An Easter Message

William Butler Yeats (1865 - 1939), Irish poet...

      For Christians throughout the Christian world, Easter is the apex of the liturgical calendar. In the iconography of the Christian Church, the Risen Christ symbolizes the redemption of mankind; its new hope and its new possibilities. The words of the Gospel of  Matthew continue to resonate two millennia later: "He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay."

       The hope for redemption that is epitomized by Easter is the common legacy of all men and women, whether believers or non-believers, no matter their stations in life or their geographic locations.In our own way, each of us yearns for a better life for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren. But each of us also knows that the quest will too often exact a very personal toll, as witnessed by the crucifixion. William Butler Yeats, perhaps better than most, grasped  the secular implications the Easter message: the possibility alongside the peril and uncertainty:      

Easter, 1916

I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

That woman's days were spent
In ignorant good-will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When, young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our winged horse;
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road.
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute by minute they live:
The stone's in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven's part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse -
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

         The Eastern Rebellion, chronicled by Yeats, was, at the time, ridiculed as amateurish and folly, but within a short time, owing to the brutality of the oppressors, a new Ireland was born. So today, throughout Middle East and elsewhere,the hopes of a multitude are often met with derision and violent oppression, but their dreams too will be vindicated if they persevere.

      In his inaugural address, John Kennedy reminded Americans that "here on earth God's work must truly be our own." The creation of a better, more just world will not be achieved by solitary acts alone for the power of the status quo is always too great. Meaningful, substantial change will only be achieved when each of us of recognizes our shared potential as part of a broader public effort to insist that the voices of all of us - including the poor, the bedraggled, the dispossessed, the ill - be heard and addressed by those whom we have entrusted to govern us.

     The Catholic  philosopher Jacques Martian, inspired by the teachings of Thomas Aquinas, reminds us, "...the primary reason for which men, united in political society, need the State, is the order of justice is the crucial need of modern societies. As a result, the primary duty of the modern state is the enforcement of social justice."
            There can and must be a place at the table for all of God's children.In the quest to achieve that goal, we redeem and fulfill ourselves as human beings. This is the message of Easter that all of us should embrace.

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