Now that we have completed our Lenten journey (hopefully a challenging one), we can relax and enjoy the delights of the Easter season. Chocolate bunnies, Easter eggs, maybe some steaks and fine wines—all appropriate ways to celebrate the great festival of the Resurrection. However, if our rejoicing does not extend to the depths of our spirits as well, we are not fully entering into the Easter season. Our Lord wants us to be saturated with the joy of His Resurrection in the depths of our souls as well. The chocolate bunnies and the Easter eggs should be signs and tokens of a deeper, more satisfying indulgence of the spirit.
Now, what exactly is this spiritual joy that we are supposed to be experiencing, that the outward festivities are supposed to point to? Often when we hear the word ‘joy’, we think of pleasant people with smiles plastered on their face, who seemingly have no problems in their lives. However, I am pretty sure this is not what our Lord is talking about when He says in John 15:11, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” This is not a joy that is simply the result of everything going our way. Therefore, it is not a joy that is free of sorrow and pain. Rather, it is a joy that allows us, like St. Paul, to have peace and confidence in the midst of suffering.
This spiritual joy has a completely different origin than the worldly joy of people with smiles plastered on their face. Such worldly joy is the result of a simple lack of trial and adversity. It is fleeting and impermanent. The spiritual joy of our Lord proceeds from a completely different cause: it is the result of liberation from sin. If we have been reborn in Christ Jesus, we are given the power to obtain freedom from the selfish, dishonest, carnal inclinations that always beset fallen humanity. But it does not happen automatically. Baptism and conversion do not mean that our sinful inclinations magically disappear. But it does mean that we are given the power to overcome them gradually if we walk faithfully in the ways of God.
There is a special joy that comes from recognizing the truth about oneself, the truth about the God who loves us, and living in the freedom that comes from this truth. That is the joy that is bestowed upon us through the miracle of the Resurrection. In Christ the forces of darkness and death have been dealt a mortal blow. In Baptism the power of this Resurrection is imparted to us. It now remains for us to use this Easter power to banish the darkness in our own lives. To the extent that we do this, we will experience the sublime joy of spiritual freedom. And maybe a chocolate Easter bunny here and there.
Br. Athanasius Thompson, O.P. | Meet the Student Brothers in Formation HERE