Octagonal Baptistry with Baptismal Font in Center, Basilica of St. John Lateran, Rome
Alleluia! Happy Easter! Today is Easter “Monday”, the second day in the “Octave” of Easter.
In our family, we struggle a little bit against the trend of front-loading the celebration of holidays that secular culture “shares” with Christianity.
Surely you’ve heard the historical myth that Easter and Christmas aren’t actually Christian, but rather pagan celebrations that were co-opted by the early Church. Insert Yada-yadda and Something-something about the Church consolidating power and misleading the ignorant tribals of pre-Enlightenment Europe.
Without explicitly saying so, the Something-something crowdset aims to re-paganize the holidays, so that if they were ever not Christian, they may be so once again. The result is empty: today’s age celebrates buying and consumption while past gnosis plumbed to the shallow depths of the day’s length or season’s climate.
The Church reminds that what God desires from us is our free choice to follow and serve Him. We are all the unworthy servants of Luke’s gospel — doing what we are obliged to do does not carry the expectation of favor from God. (17:10). We can’t repay God anything. It’s not for Him that Jesus hangs upon the wood of the cross. Thank goodness, we can take joy in this fact!
When we truly value a relationship, we take action. God values the relationship — He gave His only begotten Son. We show how much we truly value a relationship according to what we will give up for it. On Good Friday, our brother suffers. How do we show God how much we value His friendship and love?
The Christian who pretends that the journey to Heaven is possible without some measure of sacrifice seeks not a literal baptism by sprinkling, but a figurative one: “Jesus, make me damp, make me a little bit wet, let me dip my toe! Give me just one iota of salvation! But do not immerse me in the waters of your mercy! Do not drown me in faith! Do not drench me in the graces pouring from your side!” If someone knows true joy, why would they ask for just a little bit of it?
The point of Lent cannot be reduced to causing ourselves pain so that it feels good when we stop. Any sacrifice that we offer for the good of relationship with Jesus isn’t for Him, but rather, for us. We benefit not from the pain, but from the discovery that the thing being sacrificed has no real value compared to Jesus. It is this discovery that makes the Christian free.
The spiritual fruits of Easter — like Christmas — come through the removal of obstacles that block pathways to deep Mystery. There is no limit to how far God will draw us up into meditation upon the Mysteries of Incarnation and Resurrection, but ourselves.
Today we can take joy that Easter has only begun. The Resurrection is the “Eighth Day” — the day after creation, the beginning of the new creation. Baptism is directly tied to the new life of Easter as the Eighth Day. Baptistries or baptismal fonts are frequently found to be octagonal in form, symbolizing that the New Creation comes to us through Jesus, to whom we respond in baptism.
Easter is the bridge between the old creation and new, given by God for us! Alleluia!