by Sr. Jo Anne Kelly MMM Ireland 09.04.2023
In today’s gospel, Mary is at the tomb weeping. Jesus’ tomb is empty. He has risen. When she does meet Him, He tells her she must not cling to Him -to how things were. Something new has happened.
While reading this, it somehow reminded me of an Easter night in our Leprosy village church years ago. I had spent time on Holy Saturday with the young people, preparing the church for the Easter Vigil, cleaning and decorating. Very few flowers were available as it was close to the end of a long dry season.
However that had advantages when it came to preparing the Paschal Fire. There was ample dry sticks and branches. It was not just a fire, we had a huge bonfire with flames and sparks flying into the night sky. We gathered just after dark, patients, staff, neighbours and lots of children. A long stick into the fire brought a good blaze to the Paschal candle and from there we all lit our own candles.
The prayers finished and ,just as we started to move to the church, we heard a rustle in the trees, a sure sign of a tropical storm. Suddenly all candles were blown out and there was almost a stampede into the church. Most got in before the rain started. Our church had no ceiling and the heavy rain pounding on the pan roof made it almost impossible to hear anything. However candles were relighted and the procession continued. After the last ”Lumen Christi” (Light of Christ) was sung all lights were switched on but just then there was a clap of thunder and flashes of lighting and the lights were gone again.
Nearly all of us had come on foot. There was no knowing how long this storm would last and nobody was going anywhere till it was over.
Our priest, whom I will call Fr. Mike, was undaunted. He had a strong voice and he used it to the full. He began the Mass. We heard nothing of the Readings as the voices were not strong but for the Psalm, Fr. Mike intoned a psalm we all knew and we sang with gusto. The choir had practiced some new Easter Hymns and new tunes for parts of the Mass but from then on they abandoned their new tunes and sang what was familiar so the whole congregation could join. We even had a long homily, of which I heard nothing but it, too, had a familiar Easter chorus every now and again and lots of Alleluias.
At the offertory, line by line, we moved up with our offering, dancing, swaying and singing in full voice – a very joyous procession.I was particularly moved when, just after the Consecration, Fr. Mike lifted up the Sacred Host and the Chalice and we had a long silence, gazing, as the storm pounded above us and around us. It was a sacred moment – acknowledging what we were really about.
After more than two hours Mass came to an end. Our priest tried his best to wish us a Happy Easter and as he was doing so, suddenly the rain stopped just as it had started. The congregation stood and clapped and sang as the choir started a hymn of thanksgiving. Even the small children, who slept through the storm, woke up with the excitement. It was wonderful.
We came out into the night to a freshness that can only be experienced after the first rains. Something new was happening. As we trudged home through the mud and the water I felt we had truly celebrated our Risen Lord and the blessing of rain that He brought. It was time for new growth, new life.