection in on the Easter night…?
Easter Blessing of Prayer
May Easter wrap its loveliness around your heart. And may the full significance of the Resurrection dawn on you, as bright and beautiful as the eternal spring… And whenever dark hours come, may the remembrance of the Resurrection shine through the darkness and light your way with faith. And lift the clouds from your heart, as the stone was lifted from the tomb on that first Easter day.