On Sunday the Church began her celebration of the Easter mysteries- please note that I used the word began because while the popular perception is that the Church’s celebrations are over almost as soon as they begin, the actual fact of the matter is that the Church will celebrate Easter for eight days, and then commemorate the great mystery of the Lord’s resurrection from the dead for seven weeks until day of Pentecost.
Thus, we will for eight days celebrate what the sages of the Church’s worship call an “octave” and what this means is that for eight days the Church’s worship is meant to be characterized by a grandeur and solemnity similar to that of Easter Sunday. Imagine that! That’s the expectation- the actual practice sadly aspires to far less.
Aspiring to less is one of the prevalent characteristics of religious observance in our times. Citing the busyness of our schedules and the demands of our economic obligations, most people want less in terms of religious observances, while at the same time wanting that less to do more. The idea that a religion might ask more than us than the bare minimum is met with protest. Less is more we tell ourselves. Eight days of solemn worship for Easter! Are you kidding?! “Ain’t nobody got time for that”!
In terms of religion we expect there to be less rather than more.
Even the devout daily Mass-goer might cringe at the thought of such a disruption in routine if the Easter octave were celebrated with gusto.
Aspiring to less in terms of religious practice is also coupled to aspiring to less in terms of religious belief. Case in point is the densely textured faith of the Church in regards to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the dead- an event that is very carefully described in the eyewitness accounts of the Gospel as a very real event that happened quite literally to the body of the Lord Jesus. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead- an event that is not so much hard to understand, but difficult to believe. In an age when the “less is more” attitude prevails, so also is the temptation to make the resurrection into less, rather than more.
Let it be a symbol, an idea, a feeling- all easier to deal with than what the Gospel actually describes.
After all, if it is less, one can pretty much let it alone and avoid having to do anything drastic or contend with the implications. If the resurrection is less than something real, then you won’t have to change a thing. It’s business as usual. That’s the benefit of the “less is more” attitude towards our religion. Less in practice plus less in belief equals less in expectation. Such reasoning seems to make things easier in the immediacy but the long-term consequences are devastating.
Consider carefully the fact of what the Church actually asks of us in terms of the days of Easter. The duration of the celebration indicates to us that the great revelation of Jesus Christ risen from the dead is not just something that is all that easy to deal with or something that we can live with for a moment and then move on. The Resurrection is a mysterious revelation of such demanding intensity that it takes eight days minimum to deal it with in the most preliminary way and then weeks to grasp how one’s life is changed because of it.
Consider carefully the response of Saint Peter to the event as related in his own words in the New Testament Book of Acts. You have heard now three speeches from Saint Peter at Masses since Easter Sunday. I don’t think that any of what Saint Peter has told us about the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus can fit into the “less is more” option.
Saint Peter is speaking about an event of such magnitude that not only did his life change, but also the world, indeed creation, has been changed forever.
In the Resurrection, God in Christ delivered more to us than we could ever have expected and asks more of us that the world thinks is possible. Belief in Christ’s Resurrection and the practice of that faith is always about more, rather than less. May God in Christ deliver from the temptation that in terms of the Christian religion, we can be content to settle for less rather than accept more.