[PHOTO - SUNSET: Fishermen travel in a motorboat through a river as the sun sets at Marinduque island, central Philippines, April 21, 2011. (REUTERS photo)]

MANILA, APRIL 25, 2011 (BULLETIN) By CHRISTINA I. HERMOSO - "And He departed from our sight that we might return to our hearts and there find Him. For He departed and behold, He is here!" – St. Augustine

Balanga Bishop Ruperto C. Santos said the message of Easter is clear – it's hope in the midst of crisis.

"Easter is the affirmation and celebration that Jesus has been raised from the dead. Easter confirms that the resurrection of Jesus is also our rising to new life. Jesus is our resurrection."

"Yes, we suffer as we have our Good Friday. We are betrayed and abandoned. There are pain and problems. There are hardship and suffering. We experience tragedies. We encounter crises. We face death.

But we know that before us, Jesus underwent all these terrible things. We know that Jesus overcame all these human afflictions," the Catholic prelate said.

"Easter urges us to turn and trust Jesus, to raise our will and spirit to God. Easter promises us new life as Jesus has won for us. With the resurrection of Jesus, we have redemption. We can now return to the Father. We have been reconciled with Him. We are saved!"

According to Bishop Santos, the Resurrection of Christ brings with it "a new beginning, another chance, and fresh opportunities. Our lives are now full of hope, meaning, and love. Yes, God is with us. His grace is upon us."

He added, "Easter invites us to live a life of hope, of fidelity to God, and of total commitment to His divine plan. Easter asks us to walk the way of Jesus, to leave behind the darkness of grief and doubts."

Bishop Santos encourages the faithful to reflect and to find hope, meaning, and inspiration from the following letter of St. Paul to the Romans: "By this baptism in His cross, we were buried with Christ and as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we begin walking in a new life. It was an image of His death when we are grafted in Him, and so we will also share in His resurrection."

The high point of the 40-day Lenten observance, Easter Sunday or Resurrection Sunday is the foundation of the Christian faith, the greatest feast (festum festorum) that renders complete the mystery of man's salvation and redemption.

"By His death, Jesus freed us from sin and by His Resurrection, He restored to us the most important privilege lost by our sin – our own resurrection," affirmed Pope Leo I, an early Church father. His resurrection established Jesus as the powerful Son of God (Romans 1:4) and has given Christians a new birth into a living hope (1 Peter 1:3).

In his Lenten message, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI – finding inspiration from Colossians 2:12 which says, "You were buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him." – emphasized that "Jesus died for the forgiveness of sins and as He was resurrected, the sins of God's children were washed away, giving us all a new lease on life."

"Resurrection Sunday is the most joyous and solemn feast of the entire liturgical year. Let us allow ourselves to be guided by the Word of God," the Pontiff said.

The Holy Father will celebrate the solemn Easter Sunday mass at 10:15 a.m. today at the St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, Italy. The Eucharistic celebration, which is attended by hundreds of the Catholic faithful every year and viewed live on television by millions more all over the world, will be followed by the traditional Urbi et Orbi (to the city and to the world) Easter Papal message and Apostolic blessing at the St. Peter's Square, a tradition that is also done on Christmas Day.

'Linggo ng Pagkabuhay'

In a predominantly Catholic country like the Philippines, Easter Sunday, known in local parlance as "Linggo ng Pagkabuhay" (Resurrection Sunday) or "Pasko ng Pagkabuhay" (Pasch of the Resurrection), is much anticipated as a welcome shift from weeks of contemplation, self examination, charity work, sacrifices, repentance, and renewal to a time of celebration, joy, and renewed hope.

The joyous celebration begins on the night of Black Saturday with the Easter vigil service which consists of time-tested religious rites such as the presentation of the "salubong" or the reenactment of the meeting of the Blessed Mother and the Risen Christ, the Easter mass, and during the mass, the lighting of the Paschal (Easter) candle to symbolize the Resurrection of Christ, three days after His crucifixion. Alleluias are also sung for the first time since the start of the Lenten season.

According to Church officials, the Easter vigil service, held late at night on Black Saturday in almost all parishes across the country, is one of the most well attended services in the liturgical year. It is also one of the most anticipated.

In Rome, Italy, Pope Benedict XVI presided over the solemn Easter vigil mass from the Vatican City Black Saturday night.

Easter Sunday: Then and Now

With celebrations well observed since the second century, what used to be simply an all-night vigil and sunrise service commemoration has evolved into a more festive and elaborate event. From decorating homes, churches, and other places of worship with white and gold, the colors of Easter, to wearing new clothes to represent new beginning, to family gatherings, secular customs like the Easter bunny, Easter egg hunts, parties, and reunions have become part of the holiday's modern observance.

Indeed, times have changed in that while others have taken the opportunity to go on vacation during the Holy Week break, there are also those who have to abide by the call of duty, those who need to fulfill responsibilities at the workplace, yes, even on an Easter Sunday.

Fr. Armando C. Baraan, parish priest of the St. Francis of Assisi Church on Shaw Boulevard, Mandaluyong City, said he sees no problem in going on vacation during the Holy Week, especially to one's home province or to go to work on an Easter Sunday. "But I hope that they attend at least one day of the services held during the Paschal Triduum (Latin for three days) or the three days leading to Easter: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter vigil. These traditions are well observed in the provinces."

"Easter Sunday is so important to a Christian. So, we should make an effort, wherever we are or whatever little time we have, to go to church knowing how significant these times are for us. Attend at least a day, if not, it might mean that the person may not have fully understood the teachings of our faith."

Sr. Dawn Parlade, a steward of church-run Radio Veritas and secretary of the sub-parish council and coordinator of lectors and commentator ministry of the San Juan Diego Chapel in South Cembo, Makati City, said Easter traditions such as family gatherings are actually an opportune time for communication.

"Family gatherings at Easter will give everyone a chance to talk, to patch up differences, and heal past hurts. God is always listening. We just need to talk to Him in prayer."

She also encouraged kind-hearted individuals "to at least set aside a little part of the budget for parties and vacations for charity, like donating to Caritas Manila's feeding program.

So, as they enjoy God's blessings, they get to share a piece to the less fortunate as well."

Easter is preceded by seven weeks of Eastertide, the 50 days leading up to Pentecost, the seventh Sunday after Easter, commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. Pentecost, which marks the end of the Easter season, will be observed on June 12 this year.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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