Fearful yet overjoyed

He is risen! He is risen indeed! Happy Easter! Our Lenten journey is over. This Lent felt especially long. I thought giving up make up would be an easy sacrifice. Turns out it was much more difficult than I imagined. I am very happy to have my old friend mascara back!

My favorite piece of Easter is the Vigil Mass. I feel it is one of the most beautiful traditions we have as Catholics. The imagery and the symbolism are breathtaking. The old adage, “It is always darkest before the dawn,” is so fitting for the Easter Vigil. We progress all through Lent through this darkness (literally for me because of the dark circles under my eyes that I could not hide with foundation) and complete it with the darkest start we have to any Mass, the Easter Vigil. It is the culmination of our Lenten journey. 

I love how it all makes sense. I know there are many people who feel that Good Friday is the saddest day of the Church year. However, I have always felt that Holy Saturday is the more depressing. Two thousand years later, we know that after Good Friday and Holy Saturday is Easter Sunday but if we put ourselves back in the Jesus’ time, Holy Saturday is just the first full day we don’t get to see and hear Jesus. If we apply it to our own lives, it is the day after the funeral of a loved one. We do not know how to return to our ordinary lives, yet we know we cannot go backwards to what use to be. It is the darkest moment.

So we begin Mass in darkness. Then we receive the light of a candle. And then suddenly, all the lights come as and we can see one another, just as we ought to. We have traveled through the time of trial and penance and made it to the season of life. The word “Easter” derives from the Greek and Latin wordPascha meaning Passover. Our Easter is the new Passover. Our Paschal Lamb has brought us from darkness into light and has saved us from death. And now we celebrate the Easter season. Fifty days of Easter!

For the last three years, the greatest blessing in the ministry to which God has called me, has been the gift of facilitating our RCIA program at Bishop Stang. Each year I have met with students and shared my faith with them. It is their faith however, that has been the biggest part of the formation. As a cradle Catholic, I have always been at Mass and have received the Eucharist almost every week since I was seven years old. I feel like I sometimes forget how awesome (in the truest sense of the word) the Eucharist is. I know and fully believe it is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ but I do not think that I always comprehend the fullness of that. Talking to these students as they prepare to receive Christ in the Eucharist for the first time is so moving. 

Two years ago, I remember watching one of my students receive her First Communion at the Vigil Mass and watching her cry. She was so overwhelmed at what was about to happen that she simply could not hold back the tears. I remember thinking how beautiful that was to witness. And so this began my tear-filled Easter Vigils. I cannot make it through the Easter Vigils without crying. Partially it is because it is my students that I am witnessing receiving full initiation into the Church. It is mostly though because there is nothing more beautiful to me than watching people receive the grace of God. 

And the Gospel for the Vigil is particularly touching.  Obviously it is the reading of the Resurrection of Christ but something stood out to me this year. In the Gospel of Matthew’s account of the Resurrection, we read that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary have just been told that Jesus has been raised and they need to go tell the disciples. And as they walk away from the tomb we are told that they are “fearful yet overjoyed” (Mt 28:1-10). I think that sums up our Christian journey. We are fearful because we know that we do not always stay in the light of Easter. We are fearful because we know the message of Christ is not always accepted but by our Baptism, we are called to share the Good News. We are overjoyed though, because we know that it is indeed, Good News! We know that we have been given a new life. 

In the beginning of the same Gospel reading and again at the end of the Gospel reading we read the woman being told to not be afraid. As a matter of fact, the Bible tells us 365 times to not fear. Once a day, every day of the year, God reminds us to not be afraid. Easter season is that time of year to be overjoyed. Again this year, I began my Eastertide with the tears at the Vigil, tears from being overjoyed at the realization that God continues to call all of us. While it may not always be the first thing we hear about on the news, people are continuing to say “yes” to God every single day in new ways. 

As our Holy Father reminds us this Easter, “In Jesus, love has triumphed over hatred, mercy over sinfulness, goodness over evil, truth over falsehood, life over death.” I pray that each and every one of us cast away our fears and carry the overwhelming joy of the truth of the Risen Christ into all areas of darkness. Happy Easter!

Anchor columnist Amanda Tarantelli has been a campus minister at Bishop Stang High School in North Dartmouth since 2005. She is married, a die-hard sports fan, and resides in Cranston, R.I. She can be reached at atarantelli@bishopstang.com.

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