Alleluia. Christ is Risen!
This morning, as we began the livestreamed Easter Eucharist from the high altar of Trinity Cathedral, those words echoed out over a completely empty nave. Aside from the clergy, readers, verger, and two recording technicians, all of us spread out in the chancel, the great church was vacant, save of course for the angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven. From the devices through which viewers participated, one would not have noticed. The prerecorded music was beautiful and doubtless filled their homes and hearts with the familiar sounds of our Resurrection celebration. The liturgy delivered us to Christ’s sacrifice, which we have been preparing ourselves to join anew throughout the Lenten journey. But looking out past the cameras that were capturing those parts of the service broadcast in real time, the view was striking. No procession. No choir. No communicants. Not even chairs.
At first, the emptiness was a stark reminder of the many losses we have experienced over the last year: the loss of community and regular companionship in our worship and other disciplines of faith; the loss of jobs and security and loved ones to the coronavirus; the loss of confidence in government and the structures of democracy; the loss of respect for one another and common decency in how we live with difference and diversity; the loss of patience, sometimes even with those we hold dear; and the loss of humility that often accompanies the loss of trust in one another.
Yet, as we listened to scripture and teaching, were carried by recorded music, made our intercessions to the divine ear, and offered ourselves in surrender to the Eucharistic sacrifice – as we made our “great thanksgiving” to God for the possibility of new life by dying to the old life – the emptiness of that beautiful room took on a profound and different meaning. It became, itself, a symbol of resurrected life. It became an empty tomb.
In the first of the collects for Easter Day, we pray, “Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection.” Indeed, it is in dying to our sin that we are led out of the tomb of loss into the world where Jesus is already waiting for us, just as he was already in the Galilee awaiting the first disciples after Mary found the tomb empty. He is waiting for us to be his resurrected body doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God.
The joy of Christ’s resurrection for which we pray this day is not just in the church, as joyful as that is for many of us, and especially on Easter Day. Rather, it is everywhere we care for those whom God loves and for whom Jesus died. He rose again “that he may be in us and we in him,” as the Eucharistic prayer proclaims, and the joy of his resurrection is in how we incarnate his love every day.
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!
The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, Jr.
Bishop of Ohio
“Our work goes on. Our labor for love continues,” Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael B. Curry said in his Easter 2021 Message, “We will not cease, and we will not give up until this world reflects less our nightmare and more God’s dream where there’s plenty good room for all God’s children. Hallelujah anyhow.”
The Festive day of Easter is Sunday, April 4.
The following is the text of the Presiding Bishop’s Easter 2021 Message:
Easter 2021 Message
When I get to heaven — and I know it may sound presumptuous for me to say it, but I live by grace and believe in amazing grace — when I get to heaven, I certainly want to see the Lord. But I want to see dear members of family and friends, those who have gone on before, the many people I want to sit down and have some conversation with. Of all the biblical people, aside from the Lord himself, when I get to heaven, I want to meet Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene, who was one of the people, one of the women, who followed the way and teachings of Jesus and who probably provided much of the funding for his movement. Mary Magdalene, who with some of the other women and only one of the male disciples, stood with his mother, Mary, at the cross as he died. Mary Magdalene, who, even after he died, on that Easter morning, got up with some of the other women early in the morning, before the day had begun, in the dark, got up to perform the rituals of love to anoint the body of Jesus in his grave.
I want to ask her, “Mary, tell me what got you up that day. Tell me what got you to go to the tomb early in the morning when it was dark, and you could barely see. Why did you get up and go to anoint his body? Mark’s Gospel says that you and the other women said to each other, you knew that Jesus had been buried in that tomb that had been provided by Joseph of Arimathea, with Nicodemus’ help, but a large stone had been rolled in front of the doorway, into the tomb. And one of the women said to the other, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us?’ You knew the stone was there. You knew you couldn’t move it. And yet you got up and you went anyway. Mary, tell me your secret.”
I suspect she probably will say, “Well, we didn’t know how we were going to roll away the stone, but we loved him, and we got up and went anyway. It was hard because it was dark, but we loved him, and we got up and we went anyway. Those roads could be dangerous at night, but we love Jesus, and we got up and we went anyway. Who will roll away the stone for us? We did not know, but we loved him, and we got up and we went anyway. And let me tell you what love can do for you. When we got to the tomb, the stone had already been rolled away. And we shouted our hallelujahs, and shouted our hallelujahs. He is risen.”
Last year in March, on March 13th to be precise, another Mary Magdalene, her name, Barbara, Barbara Clementine Harris, bishop of the church, a voice of love, and justice, and compassion, a voice of deep and profound faith, first woman to be consecrated a bishop in Anglican Christianity, died and entered eternal life. This was early in the pandemic. Fortunately for us, Dean Kelly Brown Douglas had worked with Bishop Barbara to make sure that her memoir was completed, and they completed it. She gave it the title from the words of a gospel song that says, and I quote:
Never let your troubles get you down
Whenever troubles come your way
Hold your hands up high and say
Those words characterize the life of Bishop Barbara: hallelujah anyhow. In spite of hardship and difficulty, hallelujah anyhow. In spite of injustice and bigotry, hallelujah anyhow. In spite of war and violence, hallelujah anyhow. And that, my friends, is the spirit of Mary Magdalene. That, my friends, is the tenacity of those who would follow in the footsteps of Jesus and his way of love. In spite of hardship and toil, hallelujah anyhow. In spite of the fact that this Easter is the anniversary of the assassination and the martyrdom of Martin Luther King, Jr., hallelujah anyhow. In spite of the fact that these are hard times, hallelujah anyhow.
Our work goes on. Our labor for love continues. We will not cease, and we will not give up until this world reflects less our nightmare and more God’s dream where there’s plenty good room for all God’s children. Hallelujah anyhow.
When I get to heaven, I can’t wait to hear Mary Magdalene and Bishop Barbara tell me he’s risen. Hallelujah anyhow. Amen.
Watch Bishop Curry's message via YouTube video.