When it comes to Lent, Catholics are professionals. From ashes on our foreheads to Lenten sacrifices, we know what’s expected and how to enter in. But when Lent is over and the fasting stops, how do we know that we’re properly celebrating the feast? Lent is, after all, just one big preparation for the celebration of Jesus‘s resurrection. So if we’re preparing for 40 days for something, celebrating the thing itself is probably a big deal!
Fasting is a way for us to practice detachment from the things of the world, to teach us to sacrifice for what we love most, and to make room in our hearts for the things beyond this world that are truly the most important. But as we wait for eternity and spend time as the Church militant here on Earth, God also wants us to experience glimpses and tastes of his goodness to remind us of what’s coming. As Catholics, our liturgical life isn’t only about stripping ourselves of earthly pleasures. It’s also about delighting in God’s gifts, experiencing his love and hinting at the greatest of joys to come. God doesn’t just want us to fast; he also invites us to feast!
These seasons of feasting and fasting are meant to draw our bodies, minds and souls into the rhythmic nature of the Church, helping us to remember the events of salvation history and to participate in them with our whole selves. Easter, the highest of all these liturgical feasts, is meant to be celebrated in a way that reminds us of our destiny — eternity with Jesus in heaven. It’s not meant to be indulgence in good things for the sake of indulgence, but rather a holy experience of the goods of this earth for the sake of giving glory to God. Feasting isn’t just for Easter, but Sundays and special holy days as well. Celebrating the liturgical calendar in this way allows us to more fully enter into the practice of Christian living.
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For many of us, Easter day looked like delicious meals, a perfectly picked Easter outfit, time with family, a post or two on social media, and doing everything we swore off for Lent. While not all of that is inherently bad, some discernment and prayer can help us really get to the heart and the purpose of feasting so that we can make sure we do it well — especially during the rest of the Easter season and on all special feast days.
Temperance vs. gluttony
Who doesn’t love chocolate bunnies and baskets full of candy to celebrate Easter? In our attitudes toward food and drink, we want to make sure our feast day consumption is ordered toward the end for which these goods are made. “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31).
Gluttony is a disordered consumption of the goods of this earth, using these goods not for their purposes but for the sake of our own excessive enjoyment. If food is ultimately for the nourishing of our body, then gluttony would be consuming more food than is needed for proper nourishment. When we choose to feast by enjoying good food, we want to make sure our enjoyment doesn’t cross the line into overindulgence. When it does, we’ve lost the meaning of the feast and turned it into something about ourselves instead.
There’s an understanding in Kentucky, the bourbon capital of the world, that the good bourbon isn’t meant to sit on the shelf or be enjoyed alone, but shared with those you love. So this Easter season, whether you’re enjoying the good bourbon, a delicious ham or egg-shaped Reese’s cups, enjoy these goods in the order they were created for rather than your own overconsumption.
Joy vs. pleasure
If you gave up Netflix for Lent, it could be tempting to spend Easter binging all the episodes of the latest TV show (or “The Office” because it will never get old). In doing so, we might experience great pleasure and entertainment. True joy, though, is not a fleeting feeling or mindless entertainment, but a lasting peace in the knowledge of the God who loves us. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (Jn 15:11).
To enter into this joy, we should feast by partaking in the the greatest goods the world has to offer — participation in the great sacrifice of the Mass with our family, friends and parish community; time spent with those we love; service to the family of God in our neighbor and the poor; prayer; and soaking in the beauty of the world around us.
These activities call for not just our time, but our service and the choice to love. Who can forget the beautiful quote from Gaudium et spes, “Man … cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself”? In becoming a gift of ourselves, serving one another and God with our whole being, our feasting joy can point us right to eternity instead of turning us in on ourselves.
Praise vs. pride
If you’ve never sat contemplating the perfect caption to go with your cute Easter post on Instagram, have you even Eastered? It’s wonderful to share with our social networks the great joy we find in Christ’s resurrection and the joys of the season. We must be aware, though, when our posts are less about Jesus and his glory and more about us and our own ego. We can give praise to God with or without the perfect picture, perfect outfit and perfect caption. And we still Eastered whether or not we have the pics to prove it.
To praise God is to acknowledge all that he has done for us, to recognize his great love and to express our joy and thanksgiving at the realization of it. You can spend extra time in prayer, listen to praise and worship music, or even share with your family and friends what God has been doing in your life. No matter what form this takes, the end of our praise should ultimately be God, not us.
Whenever and however you’re choosing to feast, I invite you to do it all as a prayer of praise to God in the joy of Jesus’s resurrection. The way we feast can draw us even deeper into the mystery of God and help us to enter more deeply into the life of Christ in our everyday lives. It also opens so many doors to share God’s goodness with others when we invite them into our feasts with us. Let us look with hope to the joy of the full Easter season, and let our feasts be great prayers of praise and thanksgiving to God!