A month before my ordination, Kimberly and I met for an interview with Bishop Boyea. These interviews were an annual occurrence for me to be accepted into the next year of diaconate formation. The purpose of this interview was to receive his final approval for me to be ordained. After talking with us for a while, the Bishop asked me to leave the room so he could talk with Kimberly in private. He needed to make sure she had no reservations about sharing me with him in my ministry. After all, the last thing he wanted was to disrupt our Sacrament of Marriage with me receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders. When satisfied there were no concerns, Bishop Boyea asked, “is there anything else?” Kimberly said “Yes, there is one thing. I need to make a deal with you. I understand the importance of Easter. It’s the highlight of the Church year. But, at Christmas, we travel to see our kids and grandchildren. It’s the only time we can all get together. You can have John for Holy Week, but I get him at Christmas. Deal?” The Bishop leaned over his desk with a big smile, shook her hand, and said “DEAL!”
Why is Easter greater than Christmas? If Easter had not happened, Christmas would have no meaning. If the tomb was not empty, the cradle makes no difference. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then he really was just another misguided Jewish rabbi with delusions of grandeur to be the promised messiah. If Easter is not true, then Christmas is just one more cute Hallmark story about an obscure baby born in an out-of-the way village in a forgotten land 2000 years ago. It’s Easter that gives Christmas its meaning.
Easter is the very foundation of Christianity. Jesus rises from the dead and He is God. His death and resurrection on the most important of all Jewish feasts, the Passover, fulfilled all that the Passover had meant. It was an exodus, or passage, from the days of oppression and slavery to spiritual freedom. Jesus was the Paschal Lamb (Pasch, from Hebrew Pesach, meaning “Passover”) slain and sacrificed to achieve this freedom. Jesus’ resurrection was the beginning of a New Covenant with God. A Covenant freeing us from the slavery of earthy temptations and delivering us into God’s world of happiness – spiritual growth through our sufferings while finding peace with the blessings He gives us.
What is Easter all about? It’s about our Christian roots and celebrating what Jesus did for us. As the Exsultet decrees on Easter Vigil “THIS IS THE NIGHT, WHEN CHRIST BROKE THE PRISON BARS OF DEATH, AND ROSE VICTORIOUS FROM THE UNDERWORLD. OUR BIRTH WOULD HAVE BEEN NO GAIN, HAD WE NOT BEEN REDEEMED!
May you have a joyous and Blessed Easter!