Alleluia for the Easter Season

I used to find Easter a letdown. Lent is so full of the self-improvement activities of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. I typically add a midday prayer to my usual Morning and Evening Prayer. I decide what organizations I want to give alms to: a different one each week of Lent. And fasting: not from food (my health doesn’t allow for that), but from something I feel is keeping me from closeness to God. The past few years it has been fasting from judging others (or trying to).

Then comes Easter. The first week is always a joy, reading about Jesus’s various post-resurrection appearances to his disciples. But in my Catholic faith, the Easter season continues way beyond this: for a full fifty days, until Pentecost. Catholic practice doesn’t instruct me to do anything special during these fifty days. So instead of the fullness of God’s grace, I’ve felt this season to be an empty repetition of “Christ has risen.”

Until this year. I don’t know why… but this year, each day of the prolonged Easter season has filled me with grateful wonder. The Scripture selections in The Liturgy of the Hours, which I pray from, feel richly full. Each week there are passages from Romans:

The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is the word of faith which we preach) (10:8).

If we have died with Christ, we believe that we are also to live with him (6:8).

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, then he who raised Jesus from the dead will bring your mortal bodies to life also, through his Spirit dwelling in you (8:11).

Both in life and death we are the Lord’s (14:8). [Read more…]

Pascha, the Resurrection, and Ricky Gervais

photo of the beautiful painted walls and ceilings in a shadowy orthodox church.Rays of midmorning sun shone through the window and fell in molten pools across the white sheets of our bed. Lying back on my two feather pillows, I could hear and smell the burgeoning sounds of spring through my open windows—birds chirping, the scent of sweet olive, the soft susurration of car wheels on the street still wet from the early morning rain.

It was 11:00 a.m. on Easter Sunday morning. I leaned over and touched the pillow beside me—my husband, a Roman Catholic, had gotten up and gone to Easter Mass at his church. I felt bad for not accompanying him, for he’d been there with the rest of us through the night.

Then I turned back over and slept a little bit more.

I went downstairs and got coffee, and stood at the kitchen sink in my nightgown and ate a fried chicken breast. The house was fragrant with flowers. My husband came home, and we had noontime gin and tonics on the porch.

Christ is Risen! [Read more…]

Eat

By Kelly Foster Lundquist

Episcopal ChurchSince birth, the rhythm of my week has been set by church.

Both my parents have held leadership positions in the varied churches we have attended over the years. In one of the many commonplaces of the evangelical testimony, I could easily say that I was indeed trained to be in church “every time the doors were open.”

In my adolescent years, that meant Sunday School, Morning Church, Sunday afternoon choir practice, Evening Church, Youth Group, and Wednesday night Bible Study.

When I went to college, I realized what I think many of my Christian peers began to realize at the same time: it takes quite a bit of effort against the inertia of life to make it to church on Sundays. And for a very long time, I wandered in and out of the occasional church the same way I wander into restaurants. Today I feel like Mexican. Next week maybe it will be Chinese. [Read more…]

Yeshua Ha’Mashiach

In drafting my last post, “Orthodox Films Fill the Void,” I intended to end the piece with a story that would serve as a thematic button: the day after seeing Fill the Void (a remarkable film released this summer about an ultra-Orthodox family in contemporary Tel Aviv) I finally made good on a long-standing wish to visit a Messianic synagogue.

For the latter experience filled an even deeper void in its own right than the former—or filled the same void to a deeper degree.

But no less thematic was the fact that my cup had nearly runneth over the word count by the time I was done singing the praises of Fill the Void (and My Father, My Lord before it). As it is wont to runneth over here, looking back on that steamy Saturday morning last month at Congregation Beth El in Manhattan, where I first witnessed Messianic Jews sing the praises of Yeshua Ha’Mashiach, Jesus the Messiah.

Whoa!

More on that shortly. First, whence this desire on my part to go there, both literally and figuratively speaking? Good question. I’m glad I asked.

[Read more…]

Of Monks, Conversion, and Radio Astronomy, Part 1

By Richard Cole
Guest Post

In the middle of life, I fell in love. For my forty-ninth birthday, my wife Lauren gave me a three-day visit by myself at a monastery in South Texas. I went there simply to read for a while and relax. I wasn’t a believer in much of anything, I wasn’t religious, and while I was there, I didn’t see any visions or hear voices.

But when I came back, I was on a path. Something had happened. An invisible hand was pressing me in the small of my back, propelling me forward.

At the monastery, I wondered whether the monks would try to convert their guest. I’d been around evangelists before. I kept waiting for someone to approach me with a carnivorous twinkle in his eye and ask, “Are you saved, my son?” [Read more…]