We attended the Easter sunrise service at our church this morning for the first time since we started attending our local parish a few years ago.
It was, we discovered, a very different way to usher in the blessed resurrection event.
The service began in near darkness, about 80 of us sitting in the dark and silence together, unlit candles in our hands, waiting. Then slowly, slowly, the scent of incense began to fill the room, wafting steadily forward from the back of the church — and with it, light.
One main candle lit the first candle in each row, starting from the very back of the church, then the light was shared with each person down the line of each row.
Slowly, slowly, one row forward at a time, light came in.
Although the fullness of the service included much celebration — a brass ensemble, flowers that adorned nearly every corner and wall, and bells rung merrily by each person upon the start of the last verse of the final hymn — it was that gradual, gentle entering of light that spoke the most to me this year.
In the Anglican Episcopal tradition, like many other Christian traditions, we spend a great deal of time honoring the dark days of Holy Week. We mark MaundyThursday with a somber service that lingers and ends in darkness and the full stripping of the altar. We include all-night vigils of prayer supported by darkness, candles, and prayer. We observe Good Friday with an abbreviated eucharist and the adoration of the cross, each of us invited to inch forward and bow, kneel, or kiss the cross that represents Christ's pain and love. Many churches offer further pilgrimage through the stations of the cross.
And then we rise on Easter Sunday in celebration.
I love the hope of Easter Sunday. The new life it ushers in. The foundation it serves for our faith.
And yet this year, the turn to celebration felt less close and real to me than the darker days of desolation that preceded it. Our savior's suffering, the disciples' confusion, the separation and the questions ... they felt closer, more real and accessible to me to me this year than today's turn toward celebration and awe.
Resurrection, threshold, new life ... these things are not easy. They mark departure. Change. A new way of being that is no longer the old way.
Jesus embarking on his public ministry at age 30.
The Israelites leaving Egypt.
The Israelites entering the Promised Land.
Christ burst forth from the grave.
The disciples in the Upper Room on the Day of Pentecost.
All threshold moments. All times that changed the previous order of the day. All moments requiring faith. All times ushered forth through the fullness of preparation and initiation.
Right now, I resonate with those moments just before the threshold of change and resurrection. Kirk and I keep speaking of a "shifting" — a way the ground beneath our feet seems changing, placing us on the cusp of something new that's not yet been revealed, unseen but building.
Something's changing. We feel it. We sense it.
But we don't know what it means or what it will bring.
I don't know what the days of my future quite hold right now, but I sense change increasingly near. I feel it drawing me deeper into our Still Forming "land of welcome," but the pathway there is unknown.
And since it's not yet here in its fullness, I am wandering with the disciples in the Upper Room, retracing questions and circling faith, waiting for the answer my savior promised but doesn't seem one ounce clear with the information I have in my hands.
How has this new Easter season met you in your own realities of life today?
PS: If you, like me, are still circling in the darker days of faith before the sunrise of the resurrection, you might find it meaningful to journey with a virtual version of the Stations of the Cross that I created for you on Facebook. You are welcome to enter in.