One widely-reported benefit of the recent shelter-in-place orders has been the chance to do some deep cleaning. Which, at our house, turned up an entirely unexpected Paschal blessing.
In going through our clothes closet (just off the master bedroom) last week, Gerri happened upon a “family-sized” Paschal candle – complete with a trio of Alleluias stenciled onto the beeswax.
Gerri surmised that the candle must have been purchased decades ago, for use in the classroom, when she taught at Holy Redeemer in Webster or St. Peter in Kirkwood.
And I do mean decades ago: that part of her teaching career ended when the first of our children was born in 1981.
The candle added a sacred touch last night to our “live-stream” celebration of the Easter Vigil – presided over (as it happens) by a Jesuit priest who was a classmate of the aforementioned “first-born” son during their Theology studies.
Another treasure on our “home altar” – a tiny tourist version of the Cristo Redentor statue that watches over Rio de Janeiro…a gift from that same son when he went to Brazil for World Youth Day in 2013.
And rounding out the sacred objects: a chalice and paten presented to my mother in memory of my father, honoring his service as a Fourth Degree in the Knights of Columbus. On more than one occasion, (Fr.) Chris has used this venerable communion set to celebrate a “family” Mass in our home.
So: that’s a lot of family history placed atop our makeshift altar, I realized. Rich symbols, liturgically. Even more profound for Gerri and me, personally.
And then we heard Chris’ classmate preach about this most unusual of Easters we’re celebrating this year. He noted (quite reasonably) that if you’d asked him 20 years ago what Easter in 2020 might look like, he couldn’t possibly have come up with notions like “live-stream liturgy”. Or that his “virtual” parish congregation (photos taped to the pews) would be featured in a segment on the national news.
All of that, he said, would have been completely beyond his imagination.
And that’s a point we would do well to contemplate on this most holy of days. After all, he said, “resurrection” was completely beyond the imagination of Jesus’ disciples back in the day. God’s plans for them – for us – are almost always like that: bigger, and broader, and more incomprehensible, and yes – ultimately better than anything we tend to cook up on our own.
My heart tried hard to say “yes” to that truth last night, during this most unusual of Easter Vigils – in part, because the small sample of sacred objects we’d gathered on our makeshift altar testified to that truth.
I didn’t plan any of the beauty which these objects represented, and recalled. All of that family history would have been beyond my ability to imagine.
So immersed in that goodness today, immersed in that Godliness, I ask for the grace to continue to look beyond. To set aside my fears touched off by this pandemic. And to give God “the benefit of believing that his hand is leading us, and ask that we can accept the anxiety of feeling ourselves in suspense and incomplete.” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ)
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.