21 Apr 2021 • From the Clergy
What a difference a year makes!
Last year I sat alone in my kitchen early on Easter Day, reading the familiar and much-loved accounts of the first Easter. The experience was both deeply moving and deeply lonely.
This year I celebrated Easter in church, with flowers, lights, music and, most importantly, people! We were still, of course, not completely back to how we'd like to be. We were still not allowed to sing, faces still had to be covered, there was still no real sharing of the Peace, and we could still receive Communion in one kind only. BUT we were together and could share in the Easter Acclamation: Christ is risen: He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
The acclamation “We are Easter people and Alleluia is our song”, has been credited to St Augustine of Hippo. Not everybody agrees that he was the origin of the phrase but that is not important. What matters now, is what is meant by the words and how do we live them out?
Easter is arguably the most important and most joyful of all Christian festivals. Without it there would be no Christian faith as we know it. Christmas becomes meaningless and festivals such as Pentecost would lose any significance in a Christian calendar. It is because of Easter that we know death to have been defeated and ourselves reconciled to God. This is the foundation on which is built our joy and hope and this joy and hope is ours always, not simply on Easter Day. Of course there are times when that joy is diminished – overshadowed by the inevitable sorrows and difficulties that are the common lot, but it remains there, a source of comfort and strength, able to sustain and support us come what may. The love that took Christ to Calvary and that empowered Him to finally defeat the power of death is given to us and, as Easter people, we are called to reflect this love to all whom we encounter.
So we are Easter people, believers who, in the words of St Paul, have died with Christ and have risen with Christ to live in and through Christ (Romans 6.5-11). This in itself is cause enough to be joyful and to raise the Alleluia shout of praise.
Whether or not he was the original author of the phrase “We are Easter people and Alleluia is our song”, St Augustine is known to have often preached about Easter and about the Easter Alleluia. He called it the believer’s defining song, the song we’ll sing forever in paradise, which is why we need to train for it now by singing it a lot on earth. It’s a song we don’t even have to voice. As long as we live justly, Augustine says, our lives will sing it for us.When we sing “Alleluia” into the world, we invite everyone who hears it into that same hope, that same love, that same new life: We are Easter people, and Alleluia is our song.
But let’s be honest. We don’t always feel like Easter people. We don’t always feel like singing. When a brutal winter leaves us grumpy and exhausted; when an illness knocks the hope out of us; when the human mayhem and natural disaster we read about in the headlines shocks and depresses us, we find ourselves asking, Where’s Easter in all this? How can I or anyone else, sing ‘Alleluia’ in the midst of all the suffering and sorrow that is in the world? 1
And yet it is precisely in the midst of the sorrow and the pain of the world that God’s Easter people can sing their Alleluia song; because we know that however bad things may be, in the end good will overcome evil because God has already done so. Kate Layzer writes:
Easter always comes like this—in the midst of tears. We just might sing our purest Alleluias in the grave, in the ruins, in our pain, from the place of our most honest questions. It’s not a matter of more faith or better faith. Please don’t wait for perfect faith to sing an Alleluia. Just sing one wherever you are with whatever you’ve got.
Anybody can sing in the sun. When we sing in the deluge, when we refuse to stop singing no matter how bad it gets, when we choke out the song of life through tears, that’s when—that’s precisely how—the world knows that Easter is true. 2
1 Sicut Locutus Est – accessed online
2 Kate Layzer- Easter Sermon 2008. Accessed online.