As a child, I was fascinated by Christmas but never really liked the feast of Easter. I did not fully understand it either. I was raised in a Catholic family, so I knew that Easter “ranked higher” in terms of significance. Still, Christmas was more heartwarming to me, while Easter related to an epic drama that was difficult to understand and even more difficult to take in.
Jesus’s arrival on Earth was not without conflict, though. Nobody in Bethlehem was willing to accommodate the Holy Family, so they had to find shelter in a stable where Jesus was born. Nevertheless, apart from this “regrettable episode,” it was the promising dawn of a holy life that brought abundant blessings to humanity and shed light onto the world. The later unfolding hostilities and the inevitable drama of crucifixion were then hidden and still far away.
On the other hand, Easter only has its meaning together with the appalling reality of Good Friday. Jesus was crucified; he suffered and died. On the third day, he was resurrected. Through his personal sacrifice, Jesus saved the world and fulfilled God’s plan for redemption.
While both Christmas and Easter carry messages to everybody irrespective of their belief or religion, it is understandable that Christmas’s message is easier to incorporate into our lives and relate to it as a source of joy and blessings. It’s not without reason that while Christmas and Easter are both public holidays in countries with Christian roots, Christmas has a much broader, universal nature generally associated with the celebration of love.
As an adult, I now have a better understanding of the two pivotal feasts of Christianity and the correlation between them. Yet when it comes to the tragedy of suffering, the acceptance of its burden, words become awkward and seem inappropriate. Consolation may come from those who got the toughest part of it. To me, only their words sound genuine.
Placid Olofsson, the Hungarian “Monk of the Gulag,” who lived 100 years and passed away in 2017, had an exceptional life and a marvelous ability to find hope even among the direst circumstances.
When confronted with suffering, his attitude was: “Let us not dramatize suffering because that will only make us weaker.”
Easter in 2021 brought us tears and pain and showed us how vulnerable we are. There is no point in comparing the current havoc with other tragedies throughout human history. It is always the present one that is first on our minds, which we have to contend with.
Father Placid is no longer physically with us, yet I’m sure he has compassion towards us. We may recall the words that helped him in times of despair: “Hold onto God because with his help we can survive any earthly hell.”
In a book published on his 100th birthday, Father Placid described his life in the following terms:
“I am aware of the fact that I am a simple man of average abilities; I have no special physical or mental skills. But life always demanded more from me than I was capable of; God always stood next to me, and more than once helped me in miraculous ways.”
On Easter Sunday in 2021, his words might be in accord with our deepest desires.
Featured photo illustration by Péter Komka/MTI