The mother as a bridge between generations is as firm a sign of the Church as any that exists, for she is called to cherish proven traditions that help souls to flourish while delighting in new gifts showered on the world. She remembers the pain and the Providence that colored her early years; while now facing new challenges that demand she constantly assess the quality of wine and wineskins entrusted to her care. The faith she wants to share with the next generation is “ever ancient, ever new,” leading her to wonder just how to explain the God of “already — but not yet!”
In this season of joy, the Church proclaims that Christ is Risen, even as He bids us to stoop and console the grieving. We marvel at the empty tomb, while worrying about today’s pandemic and tomorrow’s school plan. The world rejoices in the God Who conquers death while each of us remembers compromised funerals and the raft of memorials waiting to be scheduled. Heavenly consolation offered amidst war and waste, siege and solitude is available in abundance, but we must understand that the Tension without tension tension at the heart of our faith is a gift to alleviate tension in the heart itself. A conundrum — but no less true for its mysteriousness.
John Henry Newman noted that, “the religious history of each individual is as solitary and complete as the history of the world.” Thus, the wisdom of the mother is to familiarize herself with the long and wondrous saga of the People of God, so that she can proffer its treasures to the newer souls when needed — for while each fresh journey bears the entirely familiar backdrop of Salvation history, their bruises are no less painful for being the same color as their ancestors’. Christ emerging from the tomb can seem a distant event when today’s trials pulsate with today’s blood.
But the value of today’s pulse is that it carries forth the Incarnate truth — that God became man that man might become God. Not in the pagan or self-absorbed sense, but that in Baptism we recognize that we died with Christ only to live with Christ. That His victory is our victory, already — if not yet. The ancient story is made new in each generation, and the trial before Pilate is our own daily trial. “What is truth?” he asked. “Christ is truth,” we answer, which gives value to our suffering. The God of all consolation lets us yearn, to show us that, although the battle is won, the skirmishes must play out.
Newman continues, “The character will always require forming, evil will ever need rooting out of each heart; the grace to go before and to aid us in our moral discipline must ever come fresh and immediate from the Holy Spirit.” Each mother is called to offer this perennial formation, claiming the graces won in ancient combat and applying them to the new horizon of each day. She receives wisdom from the Church, from her family, from her community, from her parish. She sifts and sorts, wrestles with the words, and revisits how God made Himself known to her: life on every page of Scripture, Spirit in each Sacramental encounter, trusting in Newman’s conclusion that, “‘As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,’ such is the general history of man’s moral discipline, running parallel to the unchanging glory of that All-Perfect God, Who is its author and finisher.”
That “unchanging glory” is at the heart of this Paschal feast, as it will be for ages to come. We must lay any heaviness of heart on the altar so that it can be transformed. The tears will flow, the tears will be wiped away, and the human eyes will be given a Divine view — if only for a moment. Heaven is indeed at hand, but not yet, and yet that very tension is a call to peace even now.
Anchor columnist Genevieve Kineke is the author of “The Authentic Catholic Woman.” She blogs at feminine-genius.typepad.com.