I have heard through the Catholic NYC grapevines of various sorts about masses being held at XYZ locations by pastors who you could have guessed in your sleep. The culture warrior priests who refuse to find any wheat in the tares of our society. Of course, it’s a disaster of a culture. But welcome to earth, sweethearts. It’s a mess here. Always has been, always will be. But I digress.
At first, as I began to hear about these privately-held and quietly-held liturgies, I had a sting of FOMO for these surreptitious Easter liturgies. I, too, am not immune to the appeal of Black Market Eucharist.
Then, reading in a public journal about this invitation, it hit me how dissatisfying such an experience would be. What would such an experience mean, devoid of the catechumens being baptized, the exsultet intoned in clouds of incense, the endless stream of psalms and readings in the candlelit darkness of the Vigil, the bells trilling during Jesus Christ is Risen Today. No, there will be no usual Easter liturgy this year. No amount of holding onto the past will make it come back.
And I can’t help but think that an unwillingness to surrender to the strange kairos of the moment is an all-too familiar response to the in-breaking of grace. This inability to accept the changed conditions of the world seems very similar to the lack of imagination shown by the disciples, the Sanhedrin, and well, absolutely almost everyone in these Gospel stories of Holy Week. The apostles resist with all their might the painful and torturous failure their leader accepts with love.
God acts. There is no moment in history, no situation or century, no crisis or disaster in which the hand of God ceases to move, into which the love of God does not submerge himself and then arise. On the other side of this painful passion, a new way of life emerges, one that the history before this event of grace could not have predicted.
We do not have to manufacture this Resurrection—it is the work of God. The new way of living with God in the world will make itself abundantly available. In the gospels, those who enter first into this new life are those who faithfully accompany Christ’s body through its process of dying. Those who are most open to experiencing with Christ the shock, the pain, the discomfort, and the sorrow of the passion—not those who run away—are those who are the first to find Resurrection. It is John, is it Mary, it is the women. It is all those who do not hold onto their old certainties, but those who faithfully embrace the painful uncertainty of the moment.
Those who greet the Resurrection are those who first accept these new conditions and seek to love within them. They do not run away from the suffering, they do not deny the pain, but rather they know love can shed light in any darkness. Those ready for Resurrection is she who holds her son as he dies, those who find him a dignified tomb, the few who anoint his body—they are the first to see love triumph. The women who stayed, the Apostle who waited, the mother who faithfully remained were powered by the belief that love can work even in the darkest spaces—the hellish cold of absence is no match for the communion of love.
They accept the broken world, as it is, with love.
And they are the ones ready to see him rise.