As I write these words, women, men, and children have gathered this morning at St. Mary's to prepare for our first Easter celebration tonight at sunset--as Lent will finally end, and in the dark, The Feast of the Resurrection will begin.
After the Maundy Thursday service, the clergy and altar guild consumed every last bit of consecrated bread and wine. The tabernacle, the communion kits are empty. The red sanctuary light (witness to the presence of consecrated bread and wine in the tabernacle) has been extinguished.
Today is the one day in the Church on which there is no Holy Communion. Jesus is in the tomb. How can his body and blood be with us?
Some churches will have early Easter services this afternoon, particularly baptizing younger folks into the faith. Other churches will have joyous Easter egg hunts today, reaching out to the community in hospitality and love.
As a priest, I struggle between the theology of Holy Saturday and Jesus still in the tomb, and the opportunity to be hospitable today to a world looking eagerly towards Easter. It is convenient to celebrate before Holy Week actually ends, and Easter begins. I find no fault with churches and folk that celebrate today. God's abundant blessings be upon them.
But for me, as chief pastor of the parish I've called home for fifteen years, I must lead as I understand. We are a culture that hates to wait; we are a people who want always to be filled. This is the day of waiting. This is the day of being empty. Jesus is lying wrapped in burial clothes within the garden tomb.
In my daily devotion today from the monastery of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, Brother Curtis had a very good word. He wrote:
Love the emptiness. If you do not have space in your soul – if you keep yourself filled on food or constant activity or ever-new ideas– your desire will be blunted or even perverted. We have been created with the gift of desire, to long for, to anticipate.
The question was posed:
Where might life be waiting to erupt out of emptiness for you?
On this very final day of Lent, this final day of Holy Week, I invite us all to find some place of emptiness in which to sit. If you feel too busy, I promise, if you ask, God will help you find a place to stop, empty, and be.
There is no Easter without death. There is no Easter without absence and longing first.