Friday, April 10, 2020

Good Friday to Easter

Abbey Church Easter
This year, amid the ravages of the pandemic, it is easier to pray with Christ “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1) than to sing the Easter alleluias. 

And yet.  Our “yet” is Easter.  However hard it may be to persuade our emotions in the face of danger and loss, life really has once and for all broken through death into that unknown reality we call “eternity” through both the death and the resurrection of Christ.  Faith reiterates it over and over again in the Liturgy of the Hours during these holy days.

But how will can we even think about singing  “alleluia” when suffering death is all around us, perhaps even in our own homes, perhaps even in our own lives?

Many years ago I had occasion to attend a wake service for a little boy. He had lived only five months, much of it in pediatric intensive care, his mother holding him when she could, his father keeping anxious watch.  The doctors offered hope till hope ran out.  The child died in his mother’s arms.

The wake was conducted according to the rite of the small Eastern Orthodox Church to which the parents belonged.  The mother was the community’s chief cantor.  When it came time to chant a poignantly beautiful “Holy, holy, holy” in Greek over the little body, she was the only one who could.  Her eyes never left the small casket, her voice never missed a note. Everyone present wept.

She remains for me an icon of Mary at the foot of the cross.  An icon of how faith and love sing praise to God for life in the teeth of suffering and death.