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  • Rev. Barbara Ballenger

Rector’s Note: Pray, Feast, Give: The Spiritual Practices of Easter- 4.13.23

How long does Easter last? For the answer, don’t look in the store aisles, which put away their Easter finery practically before the holiday happened. Don’t look to the ravaged Easter Baskets and the dwindling count of jelly beans. Don’t look to the fading flowers or the fact that the potted daffodils are getting unsightly and leggy.


Look to the tomb. It’s still empty. Listen for the Alleluia, which is again free to punctuate our prayers and liturgical songs. Savor those things that you gave up for 40 days and that have returned (I am relishing the Easter gift of a package of dry roasted, wasabi-flavored edamame from thoughtful parishioners who remembered that I gave up salty snacks for Lent!)


The Easter season is called the great 50 days – the span between Easter Sunday and Pentecost. In our Scriptures it took at least that long for the stunned followers of Jesus to get used to the idea that he had risen from the dead. They struggled with recognizing him, with understanding what his visits meant. And the surprises weren’t over. Just as Jesus was preparing to ascend out of his followers’ every-day lives, the Holy Spirit was getting ready to move in for good.


What are the spiritual practices that mark the Great 50 Days? Just as Lent made room for Easter, we can use this new season of life to make room for the coming paraclete. And we can tweak some of those familiar Lenten practices to help us get in the spirit, so to speak. I suggest that our Easter practices be to pray joyfully, feast communally and give in gratitude.


Pray Joyfully. With the return of the Alleluia we are reminded that the Easter season is a time of praise and thanksgiving. In your daily prayer, devote extra time to naming the people, life events, gifts and charisms for which you are thankful. Many of the canticles in the Book of Common Prayer, which are used during Morning Prayer, are wonderful sources for words of praise. I particularly like Canticle 13 (page 90 of the BCP) which is based on an excerpt of the “Song of the Three Young Men.” [1] It begins: Gory to you, Lord God of our fathers; you are worthy of praise; glory to you. Glory to you for the radiance of your holy name; we will praise you and highly exalt you forever. As part of my morning prayer on my drive to work, I like to riff on that form with my own version with phrases like “In my comings and my goings, Glory to You; I will praise you and highly exalt you forever.” How ever you shape it, let your Easter prayer bring forth joy and thanksgiving.


Feast communally. Lent was our time of fasting, cutting back and turning the dial down on celebrations and parties. Easter feasting might be an opportunity to get to know fellow parishioners at St. Peter’s better over cups of coffee or shared meals. How about dropping off extra bags of food to the parish Food Cupboard or putting more items in our Sunday food cupboard wagon, to share the feast with those who are still struggling to afford groceries? The early church soon became known throughout the Roman world for the uncharacteristic way they cared for people in poverty and need, as they lived out the joy of the risen Christ.


Give in gratitude. That early-church generosity was part of its year-round responsibility, although we give it particular attention in our Lenten almsgiving. We might target our Easter giving toward efforts that sustain life, help people to rise in dignity, and build up the life-giving practices and programs of our church community. On Easter Sunday we gave 10 percent of the Easter collection to Heeding God’s Call to End Gun Violence, an organization that fights the culture of death with advocacy to end the prevalence of gun violence.


Earth Day falls in the great 50 days of Easter, and invites us to give to organizations such as Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light, which raises awareness about climate change as a moral issue. Volunteering with St. Peter’s outreach programs such as the Rummage Sale and supporting Beds for Kids, allow us to celebrate the joy of community in our giving of time and treasure.


Overall these practices of praying, feasting and giving are invitations to evoke and live into the joy of the Risen Christ, and to spread that to a world that may still be waiting for some Good News. If Lent was about giving up, Easter says: don’t hold back. Practice your faith with a dance in your step and an Alleluia on your lips!


For Christ has risen indeed. Alleluia!

Blessings,

Rev. Barb

[1] The full prayer is included in the Book of Daniel (Daniel 3: 23-91) in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox bibles. It’s considered apocryphal by Protestant churches, and is sometimes included in these bibles in a separate section.


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