Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Many Faces of Easter

Up at 3:15am, on the path into town at 4:00, arriving at the cathedral at 4:45, still in pitch blackness. Unbelievable, but there were already many people filling the chapter house. Fortunately, Ben and Ani were saving seats for us. What could fill a 2-hour Easter service? I wondered.

At 5am, the bishop and priests processed into the quietly full stone room and an hour of readings began. "As we await the risen Christ, let us hear the record of God's saving deeds in history." Creation. Passover. Pharaoh's army at the Sea. Jeremiah's new covenant. Ezekiel's valley of dry bones. Story after story reminded us of our God.

Then we all stood and moved into the courtyard (aka the "cloisters") where a bonfire was burning. Somehow it was right to see the flame of Jesus' life in the wild of the outdoors, not constrained and contained within the church. The incense wafted as the procession went around the fire and passed into the nave of the cathedral. As the deacon announced, "Alleluia! Christ is risen" and the congregation responded, "He is risen indeed. Alleluia!" we all jumped as cymbals, whistles, shouts, organ pedals, trumpets, and horns jarred us with this strange new life that moved around us.

The implications weighed down on us as the bishop asked, "Let us pray that we may reign with the risen Christ in glory."

There were more processions, candles, songs, a sermon, bread and wine, but the moment that struck me most deeply were the simple words announced and prayed over those being confirmed in the faith. As the bishop placed his hands on each person's name, he said their name, and announced, "God has called you by name and made you his own," and prayed, "Confirm, O Lord, your servant with your Holy Spirit." Called by name. Confirmed to be His servant. An amazing God and an amazing life as a Christian.

We had to scamper out just before the "sending out," which was too bad because I have come to appreciate this part of the Anglican service most of all: "You have received the light of Christ; walk in this light all the days of your life."

The reason we had to leave was that the 2 ½ hours had flown by and we were late for joining our own St. Nics family for breakfast. So off we went to gather around tables, have people coo over Ellie, and enjoy a hearty English breakfast (well, except for the black pudding, which we left on our plates).

Throughout the morning, Ellie was inseparable from her new bunny rabbit that Crystal knitted for her over the past couple of weeks. I was limited to a consulting role, so if you think the ears are too big, I'm to blame. Crystal is really amazing with this new craft of hers. She thinks toys are the way to go because they don't have to fit in the end! Ellie loves her little bunny and gave her many sweet hugs.


Crystal wanted me to get a picture of Ellie in her Easter dress, which led to quite a few funny faces being recorded on film (err..."in memory") before I got an appropriate photo. She's pretty adorable, eh? Oops...I guess I shouldn't editorialize.

As you can tell, it's been a rich day. And I haven't even mentioned the beautiful sunny weather (sorry, snowy America), the breaking of the coffee fast, the chocolate chip and cherry cookies, swinging and sliding with the baby doll, and much more that I can't quite remember for lack of sleep. Goodnight!