As we enter the month of May, we also reach the half way point in this celebratory season of Eastertide. The lectionary of church readings encourages us to hear the stories of what happened to Jesus' disciples immediately after his resurrection, as recorded in the book of Acts; our worship continues to be punctuated with the joyous refrain: "Alleluia, Christ is risen. He is risen indeed, alleluia!"
I have always loved the tradition of "burying the Alleluia" during Lent. There is something profound about this particular discipline that sets the tone for the whole season. It makes me more attentive to the words we use in worship, as I reflect upon the words of liturgy and hymns more carefully. As the liturgy that I have often used on the last Sunday before Lent has it:
Jesus told his disciples, “If you want to become my followers, deny yourselves and take up your cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24, adapted)
Sometimes we must let go of our Alleluia.
At Easter we will again celebrate the Resurrection and sing “Christ is risen.”
In God’s time, we will find our alleluia!
There is that sense of building expectation, a self-restraint that will, we know, in due time, give us over to the self-abandon of crying aloud on Easter morn, "Alleluia, Christ is risen!" Our Lenten discipline then comes into its own. How precious is that first Alleluia of the season. How triumphant. How filled with joy and freedom. This year, I was able to celebrate Christ's resurrection at a dawn service, our alleluias resounding as we gathered around the Easter fire at first light, joined by the birds and (allow me) all of creation in declaring Jesus' victory over death. (Or was that us, joining them?)
Yet, here we are, twenty or so days into the season, and I wonder whether our Easter refrain is starting to wear a little thin. Are we able to declare that Christ is risen each and every time, with the same gusto that energised us on that Easter morn? This year, I had the idea that I should continue to celebrate Easter by ensuring that I had some Easter chocolate every day for the full fifty days of the season. Alas, my single Easter egg needed to be much larger (or have miraculous properties) to achieve that long-lasting a celebration! Yet, I am continuing to reflect as we journey through this season how I might be more attentive to the new life all around me. Moving house helps with this, as we discover for the first time the flowers that had been dormant in the earth when we first arrived here but which are now revealing themselves as the days grow warmer. Continuing to explore the path of being a sacred artist each day is also about embracing God's new life within me.
It was St Augustine who asserted: "We are an Easter people and alleluia is our song." This reminds us that the joy of Christ's resurrection, the celebration of our new birth as God's redeemed people, is not a once-a-year feast; it is about our discovery of a new identity in Christ, an acknowledgment of who we are and the path we walk day by day, every day of the year. Alleluia indeed!