O charity beyond all telling! (Contemplating the Easter Mysteries I)

As I listened to the chanting of the Easter Proclamation at the Easter Vigil this year, my heart heard as if for the first time the words:

O wonder of your humble care for us!
O love, O charity beyond all telling,
to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!

Most of us can’t even imagine a love that would give away a precious treasure for the sake of someone that hated them. Yet Christ shed his blood that we, the daughters and sons of Adam and Eve, might live forever.

St. John Chrysostom explained it this way in Homily 15 on First Timothy:

”It is not in this way only that I have shown My love to thee, but by what I have suffered. For thee I was spit upon, I was scourged. I emptied myself of glory, I left My Father and came to thee, who dost hate Me, and turn from Me, and art loath to hear My Name. I pursued thee, I ran after thee, that I might overtake thee. I united and joined thee to myself, ‘eat Me, drink Me,’ I said. Above I hold thee, and below I embrace thee.”

O charity beyond all telling!

Have you noticed that when we purchase or receive something that we really want, it captures all our attention, not just at the moment we first have it, but for hours, or days and weeks afterwards. Depending on what it is, it may change the way we organize our time or our stuff (both digital and physical stuff!), or the way we entertain ourselves or even our appearance. We may discover we work better, make different decisions, feel differently about ourselves.

And then there is the unavoidable moment when we lose interest, we look for the next release, upgrade, improved version. Something different. Something more striking, more “us,” more useful. In a commercial world, we keep something only as long as it serves us and keeps our interest. Then we move on.

The Church, as a good Mother, knows that we are like this, and that our hearts which tire so easily and our attention which wanders so quickly need to re-fascinated with Jesus and the Eucharist for which there will be no upgrade or improved version.

The Easter Season—all 50 days of it—is for this reawakening of our hearts. We could find ourselves at times in something similar to a boring friendship, where we’ve lost interest in Jesus and his love in the Eucharist. Our “hearts move on” to things of earth, rather than things of heaven. We find ourselves searching for something more shiny and useful to us.

In the seven weeks of Easter, following the liturgical celebrations of Holy Week in which we experienced anew the “charity beyond all telling,” the Church invites us to immerse ourselves into what it is to believe, celebrate, live and pray as Catholics within the larger community of the Church. In the same way as our gadgets and toys make remarkable shifts in the way we live our lives, the death and resurrection of Christ celebrated at Easter is also the time when we learn to live as Christ in new ways, to think as Christ, to speak as Christ, to engage the world as Christ, to love as Christ. We ourselves become in the world this “charity beyond all telling!”

Again, in the words of St. John Chrysostom, our eyes need to be opened to the power of the blood poured out for us on Calvary:

This Blood, poured forth, washed clean all the world. This Blood is the salvation of our souls. By it the soul is washed, is made beautiful, and is set on fire. It causes our understanding to be brighter than fire and our soul more sparkling than gold. This Blood was poured forth and made heaven accessible.

Easter morning we arrived at the church for Mass 30 minutes early and barely found a parking place! We were seated in one of the last empty pews. What would the world be like if every Sunday most Catholics flocked to the Mass with the same urgency they congregate at restaurants and malls and athletic events….

What would the world be like if we spontaneously broke out in grateful praise during the day, announcing what Christ has done for all humanity in his death and resurrection, and the grace available to us today through the sacraments….

What if we ran to Mass because it was only there that we felt totally satisfied by the Eucharist, nourished, loved, and supported there by God himself and by the community….

Next: Easter Mystagogy 2: Baptism: becoming God’s beloved one

Photo credit: jlmajano via Cathopic

One thought on “O charity beyond all telling! (Contemplating the Easter Mysteries I)

  1. Had an idea, once, to get a group of non-working church-goers to gather together once a week and walk down the local, highly-traversed wooded paths praising God aloud for this and that. Of course, everyone already had a life, so it never got close to being suggested. When I thought about what I myself would be praising Him for, to totally envision the exercise and with my brain as stuck as it was, I unfortunately imagined how easy it would be for each of us to look around us and point out a beautiful thing of nature we would be experiencing. I suppose, after a while, it would have moved on to other things as the group got closer. When I look back, I see that my main goal was to experience the spiritual joy that would come from praising God in a group of exuberant worshippers. It wasn’t so much about pleasing Him. If He were pleased, that would have been a bonus. That’s how it is, right now.


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