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