In a way, we get to celebrate Easter again this coming Saturday.
Because the glory of the Cross was only realized when the glory of our Savior was made manifest on Easter Sunday. We see the Cross’s triumph as Jesus overcomes death. When He rose from the dead, the Cross was exalted (risen) with Him as the means for us to obtain the glory which is now promised to all who follow Him, as Jesus Himself says in Matthew 16:24. And just as we prepare for Easter with the penitential season of Lent, it seems appropriate to take the coming days as preparation for this “mini-Easter,” if you will.
Before I go on, it should be noted that this is not a practice that has been introduced by the Church and it is not required of the faithful. This was just a thought I had about this feast and as I was reflecting, I realized that it would seem appropriate to prepare in a manner similar to the way we would for Easter.
Granted, the preparation won’t be exactly the same. For starters, it’s not for 40 days like Lent is. Today is Monday and the feast is on Saturday. That gives us five days. Also, the objective of the preparation isn’t exactly the same. During Lent, we do penance for our sins and practice self-denial in order to die to ourselves so that we can celebrate rising to new life with Christ on Easter. During these five days, we can practice self-denial and dying to ourselves, but it will be so that on the Feast of the Exaltation, we can truly say, or at least start to be able to say, that we exalt our own crosses. And why do we do this? Because our crosses are the means by which we obtain salvation.
As I alluded to, we can start to understand and say this, but the full capacity to do it certainly won’t be obtained in five days, just as one certainly doesn’t become perfect on Easter Sunday after 40 days of Lenten penance. It’s a lifelong process. But we have these opportunities so that we can set aside times to work on certain aspects of our spiritual lives. And in these five days, detachment and renouncement of our own wills can be those certain aspects that we work on. This helps us by setting aside our own expectations of how things should be so that we become more open to God’s will and the way that He KNOWS things should be. And we all know that this doesn’t always match up with what we think about things. But it forces us to start thinking about and discerning His will so that we can begin to see things His way. And this in turn helps us embrace our crosses because we start to see that whatever He sends us is for our own good, i.e. our salvation.
Just as during Lent, we can start by doing small things. We don’t have to make drastic changes right away. Give up something for this week just like you would during Lent. Practice mortification and deny yourself small things here and there, offering it all up for the salvation of souls and the grace to see His will in all of the crosses He sends, big and small. Take some time each day for some extra spiritual reading and prayer. Go to Confession during the week or on the feast. Once you get accustomed to denying yourself in small things, you will be better equipped to handle the bigger crosses and inconveniences that might come your way. Becoming detached from yourself and your own way of wanting things is essential if you truly want to embrace and exalt your crosses.
We are preparing for a great feast, one that celebrates the means to our salvation and is a “mini-Easter” in the sense that just as Jesus rose on Easter Sunday to open the gates of heaven to us, the Cross was also exalted to show us the path to eternal life that we all must take. So take advantage of your “mini-Lent” and set aside the time to get accustomed to exalting your own crosses.