Guest Author - Mary Ellen Sweeney
Easter is the holiest day in the Irish spiritual calendar. Some may argue that Christmas is more profound because if Christ had not been born, He could not have Risen, but when I was a kid, I upset the whole family every year by crying my eyes out each and every Christmas. My poor parents always seemed to think that it was because there weren't enough presents under the tree, but I remember the reason, and it sure didn't start out as disappointment over presents---that came later when I learned to count. I was an only child for two years; I saw plenty of presents in my day, and ice cream too. No, I cried at Christmas for the poor Baby who was going to have such a tough time of it on my account. Ah, look at Him in the manger, so sweet, just like my own little brothers. Who wouldn't cry once they knew His future?
Now Easter, there's a proper Holy Day. All the suspense will be over soon, the darkness since the Christmas birth and the Good Friday death of the Child whose message of love, whatever your beliefs, has unalterably changed the world. The Spring Solstice at Newgrange always makes me think of the Light as the cave opened that first Easter morning.
Easter in Ireland is a glorious thing, there's no doubt about it. The air itself carries gaiety---it's like it has an extra molecule of oxygen; it's intoxicating. The chapped lips have started to heal, the noses to dry up a bit, and the weary woolens can be forgotten. The earth itself is breaking open with new life. Daffodils and gorse and green all together; does it matter if it rains?
The week leading up to Easter is time full of rituals and traditions. Whatever religious affiliation or non-affiliation, Easter seems to be the reason for Spring, and Ireland does seem to have a special handle on Spring itself. How could a country that boasts forty shades of green have anything but an amazing springtime spectacle? Every church in the country celebrates this season most exuberantly, and it is a joy for any that will have it.
It is so easy, now in these turbulent times in the churches, all of them it seems…the Judeo-Christian-Muslim complex, anyway…to withdraw from the Establishment and turn sad and sour and bitter over what we humans do to each other, especially those who speak in the name of our Creator. That, however, is the antithesis of Creation. As we witness the Resurrection of Life all around us, breathe and make peace with nature. It is neither good nor evil; it just works.
I am a great fan of Maureen Dowd, a New York Times columnist, as regular readers may have sussed. She made my Easter with her article about the scandals in the RC Church in the NYT, "Devil of a Scandal". After lavishing the cover-up artists with her particularly Irish brand of rancor, she ended the piece with this very welcome news from Dublin: "The hero of the week, for simply telling the truth, is Ireland’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. His diocese is Dublin, where four archbishops spent three decades shrugging off abuse cases. “There is no shortcut to addressing the past,” he said during a Holy Week Mass. “This has been a difficult year. We see how damaging failure of integrity and authenticity are to the body of Christ. Shameful abuse took place within the church of Christ. The response was hopelessly inadequate.” Amen." If ever there was a prayer answered, it was in the reading of those few lines this morning.
The Celtic Catholic Church was the original Catholic Church in Ireland, the one that embraced St. Patrick, and which for several happy centuries allowed marriage of the clergy, women in the ministry, and all manner of unimaginable licenses. The Roman Catholic Church as we know it today insisted that Ireland come into line with England---the argument was brought to a head, so to speak, over the type of tonsure favored by the monks in Ireland and England---and eventually the Celtic Catholic Church officially faded into the background, and the Roman rite was favored until the time of Cromwell. Reading of the lives of these Celtic Christians and how they lived the Gospels speaks of a very different Church than the one that superceeded it. The different takes on matters of domestic life in particular, and especially involving the clergy, is a breath of fresh air for those of us who despair for the RC Church as we thought we knew it. Is this the new Faith?
However the pre-eminent church in Ireland fares this time next year, and hopefully there will be resolutions, the traditions surrounding the season of Easter, and the messages of all faiths at this welcome time of the year have enormous value to the faithful, and the closer one looks, the more the similarities in beliefs between them.
God bless, and hopefully the season will help us to transcend the weaknesses of the human condition, to overcome the sense of betrayal by spiritual leaders, and keep our own hearts pure.
Devil of a Scandal
And an earlier article by Ms. Dowd offers a more traditional Irish solution from the early days of the Church where she proposes a nun for Pope. Good reading. A Nope for Pope
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