15 April 2020
A friend remembers childhood Christmas celebrations as being quite dour and joyless. On Christmas Eve at 3 p.m. a sack was carried down from the attic and from within it a small artificial Christmas tree already decorated with baubles and coloured lights emerged.
The lights were switched on with no ceremony.
On Boxing Day at 3 p.m. the lights were switched off, the plug withdrawn from the socket, the sack placed over the little tree and it was carried back into the attic for another year. As an adult he has enjoyed making his own celebrations with his family and friends less perfunctory and more joyful, more creative and definitely more sustained.
As a child I can remember being disappointed that the glorious Easter hymns were rarely sung after Easter Sunday in the chapel where I worshipped. I remember someone saying on the Sunday after Easter, “Well it is Low Sunday”. I can also remember the moment when I realised that the joy of Easter was for life, not just for one day.
The liturgical knowledge that Eastertide was a whole season, not even just an Octave of celebration, certainly just not a single day, came much later but the joyful knowledge that each day was a day of resurrection came first.
The origin of the name Low Sunday for the Sunday after Easter Sunday is uncertain, but it seems intended to indicate the contrast between it and the great Easter festival. It is still Easter but the 8 days of feasting is now over. On this day, for the first time, those baptised on Easter Eve laid aside their white baptismal robes, having worn them continuously since their baptism. St. Augustine mentions this custom in a sermon for the day.
This year, of all years, it seems vital that we make the most of the season of Easter, 50 days, 7 weeks available to us until we reach Pentecost and we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit. Marking Eastertide and not just Easter Day seems more important than ever. In the biblical accounts, this period of time for the friends of Jesus, is a time of encounter with the risen Jesus, discovery about God, themselves and one another and a time for the renewal of relationships. It is a time of waiting and a time of learning as they wait for all that God will pour out upon them. This is hardly a “low season”.
As we seek to celebrate Eastertide and be people of the resurrection we need to be honest about what we are finding difficult and challenging about a period of isolation. We read in Acts 2, “ the believers were gathered together in one place” and we long to be gathered together. There is consolation that the Christian Church is a global phenomena and we are too big for one room, one city, one nation.
We are learning, as the first friends of Jesus did, that he is with us always, even to the end of the age, and certainly to the end of this isolation. This Eastertide I have spent time with Mary Oliver’s poem Egrets, which describes the poet struggling on a path, attacked by briers and mosquitos and arriving at a pond, seemingly dark and deathly. Suddenly there is a flash of white and out of the reeds fly some egrets, who unruffled,
“ opened their wings
softly and stepped
over every dark thing.”
We will, in the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, step over every dark thing. We will be changed and will be transformed by our experience. There is loss and pain and these things will have shaped us differently and in them we will have known God’s grace and revelation – just like the poet. May we know we have risen with Christ.
Alleluia Christ is risen,
He is risen indeed, Alleluia.
The Revd Helen Cameron