The tree’s been there every bit of 35 years, maybe all of 41 – as long as our eldest son has been alive, I thought. So why did it seem as if it had been planted for just this moment?
This “moment” being a blazing new fire, set to light the Christ candle at our Easter Vigil celebration.
I’ve been to many Easter Vigils before, but none seemed quite so picture-perfect as this one: a crackling blaze enlivening the crisp spring air, all set against an inky indigo sky and the tree’s stunningly solo silhouette.
A chance encounter, perhaps. Mere luck of the draw…no rhyme or reason behind it. Still, I couldn’t help but feel blessed – personally, deeply blessed – by the beauty of this moment, some 40 years (or is it two millennia?) in the making.
It’s a story a bit too complicated to unpack in this space, but the essential details are these: Our eldest son was presiding at the Easter Vigil for the first time at his new parish home, following a fallow period in his priestly ministry. So you’ll forgive his Old Man, perhaps, for rejoicing a bit more than usual in the new life springing forth at St. Justin Martyr this Eastertide.
Perhaps, too, you’ll appreciate the hoveringly protective concern that instantaneously welled up in him, when the son’s flowing white chasuble seemed to soar a bit too close to the flame, and nearly caught fire. Once a Dad, always a Dad, I suppose.
Maybe you’ll even pardon this Old Dude for allowing his mind to wander a bit, as the congregation moved indoors, and the stories of our salvation history began to unfold. He could see his fully-grown son up front, behind the altar – so it wasn’t a case of mistaken identity. But it sure felt familiar when Grandson #1 climbed into the Old Dude’s lap: Yes, Gramps was finding still more profound beauty in the moment – discovering that the tender mercy of a six-year-old’s cuddle had been stamped indelibly on his heart and soul.
Gramps then noticed the story he was hearing in that moment – the strange and terrifying tale of Isaac and Abraham…how “Thereupon Abraham took the wood for the holocaust and laid it on his son Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife” for the slaughter.
“How could God ask such a thing?” the Old Man wondered. And that’s the great mystery of Easter, isn’t it? God did ask just such a thing, from his own Son. And God’s own Son complied, with a marvelously selfless love that somehow propelled him beyond the pain.
Sitting vigil, an Old Man’s heart is mesmerized at the prospect. He’s overpowered…by the power of the Easter moment. His spirit overflows with wonder and gratitude for having had the chance to witness it all unfold – both in this evening’s twilight, and across the many decades of his life.
Sitting vigil, the Old Man understands that the French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin had it exactly right:
“Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love; and then, for the second time in the history of the world, [humankind] will have discovered fire.”
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.
Beautiful! Thanks for sharing.
The memories of the trip to the Holy Land really enhanced the Holy Week services.