Happy Resurrection Day.
A few years ago, on what liturgical churches call Holy Saturday, I attended ‘Easter Vigil’ services at the Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, VA. Never having attended Lenten services at a monastery, I was not sure what the experience would bring. My initial thoughts were that I felt I had stepped back in time, in a wonderful way: the historical richness and the ever present reality providing a sacred collusion. The pews were hard, thick dark wood made by local friends, there was darkness, candles, prayers, chanting and singing in Latin and English, kneeling, bowing, and of course, the Eucharist. It as delightful an experience as it was long – over two hours.
Catholic monks do almost nothing quickly; and in this world of immediate gratification, I was afforded the ‘time’ to slow down, breathe, and attune my being to God’s all-pervading and loving Presence permeating the place.
All this pausing got me to thinking about the reality of Easter; about resurrection and living a committed and intentional spiritual journey with Jesus. The shadowy, yet hopeful Saturday Vigil Mass reminded me that we truly are a people on the Way…in transition on this journey towards God and each other.
We are a pilgrim people who must live between the tensions of two days: Good Friday (suffering and death) and Easter Sunday (Resurrection and new life in Christ).
We are a Good Friday People; all we need to do is look around at all the pain and suffering in our world and in our hearts. But the glorious news is that is not the final word…for we are an Easter people.
Some 25 years ago a friend of mine reminded me in so many words that we are an Easter People. He said, “Niles, it’s Friday…but Sunday’s a comin’!”
We must all face the daily’ness of life, the Good Friday moments, the smaller pains and frustration and the larger tragedies that can beset us. These Good Friday times are painful, no doubt, but they serve a purpose of molding us into the image and likeness of Jesus. These Good Friday moments and events all but force us to deeper intimacy with God, to a deeper reliance upon his grace rather than human sensibilities.
Yes, we must go through (and not around) Good Friday. In our suffering, we somehow comingle with the suffering of others and with Jesus, bringing some sense of redemption to our pain, knowing we are not alone in it; knowing that on the Cross Jesus experienced every pain and darkness we ever could or will.
Good Friday moments connect us more to Jesus and to those whose lives are permeated with suffering – the addicted, the homeless, the imprisoned, and the poor – and in this we become in some way more human. Good Friday teaches us some of the ebb and flow of grace.
But Good Friday is not the final word.
We must hold out, we must remember that the final word is Easter Sunday. The Cross is not the final word of silence, the Great Silence of the empty tomb is the final word and that words echoes throughout human history and throughout our own personal histories: there is resurrection!
Our emptiness, our addictions, our pain and sickness, our loneliness and poverty (even our death) are not the last word from the world. They are a word, but not the word. The resurrection of Jesus is the Final, all glorious, Word spoken to us.
The Living Word is our final statement.
Hear God speak to you this truth: “Death is not the end. Addiction is not the end. Fear is not the end. I AM the End that has no end; I AM the Beginning; I AM the Hope and Love for which you long. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the One who was and Is and is to come. And my love for you is all embracing and eternal.”
Let’s celebrate this Truth together, for we are indeed an Easter People. We are a people living in the creative tension of the already and the not yet of the Resurrection. So this Easter, I pray we all go deeper into god, deeper into the experience of the power of Resurrection and new life.
I pray the Paschal Mystery lives in our hearts. Let us sing for Joy this sacred season for Jesus is Risen, risen indeed.