Sunday, April 4, 2010

Resurrection Day

Last night I cooked. As day deepened into darkness, I stood wrapped in an apron my mother made, grinding almonds, rolling out dough, chopping potatoes and onions, washing lettuce, slicing strawberries, blending whipped cream and cream cheese and sugar. I cooked until I was cranky, and then I kept cooking (Josh learned to keep his distance). I was preparing for the feast, but this preparation struck me as strange: how does one live into the joy of Easter in the mid-time mourning space of Holy Saturday?

In the church calendar, Good Friday may be the darkest day, but the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is for me a day of profound mystery. It bespeaks the waiting I often feel within myself, the tentative question: what next? I am preparing, I am mourning, I am hoping. For Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, the other women who found his tomb empty early Sunday morning, Saturday would have been a Sabbath day. Would they have lit candles or lamps? What wailing would their mourning have entailed? They certainly weren't preparing to celebrate; they weren't peeling vegetables and drizzling honey. They weren't wrapping their hair on strips of cloth to make spring Sunday curls.

But my experience of Easter happens now, with Bibles tucked on my numerous bookshelves telling me very little about Saturday but that by Sunday morning those women knew, as perplexed and afraid and astonished as they may have been, that there is such a thing as life out of death. That there was such a thing as a temple rebuilt in three days, One come to suffer with, to give his life a ransom for many, to vanquish death and evil in the most flip-flopped, unexpected way. Like a bulb planted in the earth--you look at it, and you think, how could this shrivelled brown ball ever make something beautiful? (How could this submissive, shameful death ever make something beautiful?) And then: life!


So I prepared my feast. I assembled friends to share the feast--as one of them called it, a "resurrection family." I followed the recipes my mom and aunts taught me by many years of example. And after a night of deep sleep, I awoke to Life. (Let's also be less romanticized and more honest: this morning I drank copious quantities of coffee and ate pastry and haphazardly hacked a nine-pound ham with a meat cleaver so that at least part of it would fit into a slow cooker.) Leaving the ham, Josh and I strolled two blocks to gather with the most beautiful collection of Christians I've ever witnessed. And we celebrated. After the darkness of Friday and Saturday, all I could see this morning was Light. All I could hear was Joy. All I could feel was Hope.

And then we ate. We ate in the sort of way where laughter ripples along the table, where forkfuls of avocado-lime pie pause in midair as people discover surprise connections, shared hopes. I took photos of us all and sent them to the family back home, where a similar feast had taken place, with a similar menu, also made ready by hands on that mysterious Saturday of waiting and preparation.

Tomorrow morning I will awaken to a day like most days, which at least for me are much more like Holy Saturday--the bridge between pain and beauty, death and life, looking back and looking ahead--than either Good Friday or Easter Sunday. I have hope and I have questions. I have sorrow and I have joy. I live in neither fast nor feast, but moderation, small happinesses. But my red-stained fingers, dyed brighter than the eggs I will now make into egg-salad, will remind me: we have fasted, and we have feasted. We have layered our laughter and tasted of life's delight in special food and special friends. We live not just in the shadow of death but in the light of a Risen Son.

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