Fr. Jeff's Easter Rituals

The coming days are filled with rituals, both sacred and secular. We will wash feet, venerate the cross, bless fire and water. We will no doubt eat a few colored eggs, perhaps a chocolate bunny (or two), or a few jelly beans. Personally I will avoid the Peeps!

Families often have rituals, too, and many will visit, attend Mass, provide Easter egg hunts for the kids, and share a traditional meal. I have a couple of personal rituals I like to honor. When I can, I like to watch one of the Jesus movies; one of my favorites is Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth. I like to read a couple of poems which have spoken to me in the past, especially John Shea’s Easter Morning, where, reminiscent of the Emmaus story when the disciples felt their hearts burn within as Jesus walked with them, he calls Jesus the "arsonist of the heart." He describes the resurrection with the phrase, "My Father’s laughter fills the silence of the tomb." I always recall Gerard Manley Hopkins’ The Wreck of the Deutschland and his line, "Let Him Easter in us!" The words and images make my heart flame a bit, too! I have always appreciated how Hopkins makes Easter a verb, a dynamic, a process.

This year I have also been thinking about Easter in the light of Pope Francis’ Year of Mercy. In an interview in the fall of 2013, Francis reflected on the first word in his Latin motto: Miserando atque Eligendo. (Though translated in slightly different ways, it is taken from a homily by St. Bede the Venerable on the calling of St. Matthew: because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him.) Francis noted that it was a bit difficult to translate, so he invented a new Spanish word to explain it: misericordinando, which might be translated in English, if there were such a word, as "mercy-ing." I think he was trying to emphasize that mercy, too, is a verb, an action. It is a way of living, a way of being in the world.

Are Easter and mercy related themes? Perhaps being an Easter people means not only singing alleluia, but being and doing mercy. Would that I could make mercy-ing a constant ritual in my life!

–Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFM