Shortly after this column appears in the wee hours of Sunday morning, crowds will gather and fill churches for Easter Mass. Bright colors, little kids dolled up in their Sunday best, families filling pews that sit vacant most of the year. A joyous occasion.

I have always struggled with Easter.

It has nothing to do with the Christmas/Easter Christians. I believe God lives in your heart and not a building of brick and mortar. I am glad faith continues to live inside them throughout the year and carry them back to their parishes and places of worship, if only on occasion.

Mario Nicolais

Likewise, I love the colors and festive mood. I grew up with dyed Easter eggs, woven baskets, cellophane straw and oversized chocolate rabbits. Those are cherished memories.

It is the message I have always had difficulty coming to terms with: Christ has risen.

I am versed in and understand the liturgical meaning. After dying for the sins of the world, Christ rose again on the third day and ascended into heaven. It is the triumph of Christ over death.

I have simply felt the symbolism too self-serving and too fantastical. He died and rose and washed away all the sins we have ever committed or will commit. In my heart, I guess I do not like getting off the hook so easily.

In contrast, I have always loved Maundy Thursday and have written about it many times. I feel more connected to Christ the teacher and servant than Christ the miracle worker and Son of God. Foot-washing is something I can do; I am not real confident about rising from the dead.

But because it is so hard for me is exactly why I choose to spend more time thinking and praying over it this year. And I think I came to peace through my conflict.

Christ is an example, the ultimate example for Christians, of love. Love in its many forms: service, forgiveness, healing, sacrifice, teaching, faith — the list is too long to adequately catalog. That is exactly what has always drawn me to Maundy Thursday and His last commandment to “love one another … as I have loved you, you must love one another.”

By a simple substitution, Easter is the triumph of love over death.

That is something I can do. That is something we can all do, regardless of religion or lack thereof. We can help make sure that love triumphs over death.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized we each die in some way every day. We fall short of our ideals and best selves. We raise our voices in anger, we ignore a person in need, we fail to act in accordance with our faith. We lie, we cheat, we steal, we cause pain. And each time we die a little bit.

Thankfully that little bit can always be resurrected. It does not require grand gestures or great declarations. It certainly does not require a literally miracle or divine intervention. To the contrary, it is best when practiced in small, meaningful measures. A kind word, a heartfelt apology, an act of service. 

It is Simon of Cyrene helping an injured man carry a heavy burden or Veronica giving Him a towel to wipe His face.

Every time we make such an effort, it is a declaration that love wins, that love conquers death. Every time we open ourselves to others, it is a recognition that love shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it. Every time we make that effort to connect with others and help those with need, we resurrect the best in humanity and ourselves.

Easter is a celebration of love so great that it sacrificed itself for all of us. But it is a celebration of our ability to resurrect love every day in our lives.

Mario Nicolais is an attorney and columnist who writes on law enforcement, the legal system, health care and public policy. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq

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Mario Nicolais

Special to The Colorado Sun Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq