Easter as a Verb–from THE BEST OF BEING CATHOLIC

The Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins uses easter as an active verb, asking the Risen Lord to “easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a crimson-cresseted east…” The context of the quote is important: from “The Wreck of the Deutschland,” a poem where Hopkins struggles with the news that five Franciscan nuns have drowned in a storm at sea. We who are no strangers to such disasters recognize the situation he describes: “Hope had grown grey hairs, Hope had mourning on…”

If we deny such glumness, if we’ve never seen hope clothed in black, we fail to understand why Easter is such a gift. Perhaps it is only out of dark desperation that we can turn to the Resurrection and fully appreciate the potential for Christ himself to “easter in us.” Like the clueless disciples trudging to Emmaus, we ask him, “Stay with us…” (Luke 24:29)

That is our prayer in whatever dark trench we find ourselves. If we too have lost hope, enthusiasm or even interest, it doesn’t seem to bother him. Somehow, he rekindles the dormant spark so it becomes an inner flame. He gladly joins a long walk and conversation, winding it up, typically, with a meal.

The message is kept alive by a community that walks and eats together, shares stories and stakes everything on this one wild hope. We agree with the poet Alice Meynell that our planet “bears, as chief treasure, one forsaken grave” (“Christ in the Universe”). Those who follow Jesus believe that he is our resurrection and life—not in some rosy heaven or distant future, but right here, right now.

Scripture scholar Luke Johnson explains that the Christian’s memory of Jesus is not like that of a long ago lover who died and whose short time with us is treasured. It’s rather like a lover who continues to live with the beloved in a growing, maturing relationship. Past memory is constantly affected by the continued experience of the other in the present. So the church’s memory of Jesus is affected by his continuous and powerful presence. Jesus comes to life again and again, just as he did for Mary, Peter and John that grey morning near the tomb.

Because of his life in us we can be vulnerable and weak in a world set on power and ambition. He brings intimacy to the lonely, peace to those in turmoil, strength to those weakened by illness. As he did during his life on earth, Jesus heals those in pain, welcomes those in exile, restores dignity to those in desperation, and comforts those who sorrow. He assures us all, “I created you for everlasting life. You are too precious to ever let you die. You will live forever.” For the frightened, discouraged, hesitant person in each of us, Easter spells life, love, and hope.


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