I have a confession to make: Easter never really excited me that much.
That’s pretty bad, considering I was raised in the church and am currently attending seminary on an ordination track, and I’ve changed my ways somewhat, but in the world of Big Christian Holidays (That Are Also Secularized), I’ve always been a Christmas gal.
Easter usually falls at a pretty meh time of year. Don’t get me wrong—spring is great. I have a spring birthday, so I’m a fan of this time of year. It’s just, at least in the more northerly climes where I’ve spent my Easters, Easter weather is never as spring-like as you want it to be. It’s still too cold for those pretty spring dresses, and it’s usually muddy to boot.
Then there’s the music. I’ll take a slow, sad song full of longing and melancholy over a triumphant aire any day. Holy Week has some baller music, especially in the Anglican tradition, and I love it. Easter music is great, too, and definitely grand, but I always feel a little twinge of regret in moving from a minor to a major key.
And then there’s the absolutely terrifying way Easter has been culturally appropriated. I don’t go nuts over the candy (and I’m sorry, but Cadbury Creme Eggs are disgusting), especially when I have to go through the annoying step of digging it out of a plastic egg. But that’s nothing compared to the Easter Bunny mythos—because a giant rabbit that comes to leave eggs and candy isn’t weird at all. David Sedaris’s “Jesus Shaves” is a fantastically funny piece that takes this absurdity into account.
Taking all this into account, is it really any wonder that I’m a Christmas gal?
And yet, if you can manage to strip away all the synthetic fur and congealed peep-batter (and deal with the happy music), there’s something about Easter that’s mysterious and grounded, something that smells like the moss that grows on a damp rock in the part of the forest that never sees direct sunlight.
A taste of this for me comes in the form of the Easter Vigil, a common service in Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran churches. It is technically the first service of Easter, and takes place between sundown on Saturday and sunrise Sunday. There’s a fire, which is always exciting, and the service begins outside and moves inside, and begins in the dark and ends in the light. There are candles and Baptismal Vows and Easter Communion, and the whole thing takes on an otherworldly sort of feel.
Really, though, the whole idea of resurrection is something of a mossy mystery—thinking about what it means for the Christian faith and, especially, what it means for how we live today. The resurrection defies human comprehension, necessitating a healthy dose of mystery and mysticism. There’s room for brass quartets and triumphal hymns, but for me these are best commingled with candle flames, holy water, and the smell of incense and lilies.
Whatever your Easter is like, I hope it is a blessed one, filled with joy and mystery.
Alissa Goudswaard Anderson (’10) lives with her husband Josh in New York City, where she is earning her Master of Divinity at General Theological Seminary. Alissa enjoys private kitchen dance parties, big Midwestern thunderstorms, and perusing other peoples’ bookshelves. For more, find her online at www.episcotheque.wordpress.com or tweet her @episcotheque.