Can you read it, the first word in this new Eastertide reflection journey?! It’s all Ελληνικά to me! How about הללויה in Hebrew, the originating language of this joyous proclamation of praise? In Latin as in English it’s the very same, “Alleluia!” From the Hebrew root, literally, Praise the Lord!! Praise the Lord of Heaven and Earth, Praise God to the highest heavens, let everything that has breath and life and new life praise the Lord!
The first word of Easter! The first word of our Easter proclamation, from even earlier than Egeria’s 4th century travels! Alleluia, Christ is Risen! And the thunderous response, The Lord is Risen Indeed, Alleluia! Death is vanquished, we are free, as the glorious Easter hymn announces, Christ has won for us the victory! 548 times this command to unleash pure unadulterated joy appears in scripture! We are told to Praise almost 7x more than to not be afraid!
Today is the only day in the entire Christian year that is split in two. Earlier today we closed out the 40 Days of Lent with Holy Saturday’s (Part One) full stop. Egeria records that the assembly is dismissed early from their (three) worship exercises today to prepare for the late night Great Vigil worship (Part Two) of the same Saturday. For centuries THIS was the Easter worship extraordinaire, not the next morning! Egeria narrates the almost midnight start to this marathon service, with torches and lanterns lit riotously within Constantine’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher near Jesus’ empty tomb, new Christians welcomed into the Body of Christ through midnight baptism and First Communion (adults only please) into the wee hours of Sunday morning. A brief recess ensued for personal hygiene before Bishop Cyril gathered the assembly again on Easter morning, in all some three communions in less than once day! Praise indeed!
Welcome to Resurrection. Welcome to the Paschal Feast. Welcome to Easter. Alleluia, Christ is Risen!
- Let’s just do this now. One of my lifetime dreams is to attend this service in Justinian’s Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem today. See it all here, or skip ahead to 5:37 or so when the action heats up. The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of all Jerusalem enters the Edicule (the latest structure directly covering the tomb of Jesus, for real) with those honeysweet beeswax interlaced candles and no way to make flame. All those poor pilgrims have been in their places for over 12 to 18 hours, no bathrooms. Thousands crowd the Edicule and surrounding church dome as you can see. I love the excited commentators when the first flame (the light of Christ) ignites miraculously inside the Edicule and the Patriarch passes the flame through a small portal everyone on that side is aiming their phone cameras to catch first glimpses of. Those runners you see immediately take that flame through the Old City to vans waiting to rush them onto Ben Gurion airport flights to Athens, Russia and other Christian anchors in the Orthodox world. Those candles will light the Easter Paschal candles in their respective countries so the light of Christ illuminates the whole world for Easter. Just like in Egeria’s day! Get those candles ready!
- Since we cannot make Jerusalem, let’s do our Great Vigil here. Please join me and our wonderful youth for ECOT’s Great Vigil service. Yes, I know, our longest worship of the year. Salvation and new life are like that! Still shorter than any movie we’ve watched recently! Grab a candle, white or beeswax preferably, and light away when Mother Emily tells us to! Buona Pasqua!!