Alleluia! Christ is risen!
This year we came through an especially challenging Holy Week to the grateful celebration of Easter on Sunday, and as we are now settling into Eastertide — the period between Easter Day and Pentecost – we may be feeling even more acutely a cacophonous mix of emotions. Holy Week occurred as the New York region was experiencing perhaps the worst week of the Covid-19 crisis, and we felt the sorrow of death especially in our church. And still, Easter Day arrived! We gathered together and celebrated the Feast of the Resurrection in our Zoom house church! And we remembered that even in the darkest times, God is with us, and helps us to find the places of promise, hope, joy, and new life.
I’m so glad that in our Christian Education Forum series this past Epiphany, we explored how our tradition understands death (and by extension, suffering). As part of that series, I invited us to spend some time with page 507 of the Book of Common Prayer, which gives context to the way in which we ritually observe the death of a loved one in our church. It might seem like a paradox, but our funerals are always grounded in the promise of the resurrection, and so they are, at their core, a celebration of Easter:
The liturgy for the dead is an Easter liturgy. It finds all meaning in the resurrection. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we too, shall be raised.
The liturgy, therefore, is characterized by joy, in the certainty that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ
Jesus our Lord.”
This joy, however, does not make human grief unchristian. The very love we have for each other in Christ brings deep sorrow when we are parted by death. Jesus himself wept at the grave of his friend. So, while we rejoice that one we love has entered into the nearer presence of our Lord,
we sorrow in sympathy with those who mourn.
As the note also points out, even in the midst of celebrating the joy of the resurrection, it is still appropriate to mourn all that we have lost. It is okay and necessary, even in Easter, for us to feel whatever suffering and pain we each are going through as we muddle through this crisis. And at the same time, God is inviting us to also feel the joys of the season: the greening of the trees, and the vibrant blossoming of the plants, and the return of brilliant sun after a day of rain, and the laughter of children let out of the house to run around the block, and the smiling of your neighbors’ eyes above their masks, and the continuing heroic work of our Soup Kitchen staff, and the kind faces of our Holy Apostles Beloveds on Zoom, and the scriptural stories of resurrection, and all our own personal experiences of new life.
No matter what tumultuous mix of emotions you are going through today, remember that God is with you in it all, always inviting you deeper and more fully into the mystery and the joy of resurrection life.
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!