Finally! The day of resurrection has come! This is the day the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!!
For a moment, I take a trip down memory lane, re-living in my mind’s eye the Easters of my youth. There were new dresses and hats, potted flowers, and baskets full of colorful eggs and chocolate, and a big meal in the afternoon with the grandparents and cousins. One year, I distinctly recall, I even saw the Easter Bunny setting out the Easter goodies when I awoke before my parents — he was gray and quite large and he wore a red bow tie, and had a huge grin on his face. Startled, I ran back to bed with my heart pounding because, of course, anyone who saw the Easter bunny would not get an Easter basket! When I awoke again at a more appropriate hour, I indeed did have a basket, and a soft, plush, gray bunny with a red bow tie next to it. But I knew I had seen the real thing!
Then there was the Easter liturgy, which for my family was 10:00 Mass on Easter Sunday morning. As a child, I felt and understood only the intensity of sights and smells and sounds that didn’t occur in such abundance on ordinary Sundays. Sweet incense mixed with the fragrance of the white lilies and hyacinths – no allergies back then! – ringing bells, full choir and extra priests and altar boys, and so many people one could barely squeeze into a pew anywhere – this was the tableau of my liturgical Easter.
As I grew into adulthood, I also grew out of the simplicity of those magical childhood Easter Sundays that happened only once a year and then were just over. Faced daily with an increasingly dark and dangerous adult world of intolerance and terrorism, I have had to work a little harder to hold onto the light of an Easter Sunday. Darkness and light…the stuff of our faith.
The Gospel reading for this Easter Sunday is so very rich in details that one might overlook the almost off-hand observation by the evangelist John that “Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark.” She discovered the stone rolled away from the tomb while it was still dark. Although she could not at that moment understand it, the Resurrection began while it was still dark.
Easter begins in darkness. In darkness we gather for the Easter Vigil, lighting a new fire and from it the Paschal Candle. By its small but sure light, we process to the Church, proclaiming that the light of Christ forever illumines the darkness, forever rescues us from darkness, forever exists despite the darkness. The dawn of Easter Sunday brings with it the realization of the powerlessness of the dark in the face of the light of Christ. And the joyous alleluias that are sung and echoed and sung again are our response to this great gift of God: that no matter how deep and long the night, there is and always will be resurrection.
Saint Benedict tells us in his Rule to “never lose hope in God’s mercy” (Rule of Benedict 4:74). Perhaps he was thinking of the Paschal candle, its light breaking the darkness and lifted high for all to see, a sure and steady guide for all to follow. Benedict is challenging us to sing the alleluia in our nights as well as in our days.
My Easter is still full of “smells and bells” and potted plants and baskets of eggs and chocolates and special meals. I have never again seen the Easter bunny, but I hold dear the memory of that one special moment when my young hope and longing became real. I pray that I may be able to hold even more dearly the vision of one exquisite light shining strongly in the night, and repeat with wonder and joy and confidence: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Joanna Burley, OSB
St. Benedict Monastery