When I woke up this morning, darkness had vanished, relinquishing its hold at the sight of an amazing sunrise. The junko and the cardinal danced around a pile of sunflower seeds that I’d placed on a table last night. Last night, I counted my blessings, but also my disappointments. Last night, my wife and I went to bed a bit grouchy, but woke up in an embrace. We woke up to the song of birds and the light of a brand new day.
Christians celebrate Easter as an exceptional day, as evidenced by the illustration attached to this article. We commemorate the remarkable rising of Jesus from the tomb, along with the souls of the dead, three days after his agonizing death, after what must have been seen by his followers as the death of meaning and of hope. Yet there he was to proclaim to all the world and across all time, that death does not have the last word and that it’s a mere illusion to believe that the darkness around us has won the last round. Easter becomes a brand new day in our understanding of human existence.
In a way, Easter is an ordinary day. I sometimes think that’s the underlying message of the Resurrection. That all life and every little death are bursting with meaning and hope. That each day is a new beginning in the mind of the God of all mercy. That the darkness has washed away all the foolishness of the previous day to those who greet the Rising of the Son.
In the Hindu tradition, there is an interesting conception of the deity Shiva, which comes to mind in the context of cyclical endings and new beginnings. Shiva is sometimes called the god of destruction, but he is also known as the lord of the dance. His destruction is not to be viewed negatively but rather as part of the process of renewal, something to be celebrated.
Things that we cherish are often lost or taken away. There is perhaps no better reminder than the havoc visited upon us by the novel coronavirus. To many people around the world, the present or future seems bleak, certainly in terms of the disruption, if not the loss of life. In such times, we need an ample supply of hope, a grace that we sometimes experience as a very perishable commodity.
Yet hope will not run out to those who trust in God’s word as well as the evidence of Creation. Outside my window, the birds frolic unconcerned with anything except their daily preoccupations. They heard God’s wisdom echo in the early light, “Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Mt6:34) and heeded his command, “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (Jn16:33) Take courage. Some translations read, “Be of good cheer.”
The Gospel is Good News. If we truly believe that, why are we not rejoicing, raising a glass and dancing? It’s wonder-filled news. But maybe the best news of all is that it’s more than one day in a long liturgical year. Maybe Easter makes every day extraordinary and becomes itself an ordinary day.
There’s a song by Sting that restores vigor to my day when I’m feeling overwhelmed or disappointed, or lose heart over a seemingly unachievable task, or get discouraged about a failed resolution or intention, or forget for a moment that spring is right around the corner. Even though the lyrics are quite secular, it reminds me of the promise hidden in the cycle of destruction and renewal, and the meaning of Resurrection in the ordinariness of my life. Today is a brand new day.
Illustration: Icon of Chrsit’s Descent into Hades at orthodoxroad.com
Easter Reflection April 2020