What Catholics Believe - Chapter Fourteen
The Celebration of the Paschal Mystery of Christ
Today, I would like to examine the central truth of our faith. As we continue our look at the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, we turn to Chapter 14 which wraps us in the Paschal Mystery.
The Paschal Mystery is ultimately the central reality of our Salvation and Redemption. In the Easter Triduum, we hear of the arrest, judgment and execution of Jesus for our sins and then most important of all His resurrection from the dead, and the consequent opening of the gates of heaven for all people of Faith.
However, the story is indeed much longer and more profound as the God of Love unfolds the lengths to which He goes in wrapping His loving arms around us. Let’s take a quick look at the biblical portrayal. First, in order to share his love, God begins with the work of creation. Soon sin enters the picture with Adam and Eve. Next is the story of Cain and Abel and the choice of an appropriate sacrifice to offer God. Abel offers the very best of his harvest while Cain sets before God a lamb of lesser quality. Jealousy leads to murder, and the epic story moves forward. Along comes Abraham and his willingness to offer even his son Isaac, but God relents about the sacrifice he had sought and chooses instead the ram caught in the thicket, because he has seen the purity of Abraham’s intent.
Obviously I am skipping huge pieces of the scriptural events but the next one is with Moses and the Passover Lamb. Throughout the rest of the Old Testament, this is the sacrifice called for by God. To this day, it is still celebrated by the Jewish people, as the heart of God’s love leading them from slavery in Egypt to freedom.
For us, a whole new meaning begins when Jesus celebrates the Passover with His disciples on the night before He died. Most amazingly, now Jesus himself will be grasped in the loving arms of the Father as the acceptable sacrifice for the sins of mankind. As the Father embraces Jesus, He also embraces us and holds us forever in His love.
Moving forward to today we strive to remember and celebrate these central events of faith in the context of the sacraments and the sacred liturgy, especially the Eucharist. The Paschal Mystery is summed up in the beauty and wonder of the Easter Triduum which we celebrate annually. The story of our salvation finds its meaning in all of the people places and events of history. To celebrate well means to be attentive to the details that we use but not to be lost in the details. We must strive to create an atmosphere which most especially makes us open to God. Our prayers are most effective when we listen to God speaking. The Easter Triduum is central to this act of listening.
Throughout, we use simple signs: water for baptism and blessing, for Eucharist bread and wine. Other signs include incense, vestments, music, gestures, and posture to celebrate these sacred moments. Over time, the Event has been enshrined in time and space. We celebrate during certain seasons, we use certain spaces built and reserved for these sacred events, and we strive to touch each person with the word of God and the love and knowledge of the love He has for us.
Throughout the year, with prayer and the remembrance of the saints and the special work they have done, we recall the inspiration we have received. Especially on Sunday, recalling these precious and sacred events, we give ongoing thanks, praise, and glory to the God who has given everything to us out of love.
Perhaps one of the most inspiring things to reflect on is the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and the wonderful stories we hear from those who are joining the Church today. As they open up to tell us about their journey of faith, it almost always contains these elements; “There was always something missing in my life. I recognized what I lacked in the life of others. They somehow led me to Church where I met, got to know and began to love Jesus. And to finally share at the Lord’s table is the greatest of joys.”
May we in ongoing prayer continue to bear witness to the faith and draw others to it as well.