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Easter Dawn

Since this article published in 2007, the  world has seen many changes. But the cosmic sweep of the Easter event highlighted by the morning sky permanently endures.

Dawn, the Church tells us, is the tranquil hour before the cares of the earth rush in. At 5 AM the winds from the Pacific are calm, the world is at rest, with the only movement the votive lamps of truckers and travelers far off on the Interstate.  Monday of Holy Week began cloudy. It was announced that a political candidate had raised $26 million dollars. The Miss America Contest was homeless. Violence slightly ebbed in the Iraqi capital. Somewhere sleepy-eyed monks are reciting Lauds to welcome God’s new day. The divide between the spiritual and the secular world is no greater than the cleavage within us of heart, hands and mind.

Sunrise over the Rogue Valley: The tranquil hour before the cares of the earth rush in.

Tuesday April 3. The sky was overcast; there was no sunrise. The news of the morning reported that major league baseball still had no woman umpires. The Czech president declared environmentalism to be as bad as communism. In Iran, leaders demanded an apology from Great Britain for crossing into its waters. That this had been the night of the full moon passed un-remarked.  Yet the event of Easter is pinioned on the first Sunday, after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. Without my cell phone I might not know what day it is, yet for two thousand years the Church has tended time like a garden.

Wednesday crept into the Rogue Valley with the day in a gray mood. Somewhere a priest prays a candle-lit altar: “Deliver us from evil…in your mercy keep us free from sin, protect us from all anxiety.”  But the world has brought no solace. The severed head of a terrorist had been shipped to Washington from Kabul for reward money. Population growth increased in the poorer countries of the world. There were deaths in Baghdad.

Thursday, the 5th of April arrived. It is Holy Thursday, the day of Christ’s last meal with his disciples and his agony in the garden. But the world, like a cat incessantly scratching at a screen door, demands to be let in:  fifteen freed British sailors landed at Heathrow Airport in London. HIV infection rates increased in New York City. I remind myself to attend the evening service. Would that my faith were as steadfast as that of the Church.

Good Friday dawned clear and calm. The fact that I will not be able to attend the day’s liturgy commemorating the agony and death of Christ has left me with a feeling that I am not caring for the important things.  Once again the sun rose two minutes earlier than on the previous day. The world’s unsteady drumbeat continued: chlorine gas was used to kill Iraqi policemen; a fired social worker defrauded a bank of $3.6 million to pay for the jewelry bought on TV. Researchers predicted a new Dust Bowl in the Southwest by 2050.

Saturday began with rainspouts dripping in the darkness. It was reported that in Rome and Jerusalem thousands of pilgrims have arrived for the Easter services. In cities and town around the world, churches have become tombs with their altars stripped and tabernacle lamps extinguished. A river in Quebec was turned red by an environmental spill. Deaths are recorded in the Middle East and in Darfur. I looked forward to the evening service where a sorrowing Church with a single flame initiates the Easter celebration by asking God to “illumine us with new hope” and “dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.”

Sunday. At 5 AM a great symphony had already begun. Twin streamers of high cloud, running north south across the valley caught the dawns first light and refracted it back into the atmosphere to give the early sky a peculiar blue-gray tinge. Setting aside books and computer, I am held spellbound. By 5:30 the dull mass of the Cascade Range stretching across the horizon was illumined by a roseate glow, and as the dawn came on the color palate on the horizon shifted from ochre to a light peach to a brown before sliding imperceptibly into a faint but ever intensifying blue.  High above Mount McLoughlin the twin swaths of cloud became luminescent gold turning to brilliant orange. The sky glowed like sunlit water. I thought of the young man sitting at the empty tomb whose countenance was like lightning and his raiment like the snow, and remember the words of the psalmist: “Lord you are clothed with majesty and glory and robed in light…. You have brightened the night with the radiance of your risen Son.” Daylight had broken in a kaleidoscope of gold, pink and violet hues befitting the event in which the infinity of God fixed itself once and for all in human time. And for that single blessed moment, I was wholly one with the Church.

Resurrexit!