At this most joyous time of Easter, many churches do a lot of extravagant decorating complete with banners and beautiful floral designs. This is fitting, absolutely, since Easter marks the day of all days in our Christian faith; it is on this day and throughout this Easter season of 50 days that we celebrate what Christ did, who Christ is, and who He is calling us to be.
My very favorite “addition” to the church at Easter, however, is very simple: the Paschal Candle. This is the large white candle with a cool design and some pins stuck in it that was blessed during the Easter Vigil Mass and lit using flame from the blessed fire; it is usually next the ambo (podium where the readings take place). It is lit for all liturgies during the Easter season. Why is this my favorite? I like this because of it’s rich symbolism and simplicity.
The Paschal Candle and its flame are to remind us of the light of Christ, always present and burning at all times throughout the world. It serves to remind us of the Paschal mystery (that is, his passion, death, and resurrection) and all the Christ endured on our behalf. It does, just like the sanctuary lamp (the red candle over/next to the Tabernacle which is lit when the Blessed Sacrament is being held inside), not draw any particular attention but it marks, in a very symbolic way, the presence of Christ.
I have found myself very troubled by the news of the passing of 12 year old Eric Lederman. He is a native of my hometown of Oswego, Illinois; I graduated high school in 2010 with his sister; the Ledermans live just down the street from me. Despite these connections, I never really knew Eric or got to know his family all that well…but I just can’t stop thinking about this awesome young man. As more information becomes available, it becomes apparent that Eric was more than your average 6th grader who loved baseball. It is evident that he was thoughtful, charitable, and kind; he was outgoing, inspiring, and dearly loved by his peers and superiors. It seems that he always did was right because it was right and stood up for those things he found most dear, mostly the game of baseball.
These qualities which demonstrate an advanced grasp of virtues like prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude point to something – Someone – much larger than all of us dwelling within Eric. In the Gospels, Jesus reminds us that if we wish to enter the kingdom the Heaven, we should make ourselves like children: humble, honest, innocent, and pure; we must become childlike in our love for and dependence on Christ (childlike, not childish). This is why when I read the stories and memories of Eric, I see Christ so clearly because it is obvious that Eric lived his life in a humble, honest, innocent, and pure way. In many ways, he was a man of higher integrity than most of us, myself most assuredly included.
I think of Eric, then, whenever I look at the Easter candle in our seminary chapel; burning proudly and reverently, yet silently and majestically…just like Christ does in Heaven and in our hearts. When I look at that candle, I see Eric who, taken from us much to soon by a line of reasoning we will never fully understand until we ourselves stand before the Creator and Father, has become like Christ and is with him in Heaven. Just as the light of Jesus flickers before us in our churches during this Easter season, the light that Eric brought to us all, even those of us who never knew him, will shine brightly in our lives and in our hearts every moment of every day from this day forward.
The timing is peculiar, he was so young; how could a God of love do this? God loves Eric in the same way he loves each of us; it seems to me that someone like Eric belongs in Heaven to pray for us and intercede for all of us that we might become more closely connected the Source of Eric’s passion and love. I know this is hard for the community to bear; heck, I am 400 miles away in a Catholic seminary in St. Paul, MN and I am mourning with all the rest of you. Let this be an opportunity to come together and always, in Eric’s honor, love as he did, laugh as he did, and play like a champion, as he did so very well.
On a personal note, I have no idea who will read this. But if any member of Eric’s family reads this, please know that I, along with several of the men in the seminary here, are praying for you and for Eric. If I can be of assistance to you in anyway, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Tomorrow, April 15th is the 2nd Sunday of Easter and was designated, by Pope John Paul II, to be Divine Mercy Sunday. I pray the Divine Heart of Christ and its blessing come down and remain with each of you forever.