I am discovering, this year, that I am kind of terrified of Easter. It is, perhaps, a sinner’s fear, though I don’t feel like I’m any more sinful than usual. I don’t celebrate Lent or Palm Sunday or Holy Week, but typically Easter is my favorite holiday. Normally I revel in the triumph of Christ over sin, death, and infirmity of all kinds. However, as I think about tomorrow’s services (lovely) and celebrations (sweet), I find myself reluctant to engage as wholeheartedly as I have in the past. To get to Easter, you see, you have to have the despair of Good Friday. I think of Mary at the tomb, trembling and raw: “If thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.” I think of the faithless despair of the disciples, of Peter’s “wondering in himself” when they receive the news that Christ has risen. I think earlier to the desolation of Mary and Martha, weeping over the death of Lazarus. I think of Christ’s own cry to His Father: “Why have You forsaken me?” The moment before the eucatastrophe is inevitably a broken-hearted one. My hesitancy to embrace Easter this year, I think, comes from a wounded place within myself. I am already broken. Do I dare engage with this most broken act, this intense wrongness, that comes from the torture and death of the only sinless mortal to ever walk the Earth?
But this is the typical invitation of God, to exchange our pain for his mercy. We give up our burdens of sin, anxiety, pain, or oppression and receive instead His yoke, which is (comparatively) easy and light. It is a test of faith. There is security in anger. There is certainty in suffering. Who am I once I am not my sins? And do I really believe that, if I look away from my pain, there will be rest, and not more pain, in store? To celebrate the Resurrection, I have to be willing to relinquish much of myself that is flawed– and sometimes, it seems, I am only flaws. So at Easter, I have to look at that horrible place inside me where I keep all my badness (a hard enough task) and then I have to admit that God takes this stuff and spins gold from it. Sometimes I find the king’s prayer impossible: “O God . . . if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee” (Alma 22:18). To get to the glory of the Resurrection, we have to wade through the mess of Repentance. Otherwise, the Resurrection is just a pretty story that happens to other people. But I think you can see why I am a little intimidated this year. Everything before Easter just hurts.
Here is a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins. You may just have to let it wash over you the first several times. The | indicates, I believe, a caesura, for which I give Hopkins mad props. However, caesurae are usually marked with //, not |, so it’s possible that this is punctuation unique to Hopkins. He kind of makes stuff up. Enjoy!
That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and the comfort of the Resurrection
Cloud-puffball, torn tufts, tossed pillows | flaunt forth, then chevy on an air-
Built thoroughfare: heaven-roysterers, in gay-gangs | they throng; they glitter in marches.
Down roughcast, down dazzling whitewash, | wherever an elm arches,
Shivelights and shadowtackle ‘in long | lashes, lace, lance, and pair.
Delightfully the bright wind boisterous | ropes, wrestles, beats earth bare
Of yestertempest’s creases; | in pool and rut peel parches
Squandering ooze to squeezed | dough, crust, dust; stanches, starches
Squadroned masks and manmarks | treadmire toil there
Footfretted in it. Million- fuel’ed | nature’s bonfire burns on.
But quench her bonniest, dearest | to her, her clearest-selv’ed spark
Man, how fast his firedint | his mark on mind, is gone!
Both are in an unfathomable, all is in an enormous dark
Drowned. O pity and indig | nation! Manshape, that shone
Sheer off, disseveral, a star, | death blots black out; nor mark
Is any of him at all so stark
But vastness blurs and time | beats level. Enough! the Resurrection,
A heart’s-clarion! Away grief’s gasping | joyless days, dejection.
Across my foundering deck shone
A beacon, an eternal beam. | Flesh fade, and mortal trash
Fall to the residuary worm; | world’s wildfire, leave but ash:
In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
I am all at once what Christ is, | since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, | patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
Is immortal diamond.