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Eastering…

Because I will be away on holidays when this reflection is published, I am writing it a few days before Easter, knowing, however, that you will be reading these words a week or two after Easter Sunday.  It’s a somewhat strange differential — me full of the anticipation of Holy Week, and you, well, quite possibly not thinking much anymore about Easter. Such a build-up, through the long weeks of Lent, leading into Holy Week… and then it’s over.   Spring Break for students and families is behind us; the anticipated long weekend holiday is a memory. The nails of Good Friday and the daffodil cross of Sunday are safely packed away. And we’re all “back at it” … whatever that means for each of us.

And yet, according to the church calendar, we’re just at the beginning of the Easter season, which stretches on through the month of May, finally ending with Pentecost on the 27th.  We aren’t into what is called “ordinary time” until June. As if to say that Easter is never just a one- day wonder! We need time and thought and prayer to discover the meaning, the impact, the implications of what happened on that day.  We need, says the liturgical calendar, at least seven weeks to figure this out.

I find myself remembering the words of Brian Wren’s hymn that we sang on Easter Sunday – the one that was awarded first prize in the International Easter Hymn contest St. Andrew’s-Wesley sponsored several years ago.  The first three verses all start with the conditional, “If Christ is risen from the dead …,” and then proceed to offer some consequences, depending on how we have lived into that “if” —

If Christ is risen… THEN “the Power that had him crucified is overtrumped as Life rebounds to speak the first and final word;”

If Christ is risen… THEN “…fisted force and gleaming might are emptied of their fatal charm;”

If Christ is risen… THEN “all that Jesus said and did is true, and real, and filled with light, our joy, our compass and our guide.”  

That’s a lot of consequences… exciting even… so much is riding on that little word “if.”  So yes, we probably need at least seven weeks to figure out what Easter can mean for us; probably it will take a lifetime.

I often think we would be better served by understanding Easter as a verb rather than a noun… an ongoing action, a process, and not just a day on the calendar, an event, a something that happened way back then.  Easter as a verb has energy, carries transformational potential, describes the Spirit at work within us and all around us. It was the poet Gerard Manly Hopkins who first twisted Easter from noun to verb:

“Let Christ easter in us
and be a dayspring to the dimness of us….”

(from “The Wreck of the Deutschland”).  

It sounds a bit awkward to the ear, and my “spell-correct” insists on pointing out incorrect usage – although I like the fact that when “easter” is used as a verb it’s underlined in red!  But maybe we might say that God “eastered” Jesus, that God keeps eastering in the world. Maybe we might wonder if God can easter us… maybe even pray that this happen to us, without knowing quite what it will look like.  

So okay, I know that Easter is over and done with, and the calendar marches on, and next month we look forward to Mother’s Day and another long weekend holiday.  But don’t let Easter disappear from your life. Think verb, not noun … and may you keep discovering how God is eastering in you.

Gary

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