Saturday, April 03, 2010

Toward the Fire

"Exult, let them exult,
the hosts of heaven,
let Angel ministers of God exult,
let the trumpet of salvation
sound our mighty King’s triumph!

Be glad, let earth be glad,
as glory floods her,
ablaze with light from her eternal King,
let all corners of the earth be glad,
knowing an end to gloom and darkness.

Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice,
arrayed with the lightning of his glory,
let this holy building shake with joy,
filled with the mighty voices of the people...."
A little early, sure....

Two years or so, to be precise.

Either way, to all of you and yours, your loved ones and those you serve, every wish for a joyous, peaceful, Light-filled and all-around Blessed Easter.

It's been a long Lent 'round here -- candidly, it began with the first blizzard in December (all 24 inches of it... 56 more to follow) -- but gratefully, more than the lilies have come to bloom... and especially after this Worst Winter in Pharaohtown History, life's finally returned to the world...

...or it will tomorrow night.

Apologies again for jumping the gun, but truly, Alleluia.

* * *
Of course, your local paper's probably got the rest of that afore-cited liturgical text ready to print in its Easter editions....

Just in case it doesn't, though, that's why these pages exist.

In these days, suffice it to say, the work's been a good bit more intense -- and just as sleep-deprived -- to absorb and capture it all... and, even more, it's been sleep-deprived and downright wrenching simply on an emotional level.

Still, that's the cross, that's the job -- the call of the story needs to be answered, and lest anyone forgot, the only way these pages keep at it comes by means of your support.

Not to belabor the point, but just as the liturgical color brightens for 50 Days come dusk tonight, the ledgers 'round here tend to look a lot more like yesterday all the time. Put another way, if these pages were truly a Northeastern-church project, the doors would've been locked, the property cashed in, and the scribe gone on to haler pastures eons ago. But there's something here to be done, and hopefully, on its better days, it gets done well.

Such is the medium -- and the lack of manpower -- that we can't send the ushers around for an Easter collection. Indeed, the only basket you'll see here is the famous "guitar case" -- again, the only thing that keeps the phone on, the machine connected and powered, the bills (and taxes) paid, and, all together, the feed coming your way:

Such as things are, think of it this way -- better this than 30 pieces of silver elsewhere, eh?

As ever, all thanks in advance... and for now, let's just say buckle up... not in an all-depressing way, either.

(Oh, and expect an Easter Week briefing, to boot... snail-mail crowd, your e.mail addresses, please!)

* * *
That said, this moment can't pass without a brief thought on the many emotions of these days.

If the mail here and comments elsewhere are any indicator, among no shortage of us it seems that even the multipronged horror of recent developments seems to have become little more than just added grist for the usual mill -- its reaction polarized, the casualties and remedies conveniently ignored in favor of one's reflexive scapegoat(s) of choice, all sides taking the blow, but using it less to sniff around for something to do and more hands to help heal and build than the ever-present temptation of finding and flaming whatever might doesn't seem to agree with things as we see them, of a trigger-happy sense of judgment that defines and opines on what we don't fully know, yet deluding ourselves into being convinced, beyond any doubt, that we do.

To be sure, the exercise is a very human thing. It likewise happens to be just as diversionary, divisive and counterproductive. And echoing so much else in these strange, haunting days, missing from it all seems to be what would become but the first great Benedictine rule in the life of the church: ora et labora -- prayer and work.

For all the harm that's been done, the many errors made, whether over decades past or these last days, sparring over specifics is increasingly becoming as important as considering how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Meanwhile, with the eyes of the world focused intently, furiously, on this church, seeking almost desperately for some glint of a good surprise, the perceptions out there become ever worse and, with it, a perversely graced chance to offer something different, something better, something of Christ amid a wide open door to bring something other than heat or hurt into this brutal spotlight slowly but surely just keeps ebbing away... and, well, what does that leave us with?

In a nutshell: most of us mightn't have had any knowledge nor part in the past, and it can't be changed now... but what can be -- and even more importantly, where we go from here -- depends less on what's been done than on what each one of us decides to do.

Not them, but us -- you and me. And not how we talk or what we think, but what we are called to accomplish -- what takes effort, commitment, heart... and, yep, just a bit of that little thing called faith.

Soul by soul, more's riding on our answer than anything else. And try as we might, that's one thing you can't blame on either the Grey Lady nor the Man in White -- nor, for that matter, anyone else.

* * *
As a wise friend in the South reflected in a note the other day, "Tough days, these, to go through.

"Not so tough, though, that the light of the Paschal Mystery cannot overwhelm the shadows."

Indeed, the Light can break through... but only so long as we let it.

When our worship and zeal is focused less outside ourselves than within the temple of our thoughts and impressions, every day is Holy Saturday... just without the pain and passion of Friday... not to mention the impact and glory of Sunday. And what's a Triduum -- what's life? -- without those?

Luckily, gang -- literally -- there's no better moment than this very day to turn things around... but it can only ever begin with one thing: rolling away the stone.

In a matter of hours, all the electricity (and, for that matter, all the shiny new iPads) in this world can't hold a candle to what we'll all get to be part of -- it even beats the jelly beans and Cadbury eggs... and, no lie, the traditional lamb of Easter dinner, Italian style.

Once upon a prior Holy Week, in a note to these pages' donors and friends, your narrator hacked out some impressions on the experience of the Vigil's opening act: the service of light....

Despite being unable to improve the thought since, maybe some here'll find it useful nonetheless:
I don't know about you, but my favorite moment of the year comes tonight as the church glows with the new fire of Easter. The image remains imprinted in my head always, and in it is a priceless lesson -- well, a couple.
For one, messy as it can be sometimes, fire sure beats a light-bulb... but even more, the place can only be as bright as there are the number of us. And regardless of our virtues, our crosses, our "status" and sins, the lights we carry are all equal, all the same size. (Yet even in our finest hour, there'll still be wax on the pews.) Just as the burnt palm of Ash Wednesday is a great leveler of our common sinfulness and mortality, so the end of the Lenten road brings a visual sign of our shared potential, of the light we each bring...
...yet while the ashes and what they represent are ours to own, the Light we carry is given us -- It comes from Elsewhere, and keeping it alive on the inside, letting it burn away whatever might seek to keep it from shining as bright as it can, is a daily, lifelong task -- but it's one we owe to everyone around us, so that, together, we all might see as best we can and, together, keep the darkness at bay.

More and more as time goes on, I pinch myself at the thought of being a part of all this, this church -- I'm not worthy of it, and I know I never could've kept on alone... and that latter bit just becomes all the truer with time. So as I stand there, now just a couple hours away, (unintentionally) dripping wax all over the place, just know that, as always, but even more than usual, I'll be thinking of and praying for all of you, the many lights beyond who've made the path bright, warm and beautiful, and in doing so, have kept me blessed and able to keep following it.

[P]lease keep a spot for me in your prayers, and just as much, the many folks among us for whom this Easter is marked by suffering, whether of body, mind or spirit... Just as we suffer together, even more do we rejoice... so as we prepare to stand before "this holy light," God love you all and give each of you, your loved ones and those you serve every joy, gift, renewal and grace of "[this] most blessed of all nights... the Morning Star that never sets"....
As Christ is Truly Risen, especially in this hour and amid the backdrop of these days, may he rise all the more anew in our hearts and minds and, thus, may he rise all the more anew in his church.

And to the hundreds of thousands the world over joining us tonight, a million welcomes -- make yourself comfortable; if you need anything, ask... and feel free to raid the fridge, the books, whatever: it's all yours now as much as it's anyone else's.

To one and all, again, a Blessed and Happy Easter!