My Lent is lived, every year. Not just because I fast. Not just because I pray the Penitential Liturgy daily as part of my disciple. I don’t focus on piety, or manufacture feelings with my imagination. It just is a dark time, and I accept it, confess it, and have a lot of apologies to those around me for weeks of walking around with a storm cloud around me. The upside is that by the Great Vigil of Easter, Grace sweeps me off my feet. That’s just the way it is for me. And even after the exhaustion from service after service throughout Holy Week and more on Easter Sunday, I am still floating from living the three, or was it four, hour Vigil, hearing the Exultet, the Easter Proclamation, chanted antiphonally by two cantors,ring out into the candlelit nave. The whole service, through the first Eucharist of Easter chanted by my rector. The crashing open of the doors. All of it. I am thrown out of time. And, yes, I am still floating, and laughing. There is the laughter, which I can’t stop. I don’t want to.
But Eastertide is also a season, just like Lent and Advent. It isn’t a day with family and a ham or lamb, and, thanks be to God, no longer a big hat. It is a season where we can continue the journey with Jesus Christ, with the Holy One, with the Bridegroom who is alive again. And time to reassess if we really believe in the Resurrection, and if we don’t how can we accept the endless mercy of God, and forgiveness of our stumbling human selves, of the promise of life perpetual in the presence of that blinding Truth and Light, an endless celebration of Good. And it is a season where we can enact what we learned (and hopefully confessed on Good Friday) during the dark of Lent. A time to renew our life in the Light of Christ. It is a time of Grace, as all of this comes to us as a gift of Grace. Practice may not make perfect, but it helps us to hear and see. Or as we read in Isaiah, “Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ (Isa 30: 20-21).”
No longer do we have the bread of adversity or the water of affliction. We have the bread and wine of the Body and Blood of Christ, and his gift of the water so that we will never again thirst. This gift is ours, given freely, to feed and nourish us, to seek that gift of Grace which is the unshakable faith in God’s love, and in Jesus really alive, rising from that terrible death. When we renew our Baptismal vows, answering, “Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in breaking of the bread, and in the prayers?” with “We will, with God’s help,” we are reminded that those acts are there to sustain us in the dark, to lead us to and keep us in the light. And we have, even though we have to wait to celebrate it liturgically, the Holy Spirit, the Teacher who whispers, “This is the way, walk in it.” We are not done yet. We have just begun.
Today’s Daily Reading from 1 John (1: 1-10) admonishes us to walk in the light. The writer of 1 John says an interesting thing, that if we say we have fellowship with Christ and we walk in darkness, we are liars. But sometimes we do walk in darkness, through our own sin, or through God’s grace as we are lead by troubles, blindness, despair to deeper understanding of ourselves and those around us. Yes, sometimes that bread of adversity and water of affliction descends on us, and we feel that the light will never return. According to that author we walk in the light in fellowship with one another, and the Blood of Christ has cleansed us from our sins. And we can’t forget the lessons of Lent, to repent and turn again to God. But it is Eastertide, what is all this talk of sin? Even in this season of light, that daily examination, that daily confession with our prayers, keeps us facing God in a busy and unrelenting world. And a little help from our friends is never amiss.
In the Gospel of John we have been reading Jesus’ last exhortation to his disciples, the greatest of these is to love one another as he has loved us. Now, in John 17: 1-11, we read the beginning of the High Priestly Prayer in which Jesus prays to his Father, before his disciples, glorifies God, and lifts up those whom he was given to be bound to his Father as we are bound to him, bonds stronger than sin, stronger than death. These are the bonds of a parent to a child, between a bride and a bridegroom, of lifetime friends. These are the bonds which bind us as the Body today. And they all hang on Jesus’ death so that he can rise in eternal life, ascend to his Father and complete his task in creating a new covenant for us. Silly sinful us, in the dark of Lent and the blazing light of Easter.
That is the thing about the Church year. We get to live out the cycle of life, Jesus’ life. We wait at Advent, celebrate his birth, follow his early life and later teaching, and then roll into the terrible days of Lent and Holy Week. And now Easter, all fifty days, before we plunge into the embrace of the Holy Spirit, and the long, long summer and fall of the Propers, the ordinary life we live with Christ and each other. And the more we can make that part of our lives, the more we are open to hearing his story as it folds into ours.
So what can we do for Eastertide? My discipline for these fifty days, and hopefully beyond, is to renew my commitment to put on the mind of Christ, but moreover to put on the heart of Jesus. We no longer have to fear that mistakes will take the Spirit from us. Love and redemption are always there. All we have to do is ask. And wait with faith. I am contemplating the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5: 22-23) as guides to get me over the bumps. God’s inestimable love for us is what makes our love for each other not only possible, but mandated. I am going to look in Scripture at Jesus’ relationships not only with his disciples (and that includes the women) but how he treats strangers, foreigners, just plain folks. Still filled with the Light of the Resurrection, I am going to try to walk more mindfully in the light, see the bounty of Life, with new prayers, new gratitude, all to glorify the Risen One. And listen anew to the Teacher who says this is the way, walk in it. Will you join me? Alleluia, Christ is risen, indeed.
Dr. Dana Kramer-Rolls is a parishioner at All Souls Parish, Episcopal, Berkeley, California and earned her master’s degree and PhD from the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California.