Tag Archives: christ

alleluia!

easter vigil

As the sun sets, attendees are given an unlit candle. Outside, the light of Christ is lit just as the last light of the sun settles on the horizon. Parishioners process in quietly and await the coming of the light of Christ as it is solemnly paraded down the center aisle. All are aided in lighting their candles from the light of Christ at the front, passing it on, candle by candle to those within their pew. The sanctuary is unlit apart from the growing light of Christ clutched in the hands of this body of individuals, awaiting the readings in silence.

Each contained fire flickers and flares – rhythmically, chaotically, still for just a moment – as members of the congregation recount God’s victory amid despair and oppression. Psalms are chanted in a resonating baritone. The mood is somber, but a quiet hope begins to swell as words of salvation are announced, as the chanting echoes across the high ceilings and glass walls of the sanctuary.

All at once, the room comes alive with light, parishioners ring bells they hid among their belongings, and the organist begins a triumphant song. All stand and sing:

Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia!

Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
unto Christ, our heavenly King, Alleluia!
who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
sinners to redeem and save. Alleluia!

But the pains which he endured, Alleluia!
our salvation have procured, Alleluia!
now above the sky he’s King, Alleluia!
where the angels ever sing. Alleluia!

For the first time since Lent began, Alleluia rings out again. The world was dark and cold as a winter night, but Christ is alive and in it and working once again!

tree blossom

The final verse of Wheat that Springeth Green, in particular, rang true for me this year:

When our hearts are wintry, grieving or in pain,
thy touch can call us back to life again,
fields of hearts that dead and bare have been:
love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

How I needed to exhaust my lungs with the singing of those words! After a long, dark winter, after several weeks of chaos and confusion and self doubt, after 8 months of not dealing with the weight of moving away from everything familiar and comforting, I needed to acknowledge the barren winter in my heart, clear the snow away, and discover joy without limitation in Love springing up again.

He is risen! Alleluia!

first image source: Catholic News/second image: my own

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Lenten reflections & goals

tulips

I grew up an Evangelical Christian, though thankfully within churches that provided a broader worldview than strict fundamentalism. Although I don’t recall hearing any explicit anti-liturgical speeches from the pulpit, there was a below-the-surface distrust of liturgical traditions as well as a widespread belief that Catholics weren’t really Christians (though I never understood that). The only parts of the church calendar we followed were Christmas (we also tossed around the word Advent occasionally while not actually practicing it) and Easter.

As I learned more about the founding of evangelical movements in the United States, I came to understand that this separateness – this stubborn individualism – developed, in part, to bring Christianity into the hands and hearts of the masses. I think that’s a good thing. But I also think that throughout the complex and tangled history of Christian movements, we’ve had a tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater. As an adult now with a wider view of Christian tradition, I see value in the familiarity and routine the church calendar provides. As Advent left its restorative mark on the Christmas season for me last year, I anticipate that Lent, too, can provide opportunity for reflection and transformation. I’ve participated in it half-heartedly for several years, but I’m ready to make a commitment to it practically and spiritually.

Lent is a season of repentance and self-denial leading up to the observance of Christ’s death and resurrection. It is intended to remind us of Christ’s grandiose and restorative act of self-sacrifice on the cross juxtaposed against our own human frailty. We reflect somberly on our fallen state to amplify the grace that arrives daily with the knowledge that Christ is risen indeed.

Lent, it seems to me, is not practiced well if one only considers what one is giving up. My  high school friends from liturgical traditions would give up soda or french fries every year, but could never explain to me the significance of the act. I scoffed at their ignorance when I should have scoffed at my own.

Giving something up, it turns out, is about penitence: it’s not just a project in self control but a strict disciplinary action taken against ourselves, a reminder that we are rowdy and undisciplined by nature.

The vital next step is to realize that giving up bad habits clears up space for spiritual reflection. I’m terrible at meditating on the character of God, on seeing myself as someone in relationship to and with the Divine. It wasn’t always that way; I spent a long time wanting my old spiritual awareness back instead of recognizing that I could progress toward a new and better spiritual life. I’m ready for progress.

This Lenten season, I’m giving up rewarding myself with non-essentials (clothes, books, makeup, etc.) and taking on better spiritual practice. I intend to read more theology, pray more, and intentionally seek out ways to practice kindness and self-sacrifice. I’m replacing bad habits with good ones. I’m filling the void instead of wallowing in it. I recognize my shortcomings and repent from them more fully, I think, when I compare them to the vibrant spiritual life I could live instead.

I encourage you to meditate and reflect on your life in relationship with Christ as you trudge through these final days of winter, as you look forward to the rebirth and joy that arrives with spring.

a poem for Advent

Light of Christ

She held it cupped in her wrinkled palms,
across her lifeline, it burned
And fragmented and grew.
She peered in, squinting hard,
Hands to nose
Stars igniting in her eyes.

She clenched it then, tightly
Pushed it away with the force of her now
elongated arm, like a sigh, or fainting,
or a fervent dance.

She didn’t let go.
Afraid, though, of
The Revealing:
over-exposure,
Conviction – no trial necessary

But it hurt, holding its
heat, its heaviness
She shuttered her eyes

Release.
She knows it’s gone.
She can see the sun with her eyelids pinched tight.
A whisper, a knowing – she musters the courage to
Look.

She is enwrapped in a gown of radiance
frothy and feathered and laden with silk,
A light that imparts light
A glow that reveals, not her own:
griminess, despair, darkness.
The light of truth and love,
The light of Christ encroaching on:
decay, vanity, deceit,
Death.

Embraced, ignited,
A girl on fire
Enshrouded in the revealing and
Holy Light of Christ.