This year, resurrection will no longer be quarantined to a church building; our fifty days of celebration will happen in our homes, in the context of our own day-to-day life. Each of us will be active participants in a post-resurrection narrative.
Each year there is a temptation to celebrate Easter as a day and not a season; we anticipate one day of remembrance and then for fifty days we continue the celebration even though church attendance often drops off and people’s attention shifts to spring, graduations, and the approach of summer. I distinctly remember one year, as a parish priest, when a parishioner commented on Good Shepherd Sunday, the last Sunday of the Easter season, “Easter seems like it happened so long ago. I am glad next week is Pentecost so we will have another special celebration.”
Even then I understood and was compassionate about his viewpoint; I was also aghast that a faithful, weekly attendee of worship in my church could have missed all that had been special about the fifty days of celebration: the choir’s expanded music, the specially crafted sermons by each person who preached, and the voluminous amount of memorial flowers; it had been like celebrating worship in a florist shop! Feelings of futility mixed with disappointment and I silently thought, “What else could we have possibly done for people to share in the Easter message?”
This year we are faced with an even more challenging season as our quarantine continues and questions abound. How many lives will be lost? When will it again be safe to gather in groups? And when we do gather, what will it be like? Will we rush to embrace one another, or like star-crossed lovers, will we hesitate, uncertain of how to begin again in a new reality? Our focus has been intently on death and loss; how might we feel new life in this time? Feelings of fear, anxiety, loneliness, and loss may be more accessible than feelings of celebration, joy or hope.
Some have already suggested that clergy and church leaders will need to really work harder amid the context of virus, death, economic recovery, virtual relationships, virtual work, and so many other distractions of quarantine. Let me state clearly: the clergy and church leaders are not the saviors of the church; only Jesus saves. Celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ is an invitation for us all.
These past few weeks I have heard more than one person say they had never considered the benefit of praying the Daily Office as a source of transformation, empowerment, and renewal. Mission groups have met via Zoom and their membership has increased. There is no doubt we have been changed by quarantine and in some ways, much for the better! We have experienced God’s love in community as we have stretched into new ways of worship; we have known God’s compassion in the face of people sacrificing for the good of others; we have felt God’s grace beyond isolation.
The Church is God’s creation, established in resurrection and for the purpose of proclaiming that resurrection as the gathered body of Christ. This year, resurrection will no longer be “quarantined” to a church building; our fifty days of celebration will happen in our homes, in the context of our own day-to-day life. Each of us will be active participants in a post-resurrection narrative.
May we be attuned to moments when Jesus walks with us on our own Emmaus Road, when Jesus appears behind a barrier we had thought impenetrable, when our doubt clouds our ability to hope, and may we open our hearts to recognize Jesus in new and unexpected ways. Let us be courageous, let us be alert! The stone has been rolled away and the celebration has begun.
Alleluia! The Lord is Risen. The Lord is risen, indeed, Alleluia!
The Rt. Rev. Dr. DeDe Duncan-Probe
Bishop of Central New York