“Alleluia, the strife is o’er.” Lent is done and we survived. The clergy — who only nearly survived — will be on vacation next week taking a well-earned rest. Many of the faithful will rest too, giving church a skip next Sunday. But I think we’re shortchanging Easter Sunday. It is not the victory party after Lent, and it is only a beginning.
In last night’s Vigil gospel, we heard: “He is not here.” There was no body. There were no brightly colored eggs to be found in the basket. The tomb was empty. Jesus – all that had been the focus of our attention and devotion for so long, and certainly for the weeks of Lent – was gone. Not even his remains remained.
Easter Sunday begins with and in our failures — the absence of our best hopes and dreams and plans. Our alleluias need to feel a little iffy. If they are feel victorious at this early moment in the season, we need to check that we are not celebrating the end of Lent.
Easter Sunday is not climax: it is the beginning. The Sundays of the Easter season are not post-climax. Pentecost will be the climax liturgically. Spiritually, the climax will be the moment we are ready to claim for ourselves a new purpose, inspired by a Risen One who met us someplace we never expected.
We are probably not there yet. We could not even begin the journey towards it until we heard the “good news” of an empty tomb, and it took us all of the work of Lent to get us there… to shuck off the excess baggage and get back into shape, so that we would be ready to look at life anew from the perspective of the disaster of an empty tomb.
Alleuia, here we are. Easter Sunday is the not the party after. It is only a beginning.