The celebration of the Liturgical Year is always about the Paschal Mystery, that dying and rising pattern that we see in the life of Christ, as well as in the Triune God. It commemorates the fact that, in God, there is no self-concern, but only the giving of life. In the complete gift of each person’s self, each receives that same gift from the other two persons. This is love. This is the pattern of all life.
We see this in nature. Plants die in the fall and new life takes their place in the spring, either with new leaves or seedlings. One generation of people dies so that a new generation can take their place. Plants give their lives to feed herbivorous animals. Some animals give their lives to feed carnivorous animals. Water recycles through evaporation and rain.
Humans have the unique gift of awareness and intentionality. They can freely join this cycle of life or they can fight against it. While science and technology have made wonderful advances in fighting disease, weather, and many of the harsh realities of life, they have also given humans the illusion that they can ward off death.
Lent is our annual reminder that surrender to death is actually a good thing. This is not to say that it is easy—surely, Jesus’ death on the cross was not easy. But letting go of life is divine. Life in God (and that is our goal, that is the Kingdom) involves not clinging to life. That is why Jesus told us that the only way to gain your life is to lose it (Luke 17:33).
Easter is our annual reminder that life given is life received. Easter celebrates the hope that, just as Christ was raised from the dead, so will be our destiny. Easter encourages us to give our lives freely rather than simply submit to the inevitable. Jesus went willingly to the cross. Death did not simply overtake him. “No one takes (my life) from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again” (John 10:18).
The Risen Lord offers us the same freedom. Lent is the practice of voluntarily laying down our lives. Easter is the celebration of victory over death: Christ’s and ours.
~ Fr. Frank Coady