Saturday, April 11, 2009

Christ is Risen!

Dear Friends:

Alleluia! The Lord is Risen!

Not too long after I was ordained a priest, one of my nephews took to “playing mass.” Since he really could not talk yet, the extent of this game of pretend was that he would drape a scarf over his shoulders and raise his hands with a rather emphatic “Alleluia.” But, to be honest, what he blurted out was something with more “w’s” pronounced in it than when Elmer Fudd hunted “wabbit.” But we all knew what he meant.

In his own way, my nephew latched on to one of the most important elements of our Roman Catholic liturgy. At its root, “Alleluia” means “Praise the Lord!” Interestingly enough, compared to how important praising the Lord is, for the last six weeks of Lent, we have intentionally not uttered the word “Alleluia” during our liturgies. Why?

During Lent we do not sing or say "alleluia." Saint Augustine wrote of this that, “We say good-bye fondly, as parting friends." It has been said that, as Catholics, we know intuitively that alleluia is an eternal song for angels and saints. Thus, alleluia is uniquely heaven’s song. But, it truly becomes our song because of Christ’s resurrection, and his offering to us of true redemption in spite of our sins. It is a song which proclaims that we are the chosen people of God; the people who truly know that the gates of heaven have been opened for us. Saint Augustine also wrote that "We are an Easter People and 'Alleluia' is our song!”

During Lent we were forced to admit that, because of our sinfulness, we have been exiled from heaven, our one true home. Like sad and desperate refugees, we refuse to sing the song of that home. During the last forty days we should have come to realize that because we have sinned, we brought this exile upon ourselves. We are like the prodigal son running away from our Father. The good news is that through our acts of prayer, penance, and almsgiving we have come to our senses. In Christ we have found our way out of exile, and found our way back home to the Father who loves us.

Like a former slave who cries out “freedom” or a once sick person who thankfully proclaims that “I am healed”, we, who because of our sins were distant from Christ, can now, only because of HIS suffering, HIS death and HIS resurrection, rightfully and sincerely proclaims “Alleluia”, that is “Praise the Lord!”

There are so many things that happen during our ordinary Sunday celebration of the mass. So many symbolic actions and so many points we try to make. But ideally, in the midst of all of that, after we have received the very Body and Blood of a sacrificed and risen Christ, and realized that the Eucharist is the premier gift of a resurrected Lord, we come to the very same conclusion that my nephew once fortuitously reached…the most significant thing that we can take from the mass is a desire to “Praise the Lord!”

I hope that you actually noticed that we had to wait forty days to cry out “Alleluia.” I hope that, because of that wait, its proclamation today is even more meaningful.

Alleluia! Praise the Lord! Easter Blessings to all!

Our Lady of Memorial, pray for us!

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Very Reverend Paul Hartmann

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