Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
There is a sense of great peace and comfort each year when, after the last Mass is done and all is finally quieting down, you reflect that the Lord rose from the dead just as anticipated and all is right with the world. He rose from the dead despite our imperfections and shortcomings, his loving Presence doesn’t rely on our level of perfection... everything is gift. The temptation to treat all this like some kind of “reenactment” that depends on us can cause us to forget sometimes that God is in charge and does all things well. Remember from our parish mission back at the beginning of Lent (seems so, so long ago, doesn’t it?) that there is nothing we can do to make God love us more, and there is nothing we can do to make God love us less. His love is complete and constant. It is our love which needs to grow and become more constant, growing out of our gratitude.
That said, still, I think we did some really beautiful liturgies this year. When Bishop Burbidge was here on Easter Sunday after Mass he gave our music director, David Mathers, the finest compliment. He said, “Boy, they were really singing! You must be doing something right.” More than right, downright beautiful, and it was a very challenging schedule. Not only the amazing liturgies of the Sacred Triduum which were carefully prepared and lovingly given by our choirs and musicians, but also all Good Friday afternoon with our Tre Ore, and rehearsals. Our thanks are due to David Mathers and all our music ministers who responded to what we needed, and helped us welcome huge crowds of people to all liturgies this year. Our thanks to our altar servers, ushers, lectors, ministers of Holy Communion—everyone who played a role in these beautiful experiences of living in Christ. Thanks to Fr. Vu and Deacon John, our decorators and sacristy volunteers, and all.
Of course we are still in the Octave of Easter this year, the ancient understanding of Sabbath fulfilled in Christ. In the old order of days shabat was the Israelite observance of God’s day of rest in creation, the seventh day, Saturday. The Jewish observance of Sabbath is still on Saturday. But we Christians say that God went back to work on the eighth day of the week in Christ, with the work of our redemption: he is the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega. All time begins in him and ends in him, so the first day of the week is also the eighth, the Lord’s Day. His work of redemption is a new creation, a day that didn’t exist before. The ancient baptismal celebration of the Easter Vigil and the Sacraments of Initiation defined this understanding between grace and time. For this reason in the tradition baptistries are often designed based on an octagon. How good it is that God has given us both the life/grace and the means by which the community is formed as its dwelling place.
As I write this week’s letter it is Wednesday morning and I have just returned from the gathering in Washington for the Rally2EndRacism on the 50th anniversary of the assasination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We need to bring our message of new life to our culture and help people to see that God treats all of us the same, with the same limitless love and mercy. Member churches of the National Council of Churches came together with leaders of many other religions. Christians met at the Martin Luther King monument at dawn and walked silently in prayer to the Mall for day-long presentations. Let’s make part of our Easter observance a commitment to reach out to all people in love, in the same way that God doesn’t see color, or country of origin, or power. It is time for all this unnecessary hatred and suffering to cease, and for us to start making amends as a part of our Easter life, new life, new beginnings.
God bless you.