Christians seem to spend a lot of time thinking and talking about suffering and death. The crucifixion, the body and the blood of Christ, sacrifice, death and dying are all part of our regular religious devotions. It is not a pretty picture. And yet, suffering and death are human realities. The experience of loss in our lives takes many forms: loss of our youth, our physical well-being, our hopes and dreams, our beliefs and ideas and our loved ones. And, at the same time Jesus’ suffering, death, resurrection and ascension is central to Christian spirituality. So, what do we make of it all?
From one perspective, the Paschal Mystery (from the Greek pascha “Passover”) is a pattern for living our life. Life is full of many small “deaths or losses”, but Christ teaches us that we do not have to be devastated by them. He shows us that by overcoming death and his resurrection to new life. Here is the pattern:
- Good Friday – represents suffering and many “little deaths” experienced by all, in many different ways, as outlined above.
- Easter Sunday –represents reception of new life – for every little death there is a little resurrection, a new reality.
- The Forty Days – Jesus remained on Earth forty days after the Resurrection (Acts 1:3), during which he instructed the apostles and helped them learn to live in the “new life of the resurrection”. This represents a time of grieving the loss of the old and adjusting to the new reality in which we all live after a significant loss. It may not be the life we want, but it is the life we now have.
- The Ascension – this represents not clinging to the old, but letting it go. We let it ascend and bless us in whatever way it was meant to.
- Pentecost – represents receiving the new spirit of the life we are already living so that we may receive all the blessings in that new life.
The Paschal Mystery is a powerful way of looking at the stages in our lives. It is not simply about helping us get to the next life. Instead, it shows us how to navigate the ups and downs of this life. God wants us to live lives that are “fully alive”, not stuck in the grief that suffering and death bring to us. Jesus, by his life and death, shows us how to transcend the pain and learn to live again. May we all learn the lessons of the Paschal Mystery so that we may live in the joy of this Easter season. Bless you all.
Reference: Rolheiser, Ronald. The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality. New York, NY: Doubleday, 1999.