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The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the paschal mystery as “Christ’s work of redemption accomplished principally by his passion, death, resurrection and glorious ascension, whereby dying he destroyed our death, rising he restored our life”. It is on this mystery that the core of the Catholic doctrine is based. The entire liturgy is a celebration of this mystery of Christ passion and death and resurrection. Still in liturgical celebrations it is proclaimed as the mystery of faith with the words that “we proclaim your death O lord and profess your resurrection until you come again”.

The origins of the paschal mystery the word paschal is derived from the Greek word pascha which means Passover. It is a remembrance of the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, (cf. Exodus 12) which lead them into freedom, into new life. The Passover was a recognition of the hand of God that saved his people and led them out of slavery to the promised land. There is a vivid connection between the old feast of the Passover for the Israelites and the redemptive work of Christ though his passion and death that earned us freedom from slavery to sin. Christ, through the paschal mystery pays the price for our redemption. He is the new Passover.

The entire life of Christ is centered on the redemptive mission. From his proclamation in the synagogue that “the spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor, he has sent me to proclaim freedom for prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind and to set the oppressed free” (cf. Luke 4:18). The redemption brough about by Christ is not only spiritual but also physical in the sense that his mission concerns the human person in an integral way, that is body and soul. He accomplishes this by his concern for the hungry, the sick, the lame, the blind to whom he offers healing and restoration of life.

The apex of his accomplishment comes about by him offering himself at the last supper, his body and blood as the paschal lamb. The blood that marked the door steps of the houses of the Israelites has been replaced by the blood of Jesus Christ, the lamb of God, the paschal lamb. By dying, Christ restores our life. Although the celebration of the pascal mystery is done in each eucharistic celebration, the easter triduum puts more emphasis on it through the entire liturgy of Holy Thursday, Good Friday Holy Saturday and the easter vigil celebration.

The prior Lenten observances prepare the faithful to embrace newness of life by dying to themselves and rising with Christ. No wonder the joy of the Easter candle and the singing of the Exultet all make reference to movement from darkness to light. The resurrection of Christ is a sign of victory of life over death, of good over evil. Thus, as the faithful celebrate the triumph of Christ, there should also be personal triumph over evil that leads to newness of life resulting from the effect of the paschal sacrifice of Christ.

Fr. Nicholas Onyait MCCJ

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