We celebrated the resurrection of Christ this morning in our Berkeley chapel. We proclaimed, “Christ is risen!”, and we replied, “He is risen indeed!” Each year on Easter Day I am profoundly touched by this litany as if I am hearing it for the first time and enjoying that delight of sudden knowing and sudden joy. It’s like raising a bouquet of roses to your face and inhaling.
The fragrance today was from lilies, and it filled the space – lilies on the altar and around the Easter Paschal Candle, to remain lit until Pentecost, the fiftieth day of Eastertide. Incense billowed, mixing with the scent of lilies, and our vicar in his white robes seemed to float about the altar. The medieval crucifix above the white tented tabernacle and altar was draped in white too, and the weathered Christ gazed upon us as we sent our praises tumbling high into the air. Victory over death is no small thing, and we are thankful. Such love is no small thing, and we are thankful.
We had family members in attendance, making our grand total twelve faithful! Our cantor chanted and our organist played. We sang until we could sing no more, with many Alleluias and many Christ Is Risens and many He Is Risen Indeeds! Need I say, it was a glorious, wondrous Easter, and I mentioned to one of our grad students, it was a morning not to forget. For the liturgy, with all its sights and sounds and scents, and yes, even touches and tastes, was food for our souls. “Remember,” I said to the young man who just received his doctorate in Chemistry, “this morning. We can recall it in the dryer times, the times of famine and drought, the times when beauty isn’t quite so splendid. We can recall we were here on this day and what we experienced. “I will,” he promised. “I will always remember this Easter.”
Earlier, as we arrived in the parking lot, a familiar face peered through my car window. It was one of my Sunday School children from forty (!) years ago, now middle-aged (!). She pulled out her phone and scrolled excitedly through photos as I stepped outside the car. “A new baby born this morning! To my brother and his wife!” I grinned. Her brother was one of my students too. And now he was a father. And Maya arrived in San Francisco on Easter Day at 7 a.m., weighing seven pounds. Thanks be to God.
There are times in one’s life when words are not enough. (I never thought I would write or say this.) The heart fills, the mind pauses as though lost in thought, speech splutters (is that a word?). All you can do is praise God, grin, and hug. And now we are mask free and can see one another again, the smiles, the full expressions. The joy spills out in the splutters I would guess, and I gave thanks for my family of God, that in my faithfulness, such as it is, I have sisters and brothers and children, in this great and glorious family of God, who are faithful too.
As we entered the chapel and took our seats, I realized another family had re-united with their children home from college. There were several families there in our precious space this morning, several to witness to the love of God on this bright, sunny Easter morning. We precious few, along with other faithful, celebrated together new life, in a newborn baby, in eternal life given in the resurrection of Christ, and in the reborn life given to us in the Eucharist. As each of us received the Real Presence of Christ, once more we knew it was all true, that there is an Infinite Love that turns the Earth through our galaxy and universe, an Infinite Love that took our flesh to die for us, an Infinite Love that wipes away not only our selfishness, our sin, but wipes away every tear from our eyes.
And we flowered the cross with bouquets of many colors. We pushed the stems into a crown of woven reeds placed on the cross itself, turning the cross of death into the cross of life.
And we will remember this bright morning in the dry times, in the pandemic times, in the underground times, in the persecuted times. We will remember that Christ is risen: He is risen indeed!