Easter gets harder all the time

I would like to say how, and in what way, this day matters. Why Easter still matters. How the story matters.

I would like to explain how Easter may be a comfort to the family of Cindy Gladue; to the parents of all the students murdered in Garrisa, Kenya, on Thursday; to my gay brother-in-law who many years ago, in his isolation and anguish, killed himself; to the billion sorrowing ones. I would like to imagine, how for every “He is risen,” hailed today in all the Christian churches, a life may be spared.

I am in the woods today. Last evening I watched the sun retreat behind the still barren trees. Across the yard I saw a single filament from an old spider web, that, I guess, had hung on through the winter. It was held between to young poplar trees and I saw it only because the sun saw it. It lit up, it flashed and flashed with the merest movements—a slight tightrope, the light ran back and forth at the hint of a breeze. I watched it until the sun left.

There are times I can’t make sense of Easter. And it seems to get harder all the time. Often I just don’t notice it, can’t see it. It stays hidden.

Out of sight, forgotten in the houses of justice, forgotten in the streets, forgotten in the “He is risen” churches that yet believe in the redemptive violence of our wars, forgotten in my own heart.

Yesterday I read a poem by Christian Wiman. It’s a loose translation of a few lines from somewhere in Dante’s Paradiso:

Into the instant’s bliss never came one soul
Whose soul was not possessed by Christ,
Even in the eons Christ was not.

And still: some who cry the name of Christ
Live more remote from love
Than some who cry to a void they cannot name.

The moon was full last night. The sky this morning is clear. As I write this the sun is just coming up, hitting the tops of the 70 foot poplars. Outside, under their black cowls, the chickadees are just beginning their singing. They would like to remind me, I gather, how holy this day is. But a day for them is always new and unlike any other day. Still, I want to listen. I would like to rise to that today—for the sake of all other days.


  1. Jamie and I spent the late afternoon in San Pedro and its riparian wondrousness. We sat under a 120+ year-old cottonwood tree and I turned my eyes to all that gathered at the foot of this elder cottonwood. On the way home we had to pass through a border patrol station. We made our way through and then pulled over to watch the moon rise over the mountains… We found ourselves in the majesty of the Sonoran desert sky- and landscape. How to reconcile the holiness of this place with the fact of those who lose their lives in efforts to cross this also hostile terrain? We moved between silence and shared contemplations of the deep generosity of the universe. It mysteries. And, yes, the idea that Easter is hard, harder as we get older and work to stay connected in meaningful ways to its promises… Thank you Stephen.

  2. I keep thinking how all those who say today that “He has risen” are targets – for violence around the world. Or they are unfortunately lumped in with those who claim to be of the “religious right,” but spew words of hate, judgement, and intolerance.

    Years ago, we visited Israel, and saw many of the (alleged) sites of famous Bible stories – from King Herod’s palace to the place along a rough road where a good Samaritan apparently did his deed. And in this region of ongoing turmoil, I was struck by the merging of world religions — all who share similar stories and myths. Why is it that we focus on differences, rather than what we hold in common? And what drives people to such deep levels of hatred and violence?

    I am searching for the good tidings, the joy of the resurrection, or at the very least, signs of rejuvenation that come with spring. Today, these all seems to be elusive.

    Adela’s comment on “How to reconcile the holiness of this place with the fact of those who lose their lives in efforts to cross this also hostile terrain?” seems relevant to so much more than for the San Pedro region.

    Sigh. Well, Happy Easter anyway Stephen.

  3. This resonates so well with me. I, too, am finding it harder to find or join in at Easter…and I’m not sure I can name why this is, but it makes me sad. What grounds me and still holds meaning for me is the sitting, the being, and the watching with the natural world…the way it just continues, in hope somehow.

  4. “Every sunrise sings God’s praise
    The universe cries out the Name”

    The Spirit inhabits our praise.
    How can I keep from singing?

    Much of my life was spent in sighing
    Far from love

    Ah but when I sing
    For the One
    To the One
    Who is life
    God lives again in me.

  5. He is risen has been getting increasingly difficult for me too when he has risen from a tortured sacrificial death. Then I go for a walk and see a pair of Canada geese, a mallard drake and hen, and a pair of common gold eye in their mating finery and experience spirit rising from their return.

    Thanks for the help in celebrating Easter.

  6. Stephen, you write: “There are times I can’t make sense of Easter…. forgotten in my own heart.”

    These thoughts have struck a chord in so many of us…and they hit me because, for us Orthodox Christians, this is Holy or Passion Week and I am seriously considering whether to “bother” going to the solemn liturgies for Great Thursday, Friday’s Holy Shroud and Great Saturday (I’ve already missed the Feast of the Annunciation, the Bridegroom Services and yesterday’s Unction Service). I won’t miss Pascha on Sunday, though, as it really is a joy to bring back the white and gold (as opposed to dark purple and black) vestments and church decor and to celebrate new life as opposed to the 40 days of Lenten repentance and gloomy meditation on the Cross. Not that I would admit any of this to my Orthodox sisters and brothers, because then I would have to admit to the emptiness in my heart where the Risen Lord is supposed to be….On the other hand, I find the Nativity Feast the real, true and profound joy and mystery – the notion of the Incarnation of the Divine in our human flesh. The utter humbleness of it – those lowly” creatures of the stable breathing softly on the Infant’s nakedness, those “lowly” shepherds bringing what they can, their love. It is this that keeps me going through Eastertide. God have mercy! Kyrie eleison! Hospody pomylui!

  7. Thanks for sharing this Myrna. Thanks for your openness. I think we all find, or perhaps hear, and follow the spiritual influences that touch us most, whatever is most real for us.

  8. Steve, what a rich collection of comments your Easter piece evoked. Thank you to all. For me, the Apostle Paul’s statement, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his suffering” helps. The order of his desire reverses the order of events in that suffering follows the resurrection. I remember hearing a Good Friday sermon entitled, “This is Friday, but Sunday’s Coming!” The invitation to take up the cross and follow is denied by the hurry from Friday to Sunday. I preached a sermon one Good Friday, entitled, “Sunday’s coming, but this is Friday” and we best not hurry from it. When we embrace Friday, Sunday becomes hopeful. Our fellowship of suffering follows the resurrection or “He is risen” is empty.

  9. The way I heard Campolo describe it, he got it from an Afro-American preacher. They were both preaching at the same conference and while they were both intent on delivering their message, they were in a bit of a contest to see which was the better preacher! But Campolo liked the title.

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