It happened again. More, this Easter, than last year or the year before, or perhaps I forget. But it is, each time, a surprise. I was in many ways “not ready for Easter,” not sure I had made a good Lent, or rather, sure I hadn’t. With the approach of another and more significant middle-aged birthday a month hence, I am thinking about “what I have done and what I have left undone” and about other realities over which I have no control. I think about mortality, mine and that of others – the beloved friend in whose memory I would have made an altar flower offering were I not so broke, the childhood friend of a close family member about whose death I heard this morning, the friend who just received a diagnosis of returned cancer.
And then on the first verse of the first hymn of the Easter liturgy, surprise hits.
********Hail thee, festival day!
********blest day that art hallowed forever,
********day whereon Christ arose,
********breaking the kingdom of death.
The tune is every bit as potent as the words. More. Both together.
It has nothing to do with logic.
Nothing to do with proof.
It has much more to do with the story, later in the liturgy, of Mary of Magdala meeting Jesus in the one she thought was the gardener, and recognizing him when he speaks her name.
I remember C.S. Lewis’s Surprised by Joy (whose title I liked better than the book itself), remember that it is a book title a split second after naming that this is what I am, in the middle of the Easter hymn: surprised by joy.
The grief does not go away, nor the burdens of work (which these days have been many) nor the regrets and sorrows I cannot yet shake.
But in my body I know again, and in my heart and mind I know, that all is transformed and I am a part of it and that the resurrection is in me and in us and that this God has wrought.
And I know it because I am inside the local community, the Body of Christ which I know once again in ways I could not perceive or receive, late last night when, alone at home, I posted the Resurrection icon and proclamation.
It is a great mystery and it has never felt more real. Alleluia.