Preparing for the Feast of Easter
Early Church Father & Doctor of the Church
This excerpt from an Easter letter by Saint Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria in the 4th century, emphasizes the proper spiritual preparation for the worthy celebration of the feast of Easter. It is used in the Roman Office of Readings for the 5th Sunday in Lent with the accompanying biblical reading of Hebrews 1:1-24.
The Word who became all things for us is close to us, our Lord Jesus Christ who promises to remain with us always. He cries out, saying: “See, I am with you all the days of this age”. He is himself the shepherd, the high priest, the way and the door, and has become all things at once for us. In the same way, he has come among us as our feast and holy day as well. The blessed Apostle says of him who was awaited: “Christ has been sacrificed as our Passover”. It was Christ who shed his light on the psalmist as he prayed: “You are my joy, deliver me from those surrounding me”. True joy, genuine festival, means the casting out of wickedness. To achieve this one must live a life of perfect goodness and, in the serenity of the fear of God, practice contemplation in one’s heart.
This was the way of the saints, who in their lifetime and at every stage of life rejoiced as at a feast. Blessed David, for example, not once but seven times rose at night to win God’s favour through prayer. The great Moses was full of joy as he sang God’s praises in hymns of victory for the defeat of Pharaoh and the oppressors of the Hebrew people. Others had hearts filled always with gladness as they performed their sacred duty of worship, like the great Samuel and the blessed Elijah. Because of their holy lives they gained freedom, and now keep festival in heaven. They rejoice after their pilgrimage in shadows, and now distinguish the reality from the promise.
When we celebrate the feast in our own day, what path are we to take? As we draw near to this feast, who is to be our guide? Beloved, it must be none other than the one whom you will address with me as our Lord Jesus Christ. He says: “I am the way”. As blessed John tells us: it is Christ “who takes away the sin of the world”. It is he who purifies our souls, as the prophet Jeremiah says: “Stand upon the ways; look and see which is the good path, and you will find in it the way of amendment for your souls”.
In former times the blood of goats and the ashes of a calf were sprinkled on those who were unclean, but they were able to purify only the body. Now through the grace of God’s Word everyone is made abundantly clean. If we follow Christ closely we shall be allowed, even on this earth, to stand as it were on the threshold of the heavenly Jerusalem, and enjoy the contemplation of that everlasting feast, like the blessed apostles, who in following the Savior as their leader, showed, and still show, the way to obtain the same gift from God. They said: “See, we have left all things and followed you”. We too follow the Lord, and we keep his feast by deeds rather than by words.
For more Lenten readings by the Early Church Fathers, click here to visit the Library Page and for the very practical artilce "40 Ways to Get the Most out of Lent," click here. Click on the following links for some more wonderful spiritual exercises for Holy Week and Good Friday and the sacred Triduum.
For more Catholic resources to feed your faith, visit the Crossroads Initiative Homepage.
To sign up for our free weekly e-mail with Dr. D'Ambrosio's commentary on the Sunday readings, liturgical feasts, updates on where Dr. D will be speaking, a chance to WIN a FREE CD and MORE, CLICK HERE!
The Meaning of the Passion
The Passion of the Christ, the movie and the events it depicts - As we reflect on the Seven Last Words of Christ, we can't help but ask why it had to happen this way? Wasn't there another way? This talk is a perfect complement to the film and The Guide to the Passion and will help you get the most out of the movie, recently rereleased, and the most out of the season. 45 minutes, followed by questions and answers.
Retail - $8.95
A Guide to the Passion of The Christ -
This guide, with 100 questions and answers, will help you understand this movie is not just another extraordinary Hollywood production—rather, it’s a personal call for each of us to encounter the person of Jesus Christ. Co-Authored by Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D. it answers 100 questions about Mel Gibson's Passion of Christ. Priced to purchase in bulk to share with your friends and parish! Call today for delivery by Easter! Call 800-803-0118