Alleluia, Christ is risen! Many thanks are due to everyone who helped St. Mark's have such a glorious Holy Week. Whether it was the choir, the acolytes, the altar guild, the servers, or countless other volunteers, many people have remarked that Holy Week this year went above and beyond past years, For me there were two major highlights. This year's Good Friday service was especially moving, and I found the Easter Vigil to be particularly beautiful. We have already started to evaluate the services so that they can be better executed and prepared next year. Our faith always inspires us to reach higher. (No pun intended being that it is St. Mark's!)
Easter is a full fifty days of celebrations. Whereas Lent is forty days, our faith is an Easter faith, and so Easter is longer. It is true that you cannot have Easter without Good Friday. It is also true that Good Friday alone is not the faith we profess. Good Friday must result in Easter, and without the resurrection, we would have no reason to believe in Jesus Christ. Easter is to be our way of life - we are a people of the resurrection.
There is a special place for the celebration of martyrs when we celebrate Easter. Three days after Easter Day, we remembered the Rev'd Martin Luther King Jr's life and witness at the Easter Wednesday noon time mass. A small cohort gathered, and at 1:05 pm the bell was tolled 39 times, once for each year of his life. He was only 39 years old when he was assassinated on April 4. And on April 25, as well as the Sunday following, we will remember one of our patron saints, St. Mark the Evangelist. Mark was also martyred for the faith, and tradition maintains he helped to found the church in Egypt. The modern Coptic Church (the Church in Egypt) reminds us that Christians continue to be martyred throughout the world today. The feasts of martyrs are Easter feasts, for those who have died for the faith are resurrected in Christ. (Learn more about our parish celebrations of St. Mark.)
Christianity more often than not has become too cozy in our culture. Compared to the martyrs of past and present, we have it so easy. We practice our faith when it is convenient for us to do so, as if our worship of God is one of many choices in our everyday lives. We may even be tempted to practice church shopping during Holy Week, going to one church for a certain ceremony because it agrees with our tastes. We can easily forget that Holy Week is to be a community exercise, involving every person in the congregation. Holy Week is a journey that we are called to share together. The Bishop of Cyprus and the Gulf recently shared his experience of celebrating Holy Week in Baghdad. St. George's Anglican Church in Baghdad was packed throughout the week, for the practices of the faith are understood to be life sustaining. In the sharing of his experience, you quickly see that Holy Week is a community journey for the Iraqi Christians. I feel fortunate that our Holy Week services were so well-attended at St. Mark's, but I also know that many churches struggle to make Holy Week happen. What are the consequences of not celebrating the mysteries of Holy Week? Does discipleship in the Name of Jesus suffer?
After all of the liturgies of Holy Week, I was happy to see that our church kitchen was packed with volunteers for the Easter Day Sunday Supper Ministry. In our current day of social media prophets, it was heart-warming to see people taking incarnational action, rather than simply sharing Facebook and Twitter posts. It was the result of the resurrection. As Christians we are called to worship God with everything we are, all of the time. And as Christians we are called to serve others with everything we are, all of the time. Everything else is just distraction. Whether we are talking about Jesus Christ, St. Mark the Evangelist, Martin Luther King Jr., or our own lives, this is the life of resurrection, and this is our calling.
Father Paul Lillie+