For most of my life Easter was an important holiday that had no importance attached to it for me. I was the odd man out at Easter and even as a child the Easter Egg hunt could not fill the void of what was missing. My father was great at finding odd places to hide an egg and it was a thrill to fine one he was placed, but afterwards the void continued. Other kids in the neighborhood would go off to Easter services so usually there weren’t even other kids to play with. One Easter my Grandmother did drag my brother and myself off to Easter services in some Protestant Church – but the whole thing was incoherent to me since I knew nothing about Christianity other than maybe a name or two of major figures like Jesus.
Things did not change much as an adult. Easter was still annoying and it didn’t even make for a three day weekend and not only that stores were most always closed. Hiding Easter Eggs for my own kids was certainly a delight and the most delight was in them searching and finding them. After the last egg is found – what next? While I had come to know a little more about Easter and its connection to Jesus – I was still more interested in the mythology of the Greeks and Romans than what I thought of as the mythology of the Christians. Even secular Christmas has some power to let you hear the Gospel even if only via the Carols and the watered-down version of Christmas in a Christmas movie. Secular Easter is another story where hardly and bits of the Gospel make it through into the culture. On the pantheon of holidays Easter for me was less than President’s Day. At least for President’s Day you don’t feel that loss of something you feel should be there, but don’t know why you are lacking something.
Fast-forwarding to my beginning conversion to Christianity and my way onto the Church all of a sudden Easter was gaining what I thought it lacked. Protestant radio, the books I were reading through, and of course primarily grace was finally opening me up to the meaning of Easter. I was actually looking forward to Easter and when it arrived I did not feel the whole I use to, but I was still missing something. When I finally decided to become Catholic it was a couple of months before Easter and my Pastor told me that I would have to wait for the following Easter to come into the Church since I had missed most of R.C.I.A for that year. That was a torturous year in a half since when I had decided to become Catholic I had already come to believe in all that the Church taught. I know now that R.C.I.A is not an absolute requirement and that I could have probably demonstrated to my Pastor that I already accepted Church teaching, but I also came to enjoy my R.C.I.A. experience. Like I said that year and a half was quite difficult since my wife and I started attending daily Mass and her as a cradle Catholic could go and receive the Eucharist while I had to remain in the pew. Fr. Groechel’s book on the Eucharist had initially inflamed my longing for the Eucharist and everything I read after that only added to that. Finally the Easter Vigil in 1999 arrived where I was received into the Church and that was certainly a night burned into my mind. Receiving the Eucharist for the first time licitly was a great joy! Waking up the next day realizing it was Easter made me want to announce that news through the streets and reacting like Scrooge realizing it was Christmas morning. I longed to approach strangers saying “He is risen” and have them reply “He is risen indeed” or vice versa.
That void that I felt during Easter was a shadow of the acknowledgment that I needed a redeemer. My stoic ideas had fallen flat on their face time and time again and while an atheist has a tenuous view of sin I certainly recognized what I would have thought of as major failing. I can now experience Easter Joy because we had such a redeemer who actively loved us and actively died for us and rose again to provide the remedy for our sins.
Christ is risen, he is risen indeed.