A short, wistful Easter meditation


wist·ful
  [wist-fuhl]

adjective
1.  characterized by melancholy; longing; yearning.
2.  pensive, especially in a melancholy way.

Pensive. Melancholy. Longing. Yearning. Dictionary.com pretty much sums up my state of mind this morning. I did not attend a service of the Great Vigil of Easter last night for the first time since 1968. Most of those years I was directing the music for the elaborate celebration.

I love the Great Vigil. If one pays attention, one hears and participates in the presentation of an over-view of the sweep of the history of humanity’s interaction with the divine according to the Jewish-Christian tradition. Lots of readings of mysteriously poetic literature, warm and glowing candle light, magnificent music, a glorious burst of light, decoration, and energy, and then the holy mystery of the first Eucharist of Easter.

I am (regardless how the careless reader might misinterpret the preceding) saying all of this without irony, without judgment, without any negativity.

My saying this is pensive and melancholic, and I yearn for something I can’t quite describe.

If I ever really believed the narrative of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, I did so in some way that I’m sure would disappoint my father and mother and the people of the churches with which I’ve been involved (and for which I’ve worked) all of my life. Faith and belief and other noble ideas/ realities bewilder me. I know that as long ago as junior high school I was terrified and—yes, odd as it sound, it’s true—embarrassed that I could not, or would not, believe in the possibility that anyone—even the Son of God—could be resurrected from death.

Once again, as I always understand, my thinking is not unique and my ability to articulate it is not particularly interesting or enlightening.  The longer I hang around the planet, the more confused I am about life, death, God, Jesus, and all of those things Easter seems to be about. And so I sit in my confounded state and wonder. And I worry that I don’t have enough time left to come to any kind of conclusion or peace about any of this. Twenty years max is what I have left.

Probably nowhere near that long. The closest I can come to understanding, accepting, loving, appreciating any of the religious formulations I’ve known all my life is to revel in the mystery that I can say, think, share any of this. The fact that I’m thinking these things and anyone else can have so much as an inkling what’s rattling around in my consciousness is almost as much mystery as I can bear.

And so my thinking, once again, as always seems to happen these days, ends with a whimper, not a bang. The melancholy, the yearning for what once was—no, never really was—continues apace. A long time ago I was telling a dear friend and mentor my fear that my career as a church musician was based on a lie because I didn’t really believe what we were saying and singing. She told me it didn’t matter. All I had to believe was that she believed. So, absurd as it may sound, I am perfectly willing to say that I believe that the vast majority of my friends and loved ones believe that The Lord Is Risen Indeed! And I am grateful that I am not alone in my bewilderment. John Donne is not too shabby company to keep.

BATTER my heart, three person’d God; for, you
As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow mee, and bend
Your force, to breake, blowe, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurpt towne, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end,
Reason your viceroy in mee, mee should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weake or untrue.
Yet dearely I love you, and would be loved faine,
But am betroth’d unto your enemie:
Divorce mee, untie, or breake that knot againe;
Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I
Except you enthrall mee, never shall be free,
Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee.

—John Donne, Holy Sonnet XIV.

One Response to A short, wistful Easter meditation

  1. bobritzema says:

    I’m one who does believe in the resurrection, so my experience of Easter was much different from yours. For me, belief clicked into place when I was in my last year of college; I felt certain that this was so, and have only occasionally doubted in the 40 plus years since then. I imagine it’s been difficult to be around believers every Easter–to yearn for something like what they have–maybe not so much belief but the sense of community based on belief. Who knows whether you will ever sort out the issues that you describe: if my experience is at all typical, beliefs about ulitmate questions aren’t so much things we figure out but things that come to us independent of our having sought them. .

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