The New Fire Within
All of us have had the most unusual Lent and Easter that perhaps we will ever experience. The COVID-19 pandemic forced many of us to work remotely, stock up on essentials and even close our churches for the most important holy days of the year.
While our pastors scrambled to figure out how to observe these most sacred days, social media outlets were flooded with posts inviting us to prayer, reflection, activity, livestreaming of services and Masses to quell the heartache being unable to gather and celebrate the Paschal Mystery in the way we are accustomed.
In our beautiful Catholic faith, symbols are often used to communicate meaning. Fire is one of the most frequently used symbols in the liturgical and sacramental life of the church. It can communicate different meanings such as the Holy Spirit, purification or bringing light into darkness. Since Easter is not just a day, but a season, and since we await Pentecost, when the fire of the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles, it is appropriate to reflect upon fire as a profound symbol.
Each year, the Easter Vigil begins with a celebration of light, recalling how Jesus Christ, the light of the world conquered death by being raised from the dead. From an open fire, blessed by the priest, the paschal candle is lit as Christ is proclaimed the light of the world after which the people gathered respond, “thanks be to God.” In the ceremonious procession which follows, the candles of the gathered assembly are lit, illuminating the darkened church.
This year, however, it was all different. For some, it began with a livestreamed video. For others, a candle was placed on the kitchen or dining room table and prayers were said. Still other imaginative believers created inspired ways to observe the resurrection, and Easter came in a most unique way. And perhaps out of all this chaos, some families began a new tradition.
Amidst the pandemic, God has invited His people to a different experience of the beginnings of the Easter season. Rather than witnessing the external fire of Easter, our circumstances have drawn our attention to an internal one where we are brought face to face with home, family and self. Through all the restlessness, discomfort and anxiety God summons us to consider how brightly Jesus Christ shines through our lives and our homes.
In 2 Timothy 1:6 St. Paul tells us to “stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.” The flame that every baptized person holds and tends is the gift of faith. For some that faith is a small glimmering ember, while for others it’s a blazing fire. Like the crocuses breaking through untilled soil, our unusual experience of Lent and Easter bids us to reflect upon how God may be breaking through to us in the power of his grace in a new way.
Observing the Easter Season at home gives all of us an opportunity to tend the fire of our faith at home, to nurture it and express in our residences where we are the Church. British author and lay theologian C.S. Lewis wrote, “There are far, far better things ahead than any we may leave behind.” Let’s be attentive to the new fire that God is stoking within each of our hearts.