A few months ago, I officiated at the funeral of a woman who died one day before the twenty-fifth anniversary of her husband’s death. His was a rapid descent into complete dependence due to ALS, “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”; hers was a slow death, the result of age and infirmity. As her children and I sat down to prepare the Funeral Mass and other rites for their loving mother, we were all keenly aware of having done the same thing a quarter-century earlier for their dad. At one point, one of the daughter’s acknowledged this and said simply, “It feels like we’re closing the circle.”
I have thought a lot about the meaning of the phrase “closing the circle.” One etymologist defines it in this way: “. . . drawing a circle, and the last bit of that, when you connect to the beginning, is ‘closing the circle.’”
It occurred to me that the Lent-Easter cycle, which starts in a few days and continues through the second Sunday of June, Pentecost, is God’s way of “closing the circle.”
The story of salvation begins “in the beginning.” The Book of Genesis tells us of the fall of the first human partners through pride and disobedience. This sin — the origin of every selfish act and desire — fractured the original innocence and harmony of Eden and set humanity on a downward spiral toward eternal death and damnation.
Only Love — pure, limitless, unconditional — could rescue our fallen world. This is the ineffable mystery of God’s definitive response to sin and evil that we remember and celebrate liturgically in the days of the Sacred Triduum. And it is this love that leads us to the waters of rebirth, sanctification, and enlightenment during the Paschal Vigil on Holy Saturday night.
Since I first heard the Easter Exsultet as a minor seminarian many decades ago, the words of the Church’s hymn of rejoicing have touched my soul and resonated in my heart.
“This is the night,
when Christ broke the prison-bars of death
and rose victorious from the underworld.
“Our birth would have been no gain
had we not been redeemed!
“O wonder of your humble care for us!
O love, O charity beyond all telling,
to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!
O truly necessary sin of Adam,
destroyed completely by the death of Christ!
O happy fault
that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!
“O truly blessed night,
worthy alone to know the time and hour
when Christ rose from the underworld!”
Lent and Easter Time “close the circle” of God’s redemptive plan. “Our birth would have been no gain had we not been redeemed!” To be so loved by God in Jesus Christ creates in my heart and, in the heart of every believer, the desire to live a new life worthy of the gift and the Giver. We arrive back at the “beginning,” but now as redeemed and grace-filled children of God!
In This Issue
I believe you will find this issue of Emmanuel filled with rich, diverse fare . . . as well it should for two months that include the end of winter Ordinary Time, the great penitential season of Lent, the Sacred Triduum, and the beginning of Easter Time.
I would especially like to call your attention to an article written by Peter J. Riga, whose work appeared in this journal two or three times a year. He died suddenly in March 2018.
Weekly, an envelope or two would arrive from Peter, often addressed only to “Emmanuel Editor, Op-Ed.” He wrote on a wide range of topics: politics, society, morality, church discipline, theology, and spirituality. How fitting that one of his last pieces sent should be entitled “Can We Offer Our Sufferings?” May he now offer his praise in God’s presence!