Sunday, April 24, 2011

Alleluia!!!

Easter Day once again. Joy and exhaustion - that's the feeling of Easter morning. It has been a consuming and powerful week, and a very busy one, what with about 50 guests in the house.

What I usually talk about on Easter morning is what hit me this year as we went through the days of Holy Week. This year, the thing from Maundy Thursday that stays with me is an impression of the Eucharist around the dinner table, and how different it feels. It has an immediacy and communality that is more apparent to me than it is in the way we normally celebrate the Eucharist in our Church. I was so aware that this was something that we were doing more than it was something that I was doing. The informality of it helps me to see things in a different way.

Then early in the morning - about 3 a.m. - after I was finished with my time at the Watch - I went outside to see the Paschal Moon as I always do. There it was, a gibbous moon this year, well past being full, riding low in the Southern sky. And it was deeply silent; so quiet that I couldn't ever remember having heard it so still. No wind, no traffic, no voices, no sound of waves on the water. It was as though the whole of the earth was holding its breath, anticipating. I could hear a single car across the river in Poughkeepsie, driving up some street, and then there was the sound of a siren as the police chased someone (the same car?). And then it was still again. All of creation seemed to be in suspension, waiting.

Good Friday. As I've said in my Easter posts before, I am always greatly moved by seeing people come forward for the Veneration of the Cross. All of those folks, some of whom I have known for many years and some of whom I was seeing for the first time. They come forward and approach the Cross that two of the brothers are holding. Some kneel, and some stand. Many kiss the cross, and some reach out and touch it, some press their heads to it, some just look. I never fail to feel very close to so many of them as they stand or kneel there in that very personal, very revealing way.

And this year, something additional happened. As the Blessed Sacrament was brought in from the Altar of Repose, and as the people got down on their knees, I could feel the power of faith. And it wasn't just the faith of a bunch of individuals. It was the faith of the congregation, of the group. The faith that reaches out, that longs for God, was so apparent to me that it was almost physical and I know that I took a step backwards because I was so "taken aback". It was another moment in which God's presence and our intimacy met. And it was the surprise gift of Holy Week this year.

The Easter Vigil was the crown of it all, of course. I could enumerate the parts of the service, but many of you will know them well enough. For me the deep joy was the evidence that the diversity for which we have worked so hard it taking another step forward. We were 70 or 80 people. We were beginning to be a sample of all the people of this area. We were old and young - from one who was about 8, I would guess, to one who is well into her 90's and who stood through everything and sang everything. We were men and women - and about equal numbers of each! We were straight and gay. We were black and white. We were (mostly) Americans, but we were also West Indians and Hispanics of several different countries, and Asians, and a Belgian and 2 Hungarians and a lady from Nigeria who had the most extraordinarily beautiful dresses. We were people who have known each other for years, and people who were total strangers.

And we were filled with joy as we shouted: "He is risen indeed, alleluia!" and rang our bells.

At breakfast afterwards, one of the college students who was here said to me that someone had said to her that people find it hard to leave their own Churches and come here for Easter, but that after they do they never want to be anywhere else, and that now she understood why. And one man, an Associate of ours, brought his sister because he knew she would see and respond, and she said to me, "Now I understand." What a wonderful promise for the future.

We really celebrated. And we haven't even had Easter Dinner yet! Or the Cantata that Kairos, our Artists in Residence, will sing this afternoon.

But first, a nap.

2 comments:

Jamie said...

Thank you for your ongoing words Prior. I very much enjoyed hearing about the idea of a Maundy Thursday Eucharist celebrated around the dinner table. What a wonderful thought. I am coming to the monastery on retreat with OGS in May and look forward perhaps to meeting you at that time.

Ildiko said...

I am one of the Hungarians, the other is my cousine visiting from Hungary. We both were raised by atheist parents in communist Hungary. She has never been baptized before. She stepped up from her seat and splashed the Holy water on Her face. That was one form of resurrection to me.
Alleluia!

Ildiko