Easter celebrations are behind us, the kids are back in school and Anzac Day beckons. The days are closing in earlier and evening meals on the veranda are coming to an end. Somehow the realization that Easter is a season and not just a day has been lost, overtaken, forgotten!
That’s a shame, because more than ever we need Easter. We need to be eastered. A while back at a regular Sunday Mass, I watched a chubby little girl, no more than 16 months old, dance her way through the Our Father. The congregation sang, she held tight to her father’s hand and danced in time to the music, ending with a decided shake of her nappy clad behind. It was the season of Easter and she was a dancing alleluia.
Right through Lent, even people who rarely attend church have an increased awareness of Jesus’s message to love one another. They raise money for others in need, train for fun runs, buy hot cross buns and anticipate Easter and its celebration. There are Palm Sunday processions, Good Friday prayer gatherings in local parks, church services. Come Easter Tuesday, we pack away any lingering alleluias with the left-over Easter eggs and move on to the next thing.
Young children find alleluia a difficult word to pronounce. Most adults find it a difficult word to live. All those els seem to originate from the high-pitched tongue trill perfected by rejoicing women from many African and Asian countries. The liturgy of the six weeks of Easter is punctuated by alleluias, because Easter is about more than the death of Jesus and the incomprehensible, faith-battering fact of the resurrection.
The risen Jesus left a trail of joy in his appearances. The women’s words tumbled over each other, their faces glowed as they burst in on the grieving apostles. There were meals sweetened with honeycomb and the physical presence of Jesus, the comfort of an unexpected early morning barbecue on the beach, the shaft of joy that flamed in the hearts of the Emmaus couple, the constant greeting, “Peace be with you”. For six weeks Jesus eastered those who missed him the most.
The memory of those days would carry them as they spread the Good News. Fear would always be just beneath the surface – fear that the task was beyond them, of the aggression they faced, the sacrifices involved. The joy of their Easter days overcame their vulnerabilities, became a strength that saw them through to the end and in time would give hope, strength and joy to each new generation of Christians.
We need that eastering just as much as the apostles did, maybe even more. We need hope that a world that has the weapons to kill each other will choose not to use them. We need to get a lot better at finding the joy that sweetens our Good Friday and Holy Saturday experiences. That joy can be elusive, it’s usually fleeting and it defies description. But it’s there, and we recognise it when we are conscious of an inner voice wordlessly saying, “Peace be with you”.