This year, for the first time, I realized that the Catholic liturgical calendar has a very long extended celebration of Easter. I had always been so focused on Lent and the culmination of Easter Sunday that I managed to miss how the Church extended the Easter celebration for 50 days. This period symbolizes the time between Christ’s resurrection and Pentecost (the coming of the Holy Spirit to the disciples).
We’re given 50 days to focus on resurrection and transformation.
And although Easter focuses on the resurrection of Jesus, this is not the only radical transformation that occurs.
The apostles also undergo a dramatic transformation. They move from despair over Jesus’ death to confusion around seeing but not always recognizing him, then finally to joy in fully realizing the resurrected Christ. The fear that had recently sent them into hiding was left behind. It was replaced with understanding, clarity, and courage. Eastertide is not only about the resurrected Jesus but, just as astonishing, the transformation of his apostles.
This liturgical season of transformation dramatically coincides with spring in my area of the world. I see evidence of nature’s resurrections as spring arrives. And in New England, spring is dramatic. It never seems to arrive gradually, warming up a few degrees every week. Instead, we go from overcast, windy days that nip with the sharp bite of winter to a record-breaking, sultry day that sends me pawing through my closet to excavate t-shirts and sandals.
The abundant transformation of nature in spring underlines and puts exclamation points around how resurrection and change are everywhere in our world/life.
Richard Rohr (in Falling Upwards) highlights how this theme runs through all of creation, “… nature clearly continues to renew itself from within. God seem to have created things that continue to create and recreate themselves from the inside out.”
Just like what occurs in nature every year, the teaching of Jesus had taken root during the time he spent with the apostles and was growing in darkness within them. But it wasn’t until his death that the fruit of this teaching appeared in its fullness, and their previous fear and lack of understanding were left behind.
We can use this season for something similar. We can use our Lenten focus on staying awake and attentive (which we’ve been cultivating, although perhaps not yet seeing the change we hoped for) to help spur us to transformation. Change is possible for all of us, and there are invitations leading us into transformation if we are attentive enough to see them.
Transformation is necessary to move to our second half of life effectively. And the first step may be leaving things behind to make room for new things to grow.
Inevitably, some behaviors and mindsets that serve us during the first half of life are no longer helpful in our second half.
During this season, it feels timely to consider what we might want to choose to leave behind. Not with a sense of deprivation but with anticipation at the emergence of something new. During May, my posts will continue to explore this idea.
A Closing Prayer
Lord, let me fully embrace this season of resurrection and effectively discern what changes You are calling me to make in my life. Draw me towards reflection so that with Your grace, I can see what I’m ready to leave behind.
Although I may not be able to see where You are leading me, help me trust that You are leading me somewhere good. And let me trust in myself, knowing that I am resilient, strong, and have a good heart. Instill in me the confidence that I am ready to take the next right step on this new path.
Random thoughts/comments: It recently occurred to me that Easter continues as the Sunday masses are referred to # week of Easter. But I didn’t understand why and hadn’t gotten around to Googling it. So thanks for the explanation. I recently Googled Pentecost bc I wasn’t sure of the definition. I knew the disciples were given the Holy Spirit but didn’t know (or remember) the term Pentecost. Nor did I realize it was 50 days after Jesus’s (Jesus’?) resurrection. Odd that your blog highlighted two things that were recently on a mental list of mine. As for behaviors that we hold onto that no longer serve us, I wish there was a blackboard (or whiteboard — I just dated myself) with a God-sanctioned list that clearly defines what I can release and what needs to remain on my journey. Never that easy. But we keep trying.
There’s so much richness (and sometimes oddness) in the Church calendar and traditions. I keep stumbling across more that I never fully knew or appreciated. I’m glad that some of this resonated with you! I know what you mean about that blackboard list (or maybe now the Notes app on our iPhone?) of things we’d like to let go/change. One day at a time. I think there’s more to learn in the process of dealing with these things than the actual act of being changed.
This post is so educational. Growing up catholic celebrated Pentecost but you brought it to new life for me. I wonder why the apostles didn’t recognize Jesus??? I have always wondered about that. I need a sermon to explain this to me. Love what short one girl commented on and I agree with what she said. Letting go to make room to grow, weeding out the dead stuff makes total sense. Thanks Cathy for triggering so many new things to explore! Deb
I’ve also wondered why his disciples (who knew him so well!) often didn’t recognize the resurrected Jesus. I’ve heard it explained that his resurrected body was the same but yet different so that it wasn’t immediately apparent who he was. But it’s a good question, and I may do some research on this too!
thanks for the blog Cathy! “The apostles also undergo a dramatic transformation” – which is why i *so* love readings from Acts of the Apostles, which are used in both daily and Sunday Masses during Easter season. I can feel their transformation! Acts (for me) shows the Apostles so much filled with the Holy Spirit, to the point they are joyful when forced to suffer persecution for sharing Good News. I did not know that 10 of the 11 Apostles were martyred, and the 11th (John) was exiled to the island of Patmos… how the Holy Spirit that arrived at Pentecost transformed them as you say Cathy!
It is such an amazing transformation! Interesting that 10 of the 11 were martyred – that shows how powerful and lasting that transformation was.