The thing about Easter, the Lenten season before it, and indeed most holidays – is that they are pretty much the same thing, year in and year out. That is not to say that’s a BAD thing, merely predictable. Ashes on the forehead. “Hallelujah” is not uttered during Lent. The Last Supper. Then Christ has died. But wait, Christ is risen? And the promise that Christ will come again?!
This year feels DIFFERENT because we didn’t get to complete the ritual in 2020. Ash Wednesday was February 26 that year. But the church was shut down on March 15, coming back in an electronic form on Facebook the following week, and continuing in some ersatz form. Initially, it was just the pastors and some prerecorded music that the choir had sung over the past decade. Then a handful of people recorded some tunes. A soloist might sing in person, and eventually a quartet.
But it wasn’t until October 2021 that the choir, all fully vaxxed, even began to begin to rehearse. For reasons of socially distancing, half the choir sang on November 28 and the others on December 12. Then we all sang on Christmas Eve. We’re back!
Or maybe we’re not. The resurgence of COVID, specifically, the Omicron variant, kept most of the choir sidelined again in January 2022. But we returned in February. On the first of spring, masks became optional. More significantly the congregation came forward to receive communion. Sitting in the choir loft, it’s one of my favorite things to watch. I might have gotten a little verklempt, though officially, I deny it. It’s probably my seasonal allergies.
At the beginning of Spring, the congregation got to sing for the first time in person in two years. They too were missing what used to be the regular way of doing things.
On April 3, we had what would have felt like a “normal” service two years earlier. The choir and the congregation sang the doxology (“praise God from all whom all blessings flow”). Wouldn’t you know, my allergies acted up again! We also sang the psalter and the communion music.
For Holy Week, more traditional activities on Maundy Thursday and Easter Sunday, albeit with the return of masks. As Joni Mitchell wrote in a very different context, “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.”
I have to imagine that those who celebrate Ramadan Mubarak, Passover, or other vernal celebrations are experiencing similar sentiments.