Our liturgical celebration of Christ’s resurrection beginning with the Easter Vigil and also on Easter Sunday inaugurates the start of Eastertide, a unique 50 day season of the church calendar ending with Pentecost. It is a festive continuation and observance of Christ’s victory over sin, darkness, and death through his resurrection. It is true, of course, we celebrate Christ’s resurrection each weekend throughout the year at St. Mary’s with the Liturgy of the Eucharist, but the 50 days of Eastertide provide for us a particular opportunity to focus on the spiritual ascetic of Christ’s sacrificial “action” on the Cross, and to do so joyfully. Liturgically this is reflected in our use of the Easter Proclamation “The Lord is Risen!”, the Gloria, the Alleluia, the hymns we sing, the Holy Scripture we hear, the vestments; and our sense of deliverance from the bonds of fear. The Paschal Candle, symbolizing the Light of Christ, sits prominently in the sanctuary among us alit to provide continuing inspiration for us to hear and discern the Word made Flesh as we grow into a deeper relationship with the risen Christ. Eastertide is the Christian season, meaning it defines the truths of our faith as expressed in the Nicene Creed; it manifests the revelation of the Paschal Mystery; it heals and restores us from our fallen nature; it reassures and strengthens us of our salvation through the risen Christ.
Eastertide is an opportune time to use the Liturgy of the Word, specifically the lectionary, to focus on what it means to be a Christian as defined by our faith. The lectionary texts for Year A, the year we’re currently in, turn to the Acts of the Apostles, the Letters of St. Peter, and the Gospel according to St. John for insight into our risen identities as members of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church. For example, from the Acts of the Apostles we read about St. Peter and St. John, now equipped with the power of the Holy Spirit, healing the lame man at the Beautiful Gate; and St. Peter using this moment to teach the astonished crowd that had gathered that faith in Jesus Christ, the risen Jesus Christ, can be a source of healing. From the Gospel according to St. John we read about the doubting apostle, St. Thomas, who had to touch Christ’s wounds to believe he had really risen from the dead. And having done so, “Jesus saying to him. ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe’”. In other words, we are now numbered among the “blessed” because of our faith. Healing, conversion and baptism, miracles, “signs and wonders”; the Acts of the Apostles is full of such events and they all contribute to strengthening our faith. Similarly the teaching and encouragement found in the Letters of St. Peter nurture our faith. And the eye witness gospel accounts of St. John give credence to our faith. Eastertide is a wondrous time for us to resource the lectionary and the Liturgy of the Word to broaden and bolster our faith in the risen Christ.
This year’s Eastertide is unusual for St. Mary’s. First it has had to radically alter its worship life because of the COVID-19 virus pandemic restrictions on the size of group gatherings and social distancing through at least the month of April; though the parish is adjusting phenomenally well. Second we will experience the departure and retirement of Fr. Rowe after 15 years as our rector. There are virtually no words or gestures that can fully assuage the genuine sense of loss these two circumstances raise up in us. It hurts. Add to this inevitable uncertainty associated with what may or may not lay ahead. This is a time that calls for uncommon faith; a faith that moves mountains, a faith as found in the symbolism of a mustard seed. Our faith in the risen Christ numbers us among the blessed, and it is our faith in the risen Christ that will enable us to successfully move beyond these challenges and changes as well. May this Eastertide be one noteworthy for amazing grace and amazing faith at St. Mary’s.