If there’s a contrast to Lent, it’s Easter. If Lent is a time for holy sacrifice, Easter is a time for holy indulgence. I once heard someone use the term, “guiltless pleasure,” to refer to a pleasure that brings us close to God. And why not? As Christians, we tend to focus more on sacrifice than on celebration. We talk about the Mass as a “holy sacrifice” but can easily forget that it’s also supposed to be a celebration, a celebration of the entire mystery of Christ.
In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius suggests that retreatants close the drapes and darken the room, and not think of pleasure or joy. The intent is to help the retreatant focus on his or her own sins, and ultimately the sorrow and sacrifice of the cross. But for the Easter meditation in the Fourth Week, Ignatius says to open up the shades and let in light. He goes a step further and says not only to use light but also “temporal comforts.” These things aid in the celebratory joy of the Resurrection.
Temporal comforts may mean a weekend getaway, an extra-long nap, reading a novel, getting a massage, or some other pleasure. Catholics often equate pleasure with sin and guilt, but when a pleasure is in the service of celebrating Christ’s Resurrection, it’s possible for it to be “guiltless.” This is why many of us ate a special Easter Sunday meal. In fact, Catholics have often adjusted their temporal comforts with the rhythms of the liturgical calendar. For ages, Fridays were a time of sacrifice and abstinence as a way to mark Christ’s Passion. But Sundays have always been a time of feasting, relaxing, and celebrating as ways to mark Christ’s Resurrection.
We choose to sacrifice as a way to get in touch with the sacrifice Christ made for us on the cross. But we can also use guiltless pleasures to celebrate with Christ. Jesus celebrated with his friends at weddings, at friend’s tables, and even at the table of the Last Supper. And at those special events was wine, a festive and celebratory drink. Jesus enjoyed the pleasure of gathering with his friends.
This 50-day season of Easter is a time for us to put aside the sin we recognized during Lent and to treat ourselves to the joy of the Resurrection. What is your guiltless pleasure that leads you to Resurrection joy?