In the experience of life, there are particular moments and natural seasons when we are aware of the signs of decline and of new beginnings. In the autumn, the leaves fall from the trees, and the plants stop growing. All of creation goes to sleep for the winter season of dormancy. After the winter, just when it seemed all of creation had died, new life begins to emerge. Crocuses, daffodils and tulips begin to sprout through the ground and leaves start to grow on the once bare trees.
What we see in nature is also reflected in the events of our life - those times of struggle or pain that lead to new beginnings. A baby is born in our family following the passing of a generation; we reconcile with a friend who had become estranged; we secure a job after a period of unemployment; we see a victim of domestic abuse and work with a local agency to secure a shelter; or we see the people who are homeless in our community and we open the doors of our parish to offer a shelter.
As Christians we are invited to follow Jesus Christ, to embrace His passion, death, Resurrection, and Ascension which we identify as a faith event that we call the “Paschal mystery”. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states its theological meaning as follows, the “Paschal mystery has two aspects: by his death, Christ liberates us from sin; by his Resurrection, he opens for us the way to a new life. This new life is above all justification that reinstates us in God's grace, "so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (654) The liturgy and the sacraments of the Church allow us to experience the Paschal Mystery, through word and symbols, and especially in the liturgical seasons of Lent and Easter as a journey from sin to the newness of life. The CCC describes how the liturgy makes the Paschal Mystery present, “Christian liturgy not only recalls the events that saved us but actualizes them, makes them present. The Paschal mystery of Christ is celebrated, not repeated. It is the celebrations that are repeated, and in each celebration, there is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that makes the unique mystery present.” (1104)
The Paschal Mystery is an integral part of the spiritual life. It is the faith-filled journey of living with Christ that embraces difficulties or death, only to rise exultantly to a new reality in our relationship with God and our neighbour. When we encounter such moments, it can be the person of Christ who is present to us through His suffering, death and Resurrection that allows the Holy Spirit and grace to transform the way we see and understand our life. We discover that our life has a pattern of dying and rising, and that God is with us. This fosters within us the hope that new beginnings will always be possible despite the endings that occur in our lives.
We see that new life can come from death, and a new beginning can present itself within life experiences that we might have described as endings. Sometimes it is said that when God closes a door, He opens a window. This saying reflects the Christian hope and belief that in the “deaths” or “endings” of our lives, the experience of the Paschal Mystery calls us to look for and embrace the new beginning. As the Paschal Mystery is celebrated this Lent and Easter, may Jesus Christ’s passion, death, Resurrection, and Ascension be the fulfillment of our faith in new beginnings.