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4.08.2007

Here's a confession: I don't like the word 'Easter'. Maybe because it so often comes before words like 'basket' and 'bunny', it has lost the reverberated soundings of stones rolling over Jerusalem soil, chattering teeth of centurions (doubtless losing bladder control), and the ear-splitting echoes of the feet of angels shuffling about the tomb floor. I cannot catch any wiffs of death or decay in the word, neither the smell of dry blood or the noxious odour of too-much myrrh in an enclosed space, let loose with the breaking of the dawn and the sudden open space that was - and is no longer - a grave.

Oddly enough, arriving in church this morning in my kelly green dress and springtime shoes, I quickly noticed that most people in the congregation were still wearing the dark colours of Good Friday (or any other day of the British winter). Did they not get the message? Were they not aware that this is a day for brightness and cheer, for celebration, hoorah, and hosanna? They could have figured it out quickly enough, given the unique presence of a trumpet player left of the choir. And the traditional hymns of the season. And the reading of the Gospel, the bit about the stone and the women crying.

I confess that I prefer Christmas to Easter. Both of them are essentially mysteries, I know. But at Christmas, the mystery is a baby. And how weird can a baby be? He's round and squalling and you welcome him with presents, which in typical baby-birthday fashion you get to open and keep for yourself. But the mystery of Easter is a little more difficult to handle. Jesus is back in firm flesh, and yet he's walking through locked doors. He's wandering about in the garden and headed down to Emmaeus, and yet, he has nowhere to go and nothing in particular to do other than be seen. Why is he back? Weirder still, he shifts between being completely unrecognizable and being wholly undeniable. He meets people alone in closed rooms and then shows up in a crowd of five hundred. Why such selective secrecy? And for all the records we have of his sermons, we know next to nothing about what he says and does during these forty days of post-mortem miracle.

I wish we had better Easter traditions than eggs and chocolate. Not that there's anything wrong with chocolate, but it would help to have some tangible means of understanding this season. An object, like a tree or a present, a star, a carving of an apostle (why don't we have empty tomb scenes like we have nativity scenes?) which I can hold and say: this represents what the day is all about. Here is a theme. or a character. or a reason.

Not having such a sign in my hands, I resort to words. Here are the words of the Pascha Nostrum, from the Book of Common Prayer:

Alleluia.
Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us; *
therefore let us keep the feast,
Not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, *
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Alleluia.
Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; *
death no longer has dominion over him.
The death that he dies, he dies to sin, once for all; *
but the life he lives, he lives to God.
So also consider yourselves dead to sin, *
and alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord. Alleluia.
Christ has been raised from the dead, *
the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since by a man came death, *
by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, *
so also in Christ shall all be made alive. Alleluia.

and a parting prayer:

O God, who made this most holy night to shine with the glory of the Lord's resurrection: Stir up in your Church that Spirit of adoption which is given to us in Baptism, that we, being renewed both in body and mind, may worship you in security and truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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