In the children’s book, The Little Prince, a miniature monarch tells of his travels to several tiny planets and of his encounters with various frustrated grown-ups. One man is particularly burdened. He is a lamplighter, and his little planet has such short days that every minute he has to light a lamp and then extinguish it. When the Little Prince asks him why he keeps up this neurotic practice, the lamplighter explains that he is just following orders. Feeling sorry for the overworked lamplighter, the prince offers a solution:
I can show you a way to take a rest whenever you want to. Your planet is so small that you can walk around it in three strides. All you have to do is walk more slowly, and you’ll always be in the sun. When you want to take a rest just walk … and the day will last as long as you want it to.
A brilliant solution! All this duty-driven lamplighter needs to do is walk slowly in synchronization with his planet’s rotation, and he can bask in the sun all he wants. He can rest while in motion. Sadly, the lamplighter does not heed the prince’s advice. He replies, “What good does that do me when the one thing in life I want to do is sleep?”
The tiny ruler and his fire-bearing friend represent two different ways of approaching a holiday and, in particular, the one we are in the midst of celebrating: the Solemnity of Our Lord’s Resurrection. So great is the mystery of the Resurrection that its commemoration demands more than twenty-four hours. Since we cannot put the breaks on the daily demands of our rotating world, the Church invites us to turn towards the mystery of the Resurrection and walk slowly in its light. The rotation of the earth and the succession of days need not be an obstacle to our contemplation, but can actually serve as a means of savoring the mystery. We have the eight days of the Easter Octave to bask in the light of the mystery, and a fifty-day Easter Season to saunter through at an easy pace.
But don’t we want more? It seems that Easter day should last “as long as you want,” just like the Little Prince said. And, in a very real sense, it does. As Christians we are constantly enriched by the redemption that our Lord brought about in his death and resurrection. Our own baptism is a dying and rising with Christ. All the graces we receive stem from our Lord’s redemptive work in the Paschal mystery. We live daily in this grace. Liturgically, even the most ordinary of days is called a “festival day,” or feria. After the Resurrection, every day feels the effects of Easter.
Indeed, our Lord’s resurrection inaugurates eternity. His victory over sin and death is a day that will last forever, and our earthly celebrations, recurring year after year, point toward this one, eternal day. When our little planet eventually stops turning, and when time ends, we will no longer need to “walk slowly” to keep ourselves turned toward the mystery; rather, we will stand and bask in what we see directly. “Night will be no more, nor will they need light from lamp or sun, for the Lord God shall give them light, and they shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:5).