As Easter approaches in a global pandemic, when can we sing Alleluia?

Contributing Columnist

As Easter approaches in this overwhelming pandemic, when can we sing Alleluia?

On one level, the answer is simple: Constantly. That’s a timeless truth. A few weeks ago, I checked in with ReadTheSpirit from my risky perch with my wife in a senior community not far from Washington D.C. That column was shared far and wide around the world, because it told the story of hymn-writer Martin Rinkert’s astonishing affirmation that thankfulness is a powerful antidote to fear.

As Passover, Easter and Ramadan all are looming, now, it’s time to remind Christians that we have a special perspective on this process of denial, separation, reconciliation and eventual celebration. For many centuries, we have a week-long pilgrimage known as Holy Week that prepares us for Easter’s Alleluia.

In addition to my general work as a teacher and an author of books like, Guide for Caregivers, I continue to share in Christian ministry as invitations arrive and the Spirit moves me. I wrote the following poetic, prayerful meditation on the traditional Christian journey of Holy Week. AND PLEASE NOTE: Today, we are giving readers permission to use and copy and share this text, if you find it helpful. All we ask is that you properly credit my name and In Love with the Life of Life: Daily readings for Lent and Holy Week by Wild Goose Publications as the original source.

When Can We Sing Alleluia?

is sung in Lent.

Instead, we proclaim:
“Return even now,” says the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart, with fasting,
and with mourning; and rend your hearts
and not your garments.”
Return to the Lord, your God, for he is
gracious and merciful,
slow to anger,
and abounding in steadfast love.

We are not convinced.

On Thursday
We sing no Alleluias.
Instead we beg, bargain, confess, cajole, lament,
tremble in fear, hope beyond hope,
get down on our knees,
crawl to the table—
Share a meal,
and memories and hopes and angers,
even a few laughs
to cover the dread and to quiet the cavern of fear
in the ocean of dark death and loss!

Friday comes.
We sing no Alleluias.
How can the world suffer such cruelty and loss?
Tacked to a tree!
Man’s cruelty knows no bounds!
We are swallowed by chaos, confusion, loss.
Not willing to face the loss and grief we walk
seven miles to Nokesville or Smithwich or
Emmaus—any nowhere—
just some where away from the loss.
We sing no alleluias tonight
because we have seen with our own eyes that all is lost.
Our ears are shut to hopeful invitations.

Saturday comes.
We sing no Alleluias on this day either.
What is there to do this day
but to fill time, in the meantime?
To escape Friday’s great “NO!”
Saturday is in the meantime,
to be filled with shopping, sweeping, fixing leaks, having sex,
viewing action movies to cover our boredom, drinking—
getting through the day
to cover flat emptiness of time without meaning.
Saturday is the show stopper alright!
But not in a good way.
It’s the day when it dawns on us that we have no hope;
No hope for undoing what has happened.
Saturday can last a lifeless lifetime,
or cut a let-down life short—
seducing us into making a violent, premature exit.
A choice must be made.
Saturday is the day to face and move
from Grief to Mourning—the only way to reach Sunday’s great “YES!

It is the only way to get to the morning sunrise—
We can mourn what we have lost,
to face the fact of life’s aches and limitations,
and heave loud sobs—the only language our hearts now speak.
Only those who fully enter the dark and uncertain terrain called “NO!
can find their way home again to “YES!”
To our God,
Gracious and
Merciful and abounding in steadfast love.

Only then,
Can we sing
on Easter Morn!

Benjamin Pratt, published in magazine.


Care to Learn More?

Wild Goose Publications, Glasgow, Scotland, is the literary voice of the Iona Community, the guardian and purveyor of Celtic Christianity which promotes peace, reconciliation and compassion worldwide. Wild Goose is under the leadership of author and editor Neil Paynter, and author and contributing editor, Ruth Burgess.
How did I get included in four publications from Wild Goose? My only answer is that I was pulled toward the opportunity by an angel, a spiritual power which opened a door, and I risked walking in. Neil Paynter was planning a book of remembrance on World War One’s 100th anniversary when I was invited to write prayers related to that war. Did they think I am older than I am?  We Will Seek Peace and Pursue It: Reflections and Prayers For Peace and Reconciliation (2015) included two prayers I crafted. Winter: Liturgical resources for November, December and January, (2016) edited by Ruth Burgess included one of my poems. Fig Trees and Furnaces: Biblical stories, scripts and reflections, Esther to Maccabees (2018) edited by Ruth Burgess includes my reflection on Psalm 42:7. In love with the Life of Life: Daily readings for Lent and Holy Week (2020), edited by Neil Paynter, included the poem above. I continue to live with amazement, joy and deep gratitude to Neil and Ruth.
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