"Of all the seasons of the liturgical year Eastertide is by far the richest in mystery. We might even say that Easter is the summit of the Mystery of the sacred Liturgy. The Christian who is happy enough to enter, with his whole mind and heart, into the knowledge and love of the Paschal Mystery, has reached the very center of the supernatural life" (Dom Prosper Gueranger, The Liturgical Year).
The Paschal Mystery is entered by means of a death - the death of Jesus Christ upon the Cross. Christ has struggled with death and has emerged victorious, as Isaias prophesied: "He shall cast death down headlong for ever. And this Lord God shall wipe away tears from every face. And the reproach of his people he shall take away from off the whole earth. For the Lord hath spoken it" (Isaias 25:8).
"After the blows and the mockery," says St. Augustine, "after the gall and the drink of vinegar, after the agony and the wounds of the cross, the new Body, returning more beautiful than before, has risen again from its grave; the latent life returning from its setting, and the salvation that was laid up for us in His death now appears" (St. Augustine, Sermon on the Resurrection).
St. Paul testifies: "But as it is, Christ has risen from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by a man came death, by a Man also comes resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made to live. But each in his own turn. Christ as first-fruits, then they who are Christ's, who have believed, at His coming" (1 Corinthians 15:22,23).
In Romans, St. Paul explains: "Do you not know that all we who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? For we were buried with Him by means of baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ has arisen from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we may also walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in the likeness of His death, we shall be so in the likeness of His resurrection also. For we know that our old self has been crucified with Him, in order that the body of sin may be destroyed, that we may no longer be slaves of sin…" (Romans 6:3-7).
Those who have died with Christ in Baptism and have persevered in His grace understand the Paschal Mystery. They are no longer OF this world, although they are still IN this world. And because they are not of this world, they are hated by those who belong to the world, just as Christ Himself was hated by the world. "If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you," said Our Lord. During Holy Week and Easter, the world cannot hide its hatred for the Risen Christ.
The Catholic News Agency reports that on Palm Sunday Archbishop Hector Aguer of La Plata, Argentina, spoke of a wave of hatred against Jesus Christ that is sweeping over the world. This shows itself not in isolated incidents but through a series of simultaneous events that bear the marks of a conspiracy.
The archbishop mentioned several examples of attacks on Christianity: a famous rapper appears in a recent issue of Rolling Stone magazine wearing a crown of thorns; a Christmas movie shows Jesus and Santa Claus in a fist fight; obscene cartoons about Jesus Christ appear in a French newspaper; a popular brand of jeans displays a logo depicting a skull with an inverted cross, which the designer admits was intended as a protest against Christianity.
Archbishop Aguer also referred to the "infamous fables of 'The Da Vinci Code,' which will gain new strength with the upcoming release of the film," and the "Gospel of Judas," a Gnostic writing refuted by St. Irenaeus in the year 180 AD.
The Archbishop also noted "the widespread condemnation and rejection of recently published cartoons depicting Mohammed, as well as the rapid activation of democratic mechanisms condemning discrimination and infringement upon religious freedom whenever there is the slightest attack against the Jewish community," and added that "the apathy, the leniency, the suspicious silence in response to attacks on the Christian faith stands out. It seems that Christianity, and specifically Catholicism, can be attacked with impunity." He exhorted Christians to "offer serene and cordial witness to the truth, which does not exclude when necessary a noble firmness in demanding that the sacred treasure of catholicity be respected in accord with decency, justice and the law" (catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=6469).
But we who have been united with Christ in the likeness of His death do not fear the persecutions of the world, which can never destroy our Easter joy. The Exsultet, sung at the Easter Vigil by the Deacon to the Risen Christ, represented by the Paschal Candle, is a beautiful expression of the joy that must be ours:
"Let the angelic choirs of Heaven now rejoice; let the divine mysteries be celebrated with joy; and let the trumpet of salvation resound for the victory of so great a King. Let the earth also rejoice, illumined with such resplendent rays; and enlightened with the brightness of the eternal King. Let it feel that the darkness of the whole world is dispersed…
"We beseech Thee, therefore, O Lord, that this candle, consecrated in honor of Thy name, may continue to burn to dissipate the darkness of this night. And being accepted as a sweet savor, may it be mixed with the lights of Heaven. May the morning star find its flame alive; that star which knows no setting, that star which returning from hell, shone serenely upon mankind."
"Therefore, if you have risen with Christ," says St. Paul, "seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Mind the things that are above, not the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, your life, shall appear, then you too will appear with Him in glory" (Colossians 3:1-4).