Last night Sam and I and a few friends went to Easter Vigil at Sam's church. When we arrived, they had a basket of long thin candles and everyone picked one up. At the beginning of the service, the church dark, the priest stood at the back of the church and lit an enormous candle. From that one candle, several small ones were lit and then, slowly, we passed the flame to everyone in the congregation.
I could tell once mine was lit that it was made from bee's wax, which instantly brought me back to my childhood. My father kept six hives of bees in our backyard, and that smell reminded me of extraction day, a big metal drum spinning with wax frames in our driveway and the bees flying around, intensely curious. I stood there in the church, next to Sam, watching everyone's face lit by their small flames, listening to a man sing about the light of Christ, how it illuminated the world, how we must keep it and tend it and pass it along. I was surrounded by the smell of honey and beeswax and comforted by it, thinking of my family and my father and his beehives, and, most intensely, of Christ. Of the Miracle we celebrate. The power of Christ's light to wrench good out of evil, to light our shadowed faces, to glow for each of us, to know what we need and provide it if we're willing to ask. What beautiful symbols the Catholic Church has. When I think of Easter, I'm glad I'll now think of that dark church, and of how beautiful each of us looked in a holy glow.
And because I came across this poem this week and have been reading it and reading it, and astonished by it, I'll share that too, for Easter. Enjoy.
Seven Stanzas At Easter
by: John Updike, 1964
Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.
It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.
The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.
The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.
And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.