instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, April 09, 2012

Easter groaning

I wouldn't say I had a happy Easter, despite all the people who wished that I would.

I suppose parts of it were excellent, as the curate said of his egg, and I am not suggesting my day was in any way remarkable for misery, even by my own relatively cushy standards.

Still, I like St. Augustine's definition of happiness as the state of having all you want and wanting all you have, and there was plenty I wanted on April 8, 2012, that I didn't get, and plenty I got that I didn't want.

That, as you know, is the human condition. St. Augustine knew it, too, which is why he taught that no one really achieves happiness in this life.

There is a definite tension between the unbounded joy of Easter and the sorrows -- or even outright miseries -- of any given first Sunday after the first full moon of Spring. That tension is what gives weight to Christian hope. St. Paul writes:
We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.
If we were not groaning within ourselves as we wait for adoption, we wouldn't be hoping for redemption, we would be passing the time until redemption. I wouldn't have objected to groan-free waiting myself, but that's not part of God's plan of salvation.

The trick, I think, is to bring the day's groanings into direct contact with the joy of Easter. Not to forget them or minimize them, but to transform our perceptions of them in the light of the Risen Christ. However large and heavy the crosses we carry, the Resurrection shows us that suffering and death do not have the last word.

In turn, our perceptions of the joy of Easter may be transformed, as we see it working in our lives. Neither a warm, fuzzy, chocolate-flavored feeling, nor a magic eraser of all bad things, but a foretaste of eternal life that can work in our lives to keep us on the road -- a road that passes through Good Friday, and yet goes on to the garden of Easter morning.