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How St. Athanasius describes the joy of the Easter season


Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

Philip Kosloski - published on 05/01/24

St. Athanasius wrote a letter around 340 that encourages Christians of every age to bask in the glory of Easter joy.

While much attention is given to the penitential season of Lent in the modern era, the joyous time of Easter is often neglected by many of us.

We spend 40 days fasting and praying, but then forget that Easter is meant to be 50 days of joy and spiritual renewal.

St. Athanasius knew this spiritual principle well in the 4th century and wrote a letter around the year 340 that describes the joy of Easter.

He begins the letter recalling how this time of year is one of going from “festival to festival”:

Brethren, how fine a thing it is to move from festival to festival, from prayer to prayer, from holy day to holy day. The time is now at hand when we enter on a new beginning: the proclamation of the blessed Passover, in which the Lord was sacrificed.

Then he brings to mind an image of going to the source of all things and drinking to satiate our spiritual thirst:

We feed as on the food of life, we constantly refresh our souls with his precious blood, as from a fountain. Yet we are always thirsting, burning to be satisfied. But he himself is present for those who thirst and in his goodness invites them to the feast day. Our Savior repeats his words: If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.

Rays of glory that never set

St. Athanasius proceeds to remind us all that the glory of Easter “never sets,” and that it is a special time of grace:

The grace of the feast is not restricted to one occasion. Its rays of glory never set. It is always at hand to enlighten the mind of those who desire it. Its power is always there for those whose minds have been enlightened and who meditate day and night on the holy Scriptures.

He continues his letter showcasing the joy we should have, rejoicing in the salvation won for us on the cross:

This feast guides us through the trials that meet us in this world. God now gives us the joy of salvation that shines out from this feast, as he brings us together to form one assembly, uniting us all in spirit in every place, allowing us to pray together and to offer common thanksgiving, as is our duty on the feast. Such is the wonder of his love: he gathers to this feast those who are far apart, and brings together in unity of faith those who may be physically separated from each other.

As we continue through the Easter season, may we rejoice at what happened on Easter Sunday and let that joy radiate from our lives.

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