Although the BBC – and no doubt others – told us that last week was ‘Easter Week’ rather than, as we know is the case, Holy Week (probably to avoid having to use that word ‘Holy’ and thus offend someone or other), it is indeed this past week that was Easter Week. Better, it is the Octave of Easter when each day from Easter Day until the Sunday after Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday) is celebrated as if it were Easter Day. I always enjoyed the look on stranger’s faces at the weekday low masses when I spoke of today being Easter Day, today the day Christ rose from the dead – and so using all the collects and prefaces of the day of resurrection! (“This man is mad” they were thinking!).
There is though a serious point behind this liturgical tomfoolery. It is the elimination – or perhaps better, the re-configuring – of time. The liturgical year, the backbone of the Christian life takes us through a different year to that of the secular calendar for a reason. The Church’s year starts in Advent, early December. The climax is Easter which like Christmas is a season – not just a day or two of feasting and unusual expense. And there are other high points and holidays, Holy days of Obligation, of penance, fasting and many other feasts and celebrations – Candlemass, S. Blaise, Ash Wednesday, Corpus Christi – all these claim our attention and disrupt the flow of Christians’ everyday lives. The rest of the world is usually quite oblivious – or even scornful sometimes of such ancient and quaint (and, to them, idiotic) customs.
In Malta at least Holy days are still kept as holidays – which is great. It reminds us that the world of work, of efficiency, production, economics is not the real one. It reminds us we are not of this world! (We may be worldly sometimes but that is a different matter!) The liturgical year makes us what Christians have always been – and Christ Himself most definitely was with bells on – ‘counter-cultural’. The Faith is lived against the grain of society, its culture, its values and mores. We may ‘render to Caesar’ but we do not truly bow the knee to him or her as we only recognise Jesus as our Lord and Master. That is why the festas here in Malta are another wonderful reminder of the other-worldliness of Faith. They may be noisy and chaotic to prim Anglo-Saxon temperaments. Good! It reminds us that Faith, religion, is linked to primal passions, to deep feeling, community and the interruption of everyday life. It disrupts our lives (and sometimes our sleep!) throughout the summer and autumn reminding us of another world which – like the resurrection – explodes in the fireworks of the stone blown away from the mouth of the tomb.
The resurrection changed – and changes – everything. We are made anew. We have entered into eternity with Christ, Mary, SS. Peter and Paul, the martyrs, S. George and all the saints. We are God’s people now through baptism. And we have to show the world that we are different, not merely in our funny feasts and customs (though these are important) but in our lives of neighbourliness, of care for immigrants, of feeding those who in this crisis are going hungry, of support for the nurses, doctors and care-workers fighting for people’s lives.
And if we have not yet found a way to make a difference in this crisis, we need to try harder – for Christ’s sake.
This includes me. I am not sure what to do or where help is wanted most. Any ideas – given I should not really leave the house? Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org