An Easter Like None Other!!!
by Father John Raphael, ’89
I believe that it is fair to say — an understatement even — that this year’s was truly a Holy Week Like None Other!
But the fact of the matter is, for our Jewish brothers and sisters, it was a Passover Like None Other!And for anyone else celebrating or commemorating any other annual sacred, special, cherished or unique event over the last several weeks, those celebrations/commemorations were also like none other!
I have been struck by the variety of reactions and responses to the unique circumstances in which we (and this time the “we” includes just about everyone in the world!) find ourselves. There has been fear, frustration, disappointment, anxiety of all kinds, and all of that is certainly appropriate with so much danger and uncertainty literally floating around.
Different people have responded in different ways to the “shelter-at-home” and “social distancing” orders that have been imposed. Some watch the news and listen to updates religiously and some avoid them with the same passion. Regardless of the differences in response and approach, for all of us this has been a time like none other!
And that takes me back to Holy Week. For as different as this one has been, I think it has also been a wonderful time for us to dive beneath the tried and true, to move beyond the sound and standard, and to enter more deeply into the mysterium.
If we are honest about it, our annual Holy Week looks very little like the first one. The first one certainly wasn’t ushered in with titles and a script. Ordained by Providence, but from a human perspective, it just happened! What happened looked very little like the well-orchestrated (and, yes, deeply meaningful) ceremonies that we have become accustomed and attached to. The first Holy Week was loud, messy, unruly, smelly, exuberant, triumphal, fickle, somber, shocking, disheartening, disillusioning, vicious, bitter, remorseful, bloody and brutal.
Again, that looks very little like our traditional ceremonies, especially if they are conducted with meticulous rubrical care, but my goodness, it certainly looks (and feels) a lot like what is going on around the world today. It looks and feels like that in hospitals and nursing homes and places where the sick and needy are of necessity gathered, and where access to family and friends is severely limited or strictly forbidden. It looks and feels like that for many who have quite unexpectedly lost loved ones or whose health has become gravely afflicted. It looks and feels like that for many who find themselves with extra time on their hands but concerned about their financial stability. It looks and feels like that for students and teachers, especially those for whom this is their final year, with proms and graduations, internships and other important events postponed or canceled. It looks and feels like that for many who are simply afraid of the unknown that is pressing in on us daily. It looks and feels like that for many who sincerely, and hopefully with respectful disagreement with religious authorities, believe that the great medieval models of plague-time religious intervention ought to be employed now
Alright you say, but that was Holy Week, and it may be fitting for that level of angst to accompany those rites. What about Easter? These restrictions won’t be lifted soon. Easter just isn’t the same this year! No bonnets or bunnies, lilies or lace, no dresses or suits, just sheltered in place! More importantly, the communal celebration of the Mass of the Resurrection, the Mass that virtually no one who remotely considers himself Catholic misses. Do we not burst with anticipation awaiting the first gloriously triumphant Easter hymn!? Trumpets blasting, incense wafting, choirs singing, the Church Universal rejoicing, what about that?
There was none of that on that first morning, early on the first day of the week. Not a single person who had been associated with the events that led up to it woke up with a big smile and a full-throated “alleluia” to begin that day!
The first morning of the Resurrection began as solemn and somber, as grief stricken and bereft as the days preceding it. Perhaps, following upon this Holy Week Like None other, this Easter Like None Other provides a unique opportunity for us to reclaim that beauty and that power of that first Easter morning. Perhaps for the first time, year after year of triumphant celebrating notwithstanding, we can gain a much better appreciation of what the first ones who saw him experienced–even though they didn’t initially recognize him–when they finally cried out, He is Risen!!! Come to think of it, it wasn’t until Pentecost that they really began to understand. There might even be a message in that for us this year.
At Sycamore Trust, we unite with all of you and all the Church as we celebrate this Easter Like None Other! Through the intercession of Notre Dame, who kept the Beloved Disciple under her mantle at the foot of the Cross, may the Risen Lord deliver us from this present scourge and in the process may He free us from all fear so that we might serve Him with the courage, fidelity and love of those who first beheld the empty tomb.
Christ the Lord is Risen, Alleluia!!!
He is Risen indeed, Alleluia!!!
Father John Raphael, ’89 is a chaplain at Saint Thomas West Hospital in Nashville and Chaplain of the Nashville Guild of the Catholic Medical Association. He considers himself extremely fortunate to be able to work side-by-side with the many courageous and heroic healthcare providers who daily commit themselves to the care not only of those currently afflicted with the COVID-19 virus, but of all others who remain in need of acute medical care and whose needs must be met in the unique circumstances of the current pandemic.
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