The clouds, gray and heavy, greeted us as we stepped onto the front porch Easter morning. I had hoped bright sunshine, the kind that would match the daffodils nodding in the lawn, would accompany us to Mass, but we found that brightness elsewhere. Christ had risen, bringing with Him a sense of hope and a promise of rebirth we seemed to need now more than ever.
A year ago, like so many others, we celebrated Mass in the family room, watching our priest consecrate the Eucharist on live-streamed TV instead of in person, sitting on the couch instead of in a pew, reciting prayers in isolation instead of in community. Though we told ourselves at the time it was better than nothing, a feeling of emptiness prevailed. Technology could never truly capture the essence of this holy day. This year would be different, we said as Easter approached again. It would. It had to be.
And it was. The white lilies and periwinkle hydrangeas on the altar, the lingering trace of incense in the air, and the sounds of the children’s choir created a feeling of welcome and, indeed, of peace that had been missing for over a year. Though we went to Mass outdoors in the car last summer and were grateful to attend the very socially-distanced vigil on Christmas Eve, this felt different. The symbolism of resurrection and renewal was not lost on any of us as we gathered together, but it was that gathering together that made it so different. We were all emerging from our own personal darkness and our own personal suffering of the past year, yearning to do just that – gather together – once again, with Easter as our backdrop.
“I love to see that the church is filled,” my daughter whispered. Filled? Not really, I thought. It couldn’t be – not yet. But it was. Not filled to capacity with parishioners, but filled with the hope and the joy of all that Christ’s resurrection means to us. The excited waves from across the pews, the bright smiles (even behind the masks), and the occasional embrace confirmed what our priest said during his homily: “We’re here, and this is where we are supposed to be.” As we bore witness to the suffering of the past year, we now see the promise in the rebirth of our lives, accompanied by the smiles of our friends reflected in our own gratitude. Such a blessing.
And as we exited the church, another blessing greeted us – bright sunshine, the kind that matched the daffodils nodding in the churchyard.
By Emily Clark