Published April 25, 2013
Archbishop Hallinan’s 1963 Easter Message
In a book of meditations soon to be published, Paul Claudel, the French poet, asks us to “lie still with our eyes closed a moment before dawn breaks on the day of the Resurrection.” It is a novel suggestion, one that is apt to surprise people in our times. Why do it on Easter morning? Why at dawn? And, most of all, what would one think about?
Claudel was a man with his head in the skies of the poets, but with feet planted firmly in the reality of our world. He suggests we think about the question that the three holy women asked, “Who will roll the stone back from the entrance?” They had brought ointment to prepare the body of the Lord. We, too, as the Christians of the twentieth century, are bringing our gifts today—prayers, good wishes, a kind word, a collection envelope. But there is a stone between us and the Body of the Lord.
The stone is our tendency to give up, to grow cold, to forget and to put off. We get busy with the things of the world, and the things of God become unappealing. The whole talk of Christian renewal, heard today in every pulpit, and talked about in every mention of the Vatican Council, hinges on this. Why do our worship and our meditation need renewal? Because we offer God a routine mind. Why do we close our eyes to injustice and need and starvation around us? Because we offer God a routine heart.
The Church stood by on that first Easter morning—the Church in the person of the three women who were awake and ready, in the person of the apostles who were fitfully sleeping and frightfully scared. There was a sense of Christian urgency that day, and the Church knew it. There were people to wake up, people to stir up, people to help, and people to do the helping. It was urgent then to be a Christian. It was a day of hope, the peculiar Easter virtue.
Today our faith is strong—especially in regions where there are few Christians, in areas where there are few Catholics. We are known, thank God, as a nation of frequent communicants. Now our faith is being nourished on the words of the Scripture, much more than in past centuries. And our charity is wide and generous. Again, we are known as a nation of unselfish givers. Now our charity is affecting our hearts as well as our wallets. We are learning how all-embracing Christian love must be.
It is that third virtue—the Easter virtue of hope—that needs enkindling in our times. In the climate of fear and hate that surrounds too much of our world, too many of our communities, we must practice justice with a full confident hope. In a society that is still more concerned with material gain than the growth of the intellect, we must hope that the scholar will find elbow-room, whether he be a young scientist, an old philosopher, or perhaps a little child looking for his first gem of truth. In a nation of many religions, we must hope for the best in each of them, neither compromising our own nor downgrading others.
This is hope at work in the world. It is a natural virtue for every man, but for the Christian, it is a theological virtue, linked to faith and charity, produced by the grace of God. It is our special responsibility as Catholics to nurture it, to treasure it, and especially to use it. It may be symbolized by a hand—not clenched for gain or for gunfire—but reaching out to help, to comfort, to lead.
That hand, guided by Christ, can roll back the stone of our weakness.
May God renew us all, and give to our beloved nation and state, our families and our homes, this Easter gift of hope.