It’s raining hard today, the earth drenched and quenched, the hills a deep green. This morning we heard the rain on the roof of St. Peter’s, a steady gentle sound as though Heaven was stroking our ark, this sanctuary of God, as we sailed through the rising waters.
They call today Low Sunday and many think this is because attendance is low after the great festival of Easter, but it actually refers to a lower form of ritual used. Still, the Mass was sung, and the liturgy much the same, as the amazing Eucharistic sacrifice was offered once again. And our attendance wasn’t too low after all.
Perhaps Heaven wasn’t stroking us but rather washing us. In the Early Church of the first centuries, the baptismal candidates from Easter Eve were allowed the full rites of the Eucharist on this First Sunday after Easter. The Introit (a sung opening prayer), I Peter 2, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word…” reminds us of that time and our new life as we emerge from death to resurrection, from the womb to the air, from Easter to Eastertide. We are babies, taking our first sips of milk, growing in faith through the Word of Scripture, the water of Baptism, the blood of the Eucharist.
Our good preacher explained all of this and more, and as I listened, once again spellbound by the richness of grace woven into the tapestry of the Church, I learned we are called on this Sunday “overcomers.” The Epistle appointed for today is I John 4, “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world…”, so we are born again through Baptism and in every Eucharist, through water and blood and spirit. And our faith, our presence and participation in these sacraments, becomes the conduit, the way, by which we overcome the world.
Certainly first-century Christians faced a dangerous world – persecution, martyrdom, torture. Today we face not-so-different dangers, as our world challenges and circumscribes our freedoms, freedom of religion to name but one. We are overcomers, though, through membership in the Body of Christ, allowing Christ’s spirit to penetrate our own bodies and souls. We are reminded that God wins in the end.
I read recently that our own resurrections when we die are effected by our bodies being joined to Christ, that He brings us up with Him, in Him. The image has remained with me all this Easter Week, and combined with the humility of Lent, I know that it is only in our humility that He is able to pull us close, and only through the Eucharist, can he fully unite with us. In this way, we shall rise with Him, be given new, resurrected bodies, for we shall be one with Him, we in Him, and He in us.
In the Gospel for today, John 20:19, Jesus appears to the frightened, hiding disciples. He breathes the Holy Ghost upon them, giving them the power and authority of the Church, the power to forgive sins in His name. He breathes upon them the power of God.
We sang homely hymns today, fireside stories of the Passion and Redemption, simple melodies. We have experienced the glory of Easter and are settling into a quiet, steady, walking the Way, living in the Spirit, being washed by God.
I received Christ at the altar and was thankful as the pouring rain washed my heart, overcome by this love from Heaven.