I attended a glorious Easter Day celebration at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. It was full to overflowing. The music was outstanding. Judy Collins sang. Paul Winter played. A thought-provoking sermon was preached. The body and blood of Christ were received.
All of that, to tell you the truth, I expected, although it may actually have exceeded my already high expectations. And although those things hinted at the glory of Jesus’ triumph over death, the full glory of Easter came for me in the procession at the beginning of the service.
The clergy—deacons, priests, and bishops—came close to the end. At the very end were my dear friends, Andrew Dietsche, the Bishop of New York, and just in front of him, Bishop Dan Daniel, the Interim Dean of the Cathedral.
I was seated in the Great Choir, at the west end, near the Dean’s stall. Dan’s children and grandchildren were seated on the row in front of me. I had been enjoying watching them.
Then the best part. When Dan got to that point, the grandchildren got excited and started to wave. He waved back. And then the older ones slipped away from their parents and out of the pew to embrace their granddaddy. They did not return. They took their seats with him in the Dean’s stall, one on his lap and another playing on the floor.
And suddenly the true glory of it all was revealed. The new life was made visible. The love was tangible. That is what Easter is about.
For those of us in the northern hemisphere at least the meaning of Easter is intertwined with the season of spring and the Earth’s returning fruitfulness.
Now the green blade riseth
from the buried grain,
wheat that in dark earth many days has lain;
love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.
(John Macleod Campbell Crum; Hymnal 204)
Can the rising green blade be better understood than in a child, particularly in this time of early spring, than a baby? Can there be any greater reminder of God’s eternal provision of love than that between grandchild and grandparent. Love from generation to generation to generation, immortal as God’s eternal promise.
I saw it beautifully displayed in my friend and his beloveds yesterday. I learned it, though, from Sophie, my own grandchild, who was at the very hour I saw Dan with his grandchildren, herself on her way to visit her grandparents’ home, the incarnate reminder of the ever-newness of God’s creation.
It is from her that I learned what Easter hope truly means in the depths of its mystery. Sophie bears witness to love. She is loved with the whole hearts of many. She herself is learning to love day by day. Love begets love. It is ever new. As it is, hope is restored. Life is refreshed. God lives. I’ve come to believe being a grandparent makes that easier to see than it has ever been.
And that, I think, is the glory of God. Gloria in excelsis!
Bishop Stacy Sauls
Founder and President
Love Must Act