Alexander Shaia began his talk on Easter and the Great 100 days with his famous question: how many times during the year do we celebrate Easter? For those familiar with Dr. Shaia’s talks, we know the answer: We celebrate Easter – the feast of the resurrection of the Christ – every week!
So what is special about the once-a-year Easter, which only began around the end of the second century?
Dr. Shaia explained that the yearly liturgy began as a journey towards Shalom – a word that has traditionally been translated as “peace,” but which means so much more: a unity in diversity, a coming together as a community in all our authenticity and tension, knowing that in God’s time, something greater than any individual will come forth. “We have come to be in tension with each other, as the fertile soil of a more radiant harmony…a harmony that will take us to places which our individual egos will not go.”
This Shalom began in the Christian community of Ephesus in the first century, and was articulated most clearly in the Gospel of John. The Easter celebration in the early church was less focused on the body coming out of the tomb in Jerusalem, but in the body of Christ in the community. “Is the tomb of your heart open? Is the Christ more alive in your personal heart and in the heart of this community? Are you more deeply desiring to draw together as a community?”
This was the focus of the season of Lent, the three days of Easter, and the 50 days of the Easter season, one hundred days in total, now known and celebrated as “The Great One Hundred Days” from Transfiguration (this year celebrated on February 19th) until Pentecost.
“The time has come,” says Alexander Shaia, “to focus on the ancient plan again.”
For inclusive Catholics who wish to reclaim the earliest understanding of the celebration of Easter, Lent is not a time of penance. Rather, Lent is a time of intentionality and renewed commitment to community, a time when we ask ourselves, “What does it take to become a community?” and then pursue a path which will move us closer to the unity we seek with one another. Holy Wisdom’s questioners’ gatherings (which will take place again on February 28th and March 28th), we might take the time to address this question, and to consider ways to grow together as one inclusive community.
Kathleen Bellefeuille-Rice notes that the “manual” the early Christians used for the Great 100 Days was the Gospel of John. “The Lenten scriptures call us to remember that we are one body, united with God, each other and with all of creation. They request that we open our hearts to an honest and penetrating examination of our lives as individuals and as a community. Are we experiencing a sense of felt oneness? How have we fallen short in seeing and welcoming those we consider ‘other’ into our lives? Are there relationships we need to repair? These scriptures ask us to open our whole selves to God’s love for us and to allow that love to heal us.”
The 100 days from the Feast of the Transfiguration to Pentecost are about taking steps that are necessary to move deeper into what it means to love. It is a time set aside to reflect on what it means to live as one body, with each other, with God and all of creation. And we do this through personal and communal transformation in order to bring Christ’s love to our world. Our prayer for this season is, “May all be One!”