It's still Easter. Do you feel it? Is the wonder of the empty tomb still fresh? Is the shout for joy still rising up, welling over, spilling out? Are you still feeling the relief of the proclamation: "ALLELUIA"?
St. Augustine proclaimed that "The Christian should be an Alleluia from head to foot" and John Paul the Great enjoined us not to despair because "we are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song."
I've been tumbling the thought of what it means to be an Alleluia over and over in my mind this Easter season. I really, really want to get this one right. Fifty days can seem such a long time at the beginning of a resolve, but it sways by quickly in the passing of days from spring to summer, on the wings of baseball games and long days and icy treats. Before you know it, Pentecost will be waving its red banner high and I don't want to get there and be disappointed that I never quite figured it out, that I never did have my Alleluia AHA!
I need Easter badly this year. I need the hope of resurrection, the end of death's sting, and the glory of Christ risen. I need to dig down deep into the well of supernatural life that was given to me as pure gift at baptism and I need to cling with all my might to the grace of the moment. And I need to know, really know, how, despite the horror of the cross that still hangs heavy in the air, to live as an Alleluia.
I think it will take a bit of fumbling on my part. I'll undoubtedly mess it up more often than I get it right. But if by chance, desire and will and grace all happen to collide somewhere in these next few weeks, I might just get a glimpse of what it all means, the breaking of the chains that bind, the freeing of the bonds of sin and death, the healing of the wounds, and the rising, the glory of the rebirth. And a glimpse would be good. But the hope, and the challenge, that the church in Her wisdom lays out for us is to take the gift of that glimpse and turn into the spiritual work of the everyday. Mary Magdalen onl saw that angel briefly. It transformed her into an Alleluia. Thomas got to touch the heart of the Savior for only a moment. He was forevermore an Alleluia. The light shone in Saul's face for just a few minutes, but it was enough. Enough to transform, to create, to heal, to quicken the heart with the reality of the Resurrection. And then it became their life's work to live in light of that reality.
This is our life's work. It is the work of a grieving mother learning to find peace and joy in where life has her now. It is the work of a woman's heart learning to abide in grace and hope rather than fear and anxiety. It is the refusal to drink the dregs of the cup of bitterness and instead to fill the cup of gratitude to overflowing.
I've been composing a list in my prayer journal this Easter of things that make someone an "Alleluia". These are the dispositions of spirit, the heart tone I will try to set for the rest of this season, and for the rest of my sojourn on this earth. It is with purpose that I march to this wildly beating Alleluia song, it is so that I know the tune when it's my turn to sing it in chorus with all the angels and all the saints, with my saints, who wait for me in that place where Glory reigns and Alleluia is its anthem.
We had an incident in our house this Easter season that about made me come undone. It involved a kitten we brought home from my brother's house and a band of over-exuberant toddlers. Suffice it to say that the myth that cats always land on their feet is NOT true, but that whole nine lives thing, oh so true.
Here's the thing: in the moment, it was an agonizing crisis, with children crying and a mom on the verge of a panic attack and a dad sure he could not cope with one more thing. Even after it was said and done and the outcome was decidedly more cheerful than we had anticipated, I swore I would never tell anyone that story.
Less than a week later, I found myself standing in a group of homeschooling mommies who were riveted to my lively retelling of the tale of LuLu the Resurrection Kitty, and I marveled as we laughed together--as I laughed.
The crisis has passed. The moment is gone. The reality is that everything is just fine. And the sheer relief of it all is a wellspring of joy that bubbles with laughter.
Alleluias laugh at things that once were not laughable. Alleluias laugh at themselves and the sheer silliness of their own lack of faith when the truth is finally revealed. Alleluias laugh, like Sarah did, when God does something better than they could've asked or imagined. Alleluias laugh as I'm sure David did when he danced before the Lord. Alleluias laugh as I'm sure the Apostles did the evening of Pentecost when their tongues quieted and their hearts swelled.
Alleluias laugh because it is well with their souls.
Alleluias rejoice in victory rather than admitting defeat.
Today I chatted with a friend as I mopped my kitchen floor. This was one of those I've-waited-entirely-too-long kind of moppings that was testing the mettle of both me and the steam mop I was using. All the while I was mopping, my internal dialogue was me fussing at myself for being such a slob, for not working harder, for not getting the job done. I huffed into the phone as I lifted the mop to change the pad for the third time, "What does it say about my kitchen floor that I'm changing the pad on the mop for the third time?"
The voice on the other end was the voice of a friend. It was the voice of an Alleluia, and it replied, "It says that you're cleaning it."
The internal dialogue changed for the rest of that mopping session, I stopped berating myself and starting enjoying the small success of a clean floor. I worked with purpose and found satisfaction in each cleansing swipe. And I reminded myself that Jesus is a victorious Savior.
We are sinners, each of us. We each have a laundry list of failures we go to bed with each night. We examine our consciences and find ample need for mercy. But we should look to the failure list only long enough to ask and receive forgiveness. The most important moment in the day is not the fall, but the decision to rise again.
And Alleluias rise to try again. And they take with them a fresh supply of grace and mercy. And in the trying, they chant the chant of victories won and enemies slain, not the lament of defeat.
Alleluias let themselves heal.
I am facing a season in my life I have never faced before. For the first time I will have a three year old without a baby here for me to tend. It is an awful, heartbreaking truth that I wish away with great regularity. But somewhere this Easter has come the grace to embrace this season, to look forward to a summer at the pool where I can actually teach my toddler to swim, to look forward to being able to watch the whole baseball game, and to a break from diapers.
Each time I tell someone close to me about looking forward to this time I feel the need to qualify the statement, to tell them that, of course, it is not without heartache that I accept this joy. As if somehow they would actually think I was glad I didn't have my babies here. As if somehow I am betraying my little saints by enjoying the now.
Today, as I expressed that sentiment to my husband, I realized how silly I sounded trying to explain away my peace. After all, isn't peace and healing what we have prayed for, begged for? Is this gift not the promise fulfilled, the healing of my brokenness begun?
And so I have resolved to be okay with the fact that I am okay most of the time. I have resolved to allow myself to heal, and not to apologize for it. I have resolved to witness to the power of hope and faith and Resurrection, because not to do so is to cease to be an Alleluia.
Alleluias know they are beautiful now.
I spent a lot of time in my rose garden this week and it had its fair share of lessons to teach. One afternoon as I stood admiring buds and anticipating the beautiful flourish of foliage they would soon bring, I turned to find Kolbe plucking a plump red bud from its stem. "Oh Kolbe," I cried, "we have to leave the roses on the bush so they can get beautiful" Confused, he looked at the deep red encased in delicate green sepals that his hand held gently and he said, "But Momma, it is boofull, now."
The Lord spent that afternoon reminding me that while He does in fact love and desire all the potential I have for beauty and perfection and sanctity, He loves me now. Just as I am. A bud that is beautiful to His eyes right now, even still encased in all that she might become.
We find the grace to live John Paul II's exhortation to "become what (we) are" not by looking at all we were meant to be and thinking that once we get there someone will finally love us. "No, no," reminds the Shepherd who brings the little bud to bloom, it is knowing that you are loved now that you are able to ring out the Alleluia cry, and in that cry is the becoming, the opening, the flowering of your beloved soul.
Oh, how we sing. With all the power of the heavens joining in the song.
And the song goes like this: