Who can fully describe the glories of this Easter season? We try in so many ways to express the joy, the wonder of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. "Alleluia" rings out again in our churches. Flowers, blessed baptismal water, eggs and hymns compete to express the depth and power of Christ’s triumph over sin and death.
Yet, one symbol stands out powerfully for me, a symbol both fragile and powerful: the Paschal candle. We begin our journey into Easter with a new flame – so easily quenched, so tenuous. Yet, spread throughout a church, with tapers held by believers, that fragile light transforms an empty space into an occasion for celebration!
A tiny, gentle, tenuous flame proclaims a power that “restores joy to mourners, drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.”
Each time I experience that liturgy of light during which we proclaim our Easter joy, the tension between the fragility and gentleness of that simple flame and the awesome power of God to transform holds me once more. It confounds all my expectations of how to respond to the realities that we know today, the way in which the violence and injustice Jesus knew during his Passion continue to touch our world. That flame asks me who I shall be, who we shall be as we hold it.
That flame captures so much of the paradoxical richness of this day. The readings of the Gospel proclaim new life indeed, but always in a disarming, gentle way. Jesus calling the weeping Mary Magdalene by name, his meeting disheartened disciples on the road to Emmaus, a simple greeting of “Shalom" as he enters the gloom of the room in which the apostles had gathered – all these proclaim God’s way of transformation, a non-violent, gentle, compassionate way that attends to those whose hearts have been broken, but makes them the living tapers in which the flame of Resurrection touched the world then and touches it still.
This Easter, as images of children gassed in Syria or worshippers killed in Egypt continue to move us, once more the ancient question arises. How shall we bear light in a world that so needs it? Can we risk the fragile, gentle way of the Risen Lord so that we can be reconcilers in our day? As the flame entrusted to us - weak, vulnerable and sinful though we be - calls us to “flood the world with his glory,” let us listen anew to the Resurrection Gospels that offer us not merely consolation but the path of discipleship in a waiting world.
May Christ fill your hearts with his peace and consolation during this holy season!
Father Provincial Ronald A. Mercier, SJ
USA Central and Southern Province