Nothing shouts back, "He is risen, indeed!" quite like the pink blossom of the cherry tree.
We are in the midst of the Queen of Seasons, and after a very long, very hard winter, Spring is in the midst of a glorious reign.
Last night, at the Great Vigil of Easter at St. John's, Bowdoin Street in Boston, we sang that wonderful hymn, "Come Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain".
The words were written in the 8th Century by John of Damascus, translated in the 1800's by John Mason Neale.
'Tis the spring of souls today: Christ hath burst his prisonWell, some sins were committed in the name of Jesus for the Queen of Seasons.
and from three days' sleep in death as a sun hath risen;
all the winter of our sins, long and dark, is flying
from his light, to whom we give laud and praise undying.
There is a wonderful tradition at St. John's which Ms. Conroy and I remember from our days there, more than 25 years ago.
At that time, Ted Mellor was Chief Sacristan and the Master of All Ceremonies at St. John's. Easter was his favorite time of year. He rehearsed us to a faretheewell for the Great Vigil and did not consider us properly prepared until someone burst into tears.
That's only a slight exaggeration.
One moment of levity, however, came when Ted - unbeknownst to the priest - would sneak an Easter Egg into the ciborium or chalice or place it somewhere under the veil.
We would all wait for the moment when the priest would remove the covering from either vessel and - in his or her exhaustion after five long lessons, five sung or chanted psalms, five collects, the renewal of Baptismal Vows, the Gloria, the Epistle, the Great Alleluia, yet another Psalm, the Gospel, The Homily, the Prayers of the People AND the Exchange of Peace - would have forgotten "the trick" from the year before and dissolve into giggles right there at the Table.
Besides, after all the preparation for this Queen of Liturgies, we all deserved a bit of a giggle.
Ever since we've left St. John's, Ms. Conroy has always put an Easter Egg in the chalice or ciborium or somewhere under the veil. She has colluded with Altar Guilds up and down the East Coast to make this happen - explaining, of course the (ahem) theology of the act - to their delight and, I think deepening joy of Easter.
The other day at lunch, I mentioned the tradition to my rector, Katharine Black, but she seemed unaware of the tradition. When I told Ms. Conroy, she was horrified. Simply, undeniably, horrified.
So, of course, nothing would be done but that Ms Conory would make sure the tradition would be reinstated and continued, henceforth and furthermore, at St. John's.
She went out yesterday afternoon to purchase a chocolate Easter Egg - Cadburry, please - but to her dismay, discovered that every place she went was sold out.
She finally settled for some Easter Egg Bubble Gum, a large rock of a brightly colored pink egg-shaped thing, which would simply have to do for this year.
I tried to slip the egg into the chalice, but there was simply too much frenetic activity for me to do that with any amount of grace or subtlety, so I slipped it into the ciborium which is at the back of the church at the beginning of the service.
This would later prove to complicate matters just a tad.
Katharine didn't uncover the ciborium until the moment of consecration, so she had no idea that this large, Very Pink, Easter Egg gumball was in the sacred vessel.
It had the best effect I've ever seen. Katharine lost it. I mean, full throat giggle. And then, she pulled it together, only to be lost again in giggles. This went on for at least 30-45 seconds but it felt more like several minutes.
The complication came because, unlike tradition - anywhere, but especially at St. John's - we now had a consecrated Easter Egg. Very Pink. Very Consecrated.
Katharine did exactly the right thing: As she came to distribute the consecrated bread, she slipped the Very Pink, Very Consecrated Easter Egg into Ms. Conroy's hand before giving her the Body of Christ.
After communion, Ms. Conroy looked at me and asked, just a bit off her normal cool, aloof self, "What am I supposed to do with this?"
Darned if I knew. "Put it in the Collection Plate," I suggested.
"No!" she said, "It's consecrated!"
She was right. Of course, she was right.
For no apparent reason, we both happened to look up and there - right in front of us - was the wood carving of The Black Madonna, even more striking with a large vase of Very Pink flowers at her feet.
We both smiled at each other as Ms. Conroy went over to The Black Madonna, reverenced her, placed the Very Pink Consecrated Easter Egg at her feet, blessed herself, bowed, and then returned to her seat.
I'm not sure, but I suspect Jesus was laughing uproariously in heaven. So, too, were the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.
Now the queen of seasons, bright with the day of splendor,
with the royal feast of feasts, comes its joy to render;
comes to glad Jerusalem, who with true affection
welcomes in unwearied strains Jesus' resurrection.
All of creation, it seems, is conspiring together to sing in a cacophony of sounds and a a riot of colors to bring laud and honor to the Queen of Seasons and the King of Creation - the Sovereigns of the Universe.
How could we not but join them?
Happy Easter everyone!
Alleluia! The Lord is risen!
The Lord is risen, indeed! Alleluia!