May 16: Alleluia Anyway
By the Rt. Rev. Henry N. Parsley, Jr.,
Visiting Bishop for the Diocese of South Carolina
This has not been an easy Easter for alleluias. Overshadowed by the pandemic crisis, our fifty days of celebration have been diminished. We have not been able to worship in person, or sing together the great hymns that animate Christ’s victory, or even receive the sacrament of life. It has felt very strange, a bit like fasting during the feast.
So it seems all the more important, as we approach the season’s end, to recall what the message of Easter is in all its breadth and depth. “Christ is risen” is a proclamation, I believe, about both death and life, about both then and now.
Our resurrection faith is about “then.” It tells us that physical death is not the end. In Christ it has become the gateway to life beyond life in the mystery of eternity. John Donne once said in a sermon, “I shall rise from the dead, from the prosternation of death…and never miss the sun; for I shall see the Son of God, the sun of glory, and I shall shine myself as that sun shines.” Without such faith, life shrinks from its true dimensions.
The Easter message also tells us that resurrection is about “now.” It can easily appear to be something only in the distance, on the horizon. But the great Christian truth is that resurrection is a reality in the present tense of life. Christ’s victory is not just over death but over the powers of evil. In its light we can trust that the world’s tragedy is finally overcome by hope. The corridors of history are dark, but evil does not have the last word. Love does. William Sloan Coffin once said that Easter is a “Yes, but” kind of message: “Yes, fear and self-righteousness and sin kill; but love never dies, not with God and not even with us.”
These proclamations give us the courage to live a life beyond fear. Fear and anxiety are endemic, but they can keep us in a spiritual prison and prevent us from being fully alive. The gospel accounts tell us that after the cross the disciples huddled together in fear. When they saw the Risen One their fear was transformed into a radical hope that sent them out to change the world. It is meant to be so for us. Resurrection hope, both then and now, chisels away our fear and sets us free to love, to give, and to live with abandon.
H.A. Williams wrote in True Resurrection: “Christ is risen! It is a proclamation about mankind, about the world. All that separates and injures and destroys has been overcome by what unites and heals and creates. Death has been swallowed up by life.”
Wherever you are, whatever you are dealing with in these tough days, however you may be feeling, mediate on those words. May they bring forth a resounding "Alleluia!" anyway!
God bless and keep you.
The Rt. Rev. Henry Nutt Parsley, Jr.
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During the uncertain times created by the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, leadership of the diocese will send out regular meditations on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays for the next while as we all adjust to a new chapter of living and being the Church.