Is it me, or did Lent seem like more than six weeks this year? Surely it was well over that time when we celebrated Shrove Tuesday at our Pancake Supper, cooked for us by our friends from the Episcopal Center at Duke? Was it that we were celebrating the Daily Office by using the not so familiar Rite I? Perhaps it was due to the fact that I felt more penitent?
Whatever the reason, the coming of Palm Sunday and Holy Week did come and was welcomed.
We have at our church, what I think is a pretty unique family. I’ve talked before about our wonderful Fellowship, but it goes much further than sharing a meal with like-minded committed Christians.
Our Table Fellowship that follows each weekday Morning Prayer gives an opportunity to talk, laugh and yes, sometimes cry with a wide variety of people, some homeless, some not, but nevertheless needing more than that plate of breakfast casserole, eggs, cereals, toast and coffee. Loving thy neighbor is not always easy believe me. I struggle daily with doing just that. There are challenges to our faith on a daily basis, but I know that with God’s help we can overcome them.
Returning to the Easter theme, the eve of Palm Sunday saw seven of us weaving palm crosses. Sharing conversation, experiences, humor and of course food. I’ll be the first to admit that my crosses were not as artistic as A’s, who hails from the Lebanon and was teaching us beginners with wonderful patience. But what a gratifying experience it was – nothing technical, nothing sophisticated, but enjoying the four thousand year art (or attempted art in my case) with, as A. proudly says, “Our nearest neighbor to the Biblical lands”.
Holy Week was busy for us. Jokes were made about “our car is on auto-pilot”, or “perhaps we should bring our beds to church,” but seven liturgies marking Christ’s death and celebrating his resurrection between Wednesday evening through Easter Sunday have to be the highlight of the year.
After our short, but moving, Holy Saturday morning service, I was seconded to help our wonderful Altar Guild. I didn’t have much choice (only joking) as I am married to one of their members. But after an hour or so of cleaning and polishing, especially the church brasses, I realized what another important example of fellowship this was.
After six flowerless weeks and veiled crosses, our sanctuary became alive again. A resurrection no less. As later in the day we commenced the Great Vigil, being led into a darkened church by the Paschal Candle, we knew, all of us, that hope, with the light, would soon spring from Christ’s Resurrection. After renewing our Baptismal Vows it was my task to turn on the lights. Never has Alleluia been shouted with such gusto (well, not since last Easter at least) and a wonderful feeling of joy and yes, relief, swept over the congregation who knew that Christ Had Risen, Indeed.
Easter Sunday, without doubt, my favorite day of the year, saw a packed church enjoy and praise the Resurrection of Our Savior. I was on acolyte duty and admit that together with the relief and joy I could feel tears of emotion – tears of joy especially at what was something new for me. T, a regular at Daily Office and a professional choreographer and dancer, enriched our celebration with his liturgical dancing. Thank you T. Indeed thank you to our music director, choir and musicians. And a big thank you for Altar Guilds everywhere, but especially to ours at St. Joseph’s, who tirelessly work to prepare God’s church for worship and the Lord’s Table for us to share in the Resurrection throughout the year.
Thanks be to God. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!