Hiding Eggs and Finding FaithWe must come to Christ again and again ... and againby Marion Fernandez-Cueto
APR. 4, 2010 (www.faithandfamilylive.com
) - I don’t like Easter egg hunts. I never have. Largely absent from my childhood, they remain as remote from my associations of Easter as Three Kings’ Day festivities from an American Christmas. When my husband begged me some weeks ago to hold an egg hunt for our toddlers at Easter, I balked.
Forget baskets and bunnies—Easter itself seemed like a foreign concept this year. That’s because on a rainy Monday midway through Lent, I got a long-distance call from Australia to say that my mother—my beautiful, joyful, picture-of-health mother—had died from a sudden brain hemorrhage.
How do you celebrate Easter when resurrection—the very triumph of Christ over death—simply sounds like a fairytale? How do you rejoice when grief threatens to swamp each attempt? It’s been a month since Mum died, and my sense of loss, once a constant throb, has turned cruelly erratic. Dormant for hours, it will fall on me like a sledgehammer in the middle of a sentence, a bite of cereal, a shower. The pain will take my breath away, then subside, only to stun me again later.
How do you reach Easter when you’re stranded in Gethsemane? You go shopping for your children’s Easter egg hunt. Even if you have to grit your teeth. At least that’s what I did.
And there, in the fluorescent glare of a big-box store, something astonishing happened. Easter found me. In all of its glory. My cart was heaped with a mess of plastic eggs, plastic grass, plastic-tasting candies in tawdry neon wrappings, when it was transformed before my eyes and heart into a victorious celebration of life itself.
Laugh if you will, but that garish pile of commercialism suddenly appeared jubilant: the yellows and pinks and greens became brilliant, death-defying alleluias, and the shouts of young families around me sounded like hosannas. I stood in aisle 4 simply flooded with joy.
I still don’t know what happened. But several days later, a friend who was with my Mum before she died sent me a poem on death by Rilke, which likens the world to a stage, and death to a mysterious off-stage exit. There in the third stanza was a line that captured my strange experience:When you left, a beam of reality broke
upon the stage through the very crack
through which you vanished: Green, true green,
true sunshine, true forest …
There in aisle 4, for a brief, blazing moment, eternity had broken in on me.
My euphoria didn’t last, but through it, I grasped a thought that did:
If the Easter message does not apply in every single circumstance of life—however sordid, tragic or mundane—then the resurrection is either a pipe dream or we have failed to glimpse its significance. If the risen Christ cannot answer our deepest agony, redeem the most grotesque sin, kindle flame in the coldest heart, then Christianity, and Jesus Himself, are just childish, pious concepts.
“If Christ is not risen,” St. Paul writes, “our faith is in vain.”
But if He is ... then, as St. Augustine says, the Christian should be an alleluia from head to foot. That doesn’t mean galloping around with forced cheer like Barney and Friends. It can’t. But it means coming to Christ, again and again and again, knowing that He is the Resurrection and the Life, however dead we may feel inside. And then, in hidden ways, and sometimes in resplendent ones, He will show Himself to us too.
St. Francis de Sales says Mary Magdalene failed to recognize the risen Christ on Easter morning because she was not expecting Him to appear the way He did.
“She wanted to see Him in His glorious dress, and not in a gardener’s vile dress,” he explains, “but still at last she knew it was He, when He said, ‘Mary.’”
This Easter, Jesus is whispering our names, as tenderly and lovingly as He once addressed the weeping Magdalen. He may appear like a gardener: inconsequential, common, and muddied, but He is Lord of Heaven and Earth and He has vanquished death forever. Let us turn and embrace Him, sheltering our fears and our failings, our grief and our shame, in the keeping of His pierced Sacred Heart.
Let us rejoice, for He is risen indeed!—Marion Fernandez-Cueto writes from Houston, TX. She was baptized into the Catholic Church in 2000.