Easter joy after the somber Lent

My Auntie Rosie posted spectacular pictures of her garden on Facebook.  Staggering beauty – flowers in full bloom, some bushes profusely crowding her garden fence, others just primmed on pots strategically placed to draw imminent admiration.  With her permission, I show a few of her pictures on this blog mainly because they make me think of Easter joy.  Gazing at them brings back memories of past glorious Easter celebrations. A few, I share here.  I cling to those memories because they give such warm joyous feelings, unmistakably reeking with sweet nostalgia.

But this week is still Lent. Sobered by the thought that the son of God, both human and divine, sacrificed and died on the cross to redeem us back for God’s kingdom.  To commemorate Lent, we enter into self-examination, a spiritual discipline aimed at humbly coming before the Lord, preparing our hearts as we meditate on the Father’s unconditional love, sending his only son, Jesus, to come down to earth and bear the burden of our sins for our redemption.  A time to bow before God, confessing our iniquities and shortcomings while trusting in His unfathomable forgiveness and compassion.  A time to take stock of our priorities and align them with the purpose given us by the almighty Father, cognizant of where our treasures lie, treasures that truly matter and count for eternity.

We dwell in all humility of spirit and contemplate the boundless mercy of God.  Before jumping to Easter joy – we need to remember what transpired before Jesus’ resurrection, the depth of His excruciating pain and agony, and ultimately his most humiliating death on a tree — in the culture of that time, the most despicable way of making a man die – and all that, because He loves us so much.

But the dawn of a new day is near, and we look eagerly to celebrating the fact that the King is alive!

Lovely pictures trigger memories of glorious Easter celebrations (Photos by Rose Manuel Cruz)

Memories of glorious Easter celebrations warm my heart.  I recall the Easter sunrise services that my husband and I attended at Frost Amphitheater of Stanford University in Palo Alto.  I excitedly looked forward to every one of those events that sleeping the night before was almost impossible.  I wanted to make sure I was up early at 5 a.m. for the short drive to campus. Though chilling a bit from the nippy early morning air, it felt like a taste of heaven, seated on blankets spread on the slopy lawn, singing glorious hymns while watching the sun rise behind towering pines lined like sentinels back of the sunken stage.  After the service, we lingered to greet friends and leisurely chatted as we partook of the coffee and doughnuts served by church groups from the Peninsula Bible Church.

When our children were very young, we attended the grandiose celebrations at Shoreline Park in Mountain View, where space could accommodate thousands of attendees.  The amphitheater vibrated with rousing music from an orchestra that accompanied voices that rang out the jubilant Handel’s Hallelujah. And when we felt like enjoying more the outdoors after the service, we drove five minutes to the lakeside for a pleasant stroll.  Looking out to the blue waters and watching wind surfers balance their colorful sails against the wind, or families paddle boating through gentle currents – it seemed like nature and the whole world was celebrating Christ’s resurrection that day. A truly triumphant day.

I remember well the picnic on the expansive grassy lawn in front of the UC Berkeley library, after a grand Easter service held at Cal’s Zellerbach auditorium by the Berkeley First Presbyterian Church.  We were invited by my son and his wife, and this was before their son (my grandson Eliott) was born.  The Easter egg hunt for the little children drew great deal of laughter from adult spectators.  Eggs were randomly scattered among the grassy blades like polka dots on the lawn.  I wondered then how many of those colored eggs would end up being trampled on or smashed by kids as they tumbled and summersaulted on the ground. The treasures were easy, quick targets even for the toddlers who unintentionally stumbled over them.  Totally delightful.

And then, there was that lively Easter morning on the backyard of our old San Jose home, when our very young son John and daughter Joy, along with their little cousin Shirley, got busy peeking behind bushes and branches for treasures that their parents, my husband and I boiled and painted the night before.  The children checked every nook of the garden, even inspected branches of the low apple tree.  Funny that we didn’t think of hiding eggs there.  Motivated by a competition to find the highest number of eggs, a serious count ensued after the hunt that resulted in all three kids getting the prizes.  Ah, where did the time go?  Those kids are grown up and married, and my son, father of an 11-year-old precious boy, my grandson Eliott who himself has gone through numerous frivolous egg hunts.

When I was a little girl of 5, I recall that Mama had to wake me up so early in the morning because I was chosen to be the angel at a community tradition held at 4 o’clock every Easter morn.  Not fully awake but dressed in long white nylon frock with wings attached to my back, I was hoisted to the top of a 20-ft. structure quickly built by the town’s men days before.  And in front of an eager crowd down below, I was very carefully lowered to dramatize the appearance of an angel as the parish priest led choir members in singing Alleluia.  Honestly, I was scared but thrilled.  The singing roused me.  But the fear of actually falling shook me wide awake.  When I was finally set gently down on the ground, I wanted to go back up again. That was my first real spectacular and impressive experience of Easter in authentic age-old tradition of an old-fashioned community in Catanduanes, Philippines.

After Lent comes Easter, a time to celebrate with joy.  With loud voices, like the clang of cymbals, we proclaim Jesus’ resurrection and victory in resounding praise – if not with our lips, with our hearts. The King is alive! 

A meaningful Lent and a joyous Easter everyone!

Linda P. Jacob