Pondering the Paschal Mystery in its Entirety
“The Paschal mystery has two aspects: by his death, Christ liberates us from sin; by his Resurrection, he opens for us the way to a new life.”—Catechism of the Catholic Church, 654.
The transition from the penitential season of Lent to the joyful season of Easter is a spiritual and tangible shift. Rejoicing replaces mourning. Our senses too are imbued with the joy of the season. The Gloria and the Alleluia are sung once more. Purple vestments and decorations become pure white. The crucifixes, statues, and images that were covered in the weeks leading up to Easter are unveiled. If one has been following the tradition of only praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary during Lent, the Easter Octave puts a daily focus on the Glorious Mysteries instead.
Yet, we notice that while the Resurrection is a triumph over death and the sufferings of Christ’s Passion, the Passion cannot be forgotten in spite of the Resurrection. The wounds are not removed from Christ’s hands, feet, and side. Christ is nailed to the cross on our crucifixes. After the Easter Octave, the normal weekly cycle of Mysteries resumes for the Rosary; the Sorrowful Mysteries are again prayed on Tuesdays and Fridays throughout the Paschal season.
Even with Easter’s focus on the Resurrection, Christ’s Passion remains. On the surface, this makes sense, for the Passion chronologically preceded the Resurrection, and the past always marks the future. But now that the Church points our focus toward the Resurrection, She also reminds us to contemplate the Paschal Mystery in its entirety. We cannot think back on the Good Friday service of the Triduum, or gaze upon our crucifixes, and say, “Thank goodness—that is all over now that Christ is risen.” The Passion and the Resurrection cannot be divorced. As the Catechism of the Council of Trent says,
“By His death Christ liberated us from sin; by His Resurrection, He restored to us the most important of those privileges which we had forfeited by sin… that nothing, therefore, may be wanting to the work of our salvation, it was necessary that as He died, He should also rise again.”
As Christ died for us, so He rose for us. In the Church He instituted we have access to the graces won by His death. While the Resurrection has the last word over sin and death, we remember what He won for us in His Passion.
Therefore, the Passion is not forgotten as a terrible event of the past during this Paschal season. If anything, during Easter we are invited to adore more strongly than ever the Crucified One who was raised, viewing His Passion in light of the Resurrection’s triumph. We celebrate the Easter solemnities principally with the holy sacrifice of the Mass, where Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary becomes re-present in an unbloody manner, allowing us all to partake of its fruits. The Passion is certainly a source of our sorrow for our sins, but because of the Resurrection, we can also look upon our Savior’s sufferings with love and gratitude, knowing that what He endured was not the end, and our own passions can be transfigured with grace and lead to our own resurrections.
As we journey more into this holy season of Easter, we are invited to ponder the Paschal Mystery in its entirety, uniting ourselves to Christ’s sacrifice with joy during the Mass, and looking forward with hope to our own resurrections foreshadowed by His.