Today is Easter, when Christians celebrate the Resurrection, the day when Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Jesus died on the cross on Friday (called Good Friday) but on Sunday he rose from the dead. Only Christians believe that this really happened, and even some of them have their doubts, like Bishop Spong. I believe it did happen.
Easter is not on the same day every year. It comes on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring – sometime in late March or early April. It falls on such a strange day because Jesus rose from the dead on the Sunday after the Jewish Passover and the Jewish calendar follows both the sun and the moon.
I celebrate Easter by going to mass the night before. The church service is a long one, but it is one of the best of the year. The church is dark while we all hold unlit candles. Then one candle is lit. Then candle lights candle till they are all lit. Holding the candles we read from Scripture and we become the crowd that wanted Jesus dead, saying things like “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Making us see that we are part of the fallen human race. Later in the story, when Jesus is risen, all the church lights come on for the first time since Friday.
There is also a mass on Sunday. If I went the night before, I do not go to this because it has nothing new except that you get to see the people who only come to church twice a year (Christmas and Easter). You can tell who they are because like tourists: they overdress and look around too much.
Some churches have a service at sunrise on Easter. I have heard that that can be quite good.
When I was a boy I belonged to one of those families that only went to church twice a year. I hated it: I would have to get dressed up in uncomfortable clothes and uncomfortable shoes. My mother and my grandmother would tell me how handsome I looked, but I was just waiting for the moment when I could take them off. Even though we only went to mass twice a year, I hated it all the same: I was already uncomfortable from my clothes but on top of that, the priest had to talk on and on and on. What could possibly be so important as all that?
Last Easter when I walked over the mountain in the morning on the way to church, I saw the geese coming home from the south, flying over my head in wave after wave. It was one of the most beautiful things I ever saw. I was coming through a very dark time in my life and it told me (since it was happening on Easter) that if I had faith there was hope. As indeed there was.