Friday, March 25, 2005

Time of Singing: almost Easter!

Song of Songs 2:

11 For lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone.
12 The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of singing has come,
And the voice of the turtledove
Is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree puts forth her green figs,
And the vines with the tender grapes
Give a good smell. ...

Today's, Good Friday's date is March 25, 2005; last Sunday, March 20, marked the vernal equinox; Easter is almost here!

"lo, the winter is past"... here in paradise San Diego the monsoon season with this year's horrifically destructive record-breaking deluges still hasn't quite departed, so the rain isn't quite over and gone, but this morning above the smell of fresh-turned turf I heard soft birdsongs and felt the hope of fresh wine from tender grapes...but isn't wine country somewhat north of here?

Like almost everything in the Scriptures, this text from Song of Songs is substantial and experiential; Easter is almost here! Easter received its name from the Goddess of Fertility, and we calendar Easter according to the full moon and the spring equinox. Easter and spring bring to us the sight and the smell of fresh grass, rising again to visible life; in the ancient symbol of Easter eggs we find the paradox of a world hidden within a world; we have the power of grain gathered from all the ends of the earth, planted, harvested, shaped, baked and risen into leavened Easter loaves, coming to the Table of Living Bread to which Jesus Christ welcomes us, arriving at the communion Table as a whole loaf and then sacramentally broken in response to Jesus' command to us, finally distributed, shared among us and transforming us, as in the Name of the One both Crucified and Risen we become salt, leaven and bread for the world, as with our living we claim both the cross of Good Friday and the empty tomb of Easter dawn!

During the late Middle Ages, the festival of Resurrection from the dead, Easter, as German- and English-speaking countries call it, received its name from the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of Spring, the Fertility Goddess, the Goddess of the Dawn, whose name is the almost identical-sounding Eostre, and Easter gets calendared according to the full moon and the vernal equinox. The eastern sky, where the sun of the new day rises, also takes the designation of its direction – east – from that very same Eostre, the goddess whose name comes from the Babylonian Ishtar or Astarte, from the Hebrew Esther! And at this season of new beginnings we can see the constellation Lepus, The Hare, closely associated with the moon, sitting in the sky at the feet of the hunter Orion. All of this is tangible and sensible and historical; in addition, it doesn't sound remotely religious or other-worldly!

In times before ours, people knew the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox as the fullness of the goddess Eostre's being pregnant with new life; into our world the Easter moon visibly approaches, rising to its pregnant fullness, but we know it again will disappear into the death-instilling yet strangely enough life-kindling darkness. And then, less than two calendar days from this Good Friday morning, will come the resurrection dawn of Jesus, once crucified, dead and buried, but now become the Christ, the glorious Anointed of God; now we meet Jesus Christ in power and glory, rising in fullness, then disappearing for a while from our sight, and returning again as first one and then another of us recognize him and in obedience proclaim him in word and sacrament and service and community, making a quiet blaze of Easter light and Eastered hope in our once-despairing world.

Here comes the sun! Here comes the sun, at the vernal equinox returning to reign in natural splendor over creation while the earth grows bountiful, verdant and fragrant. So, too, in the same manner comes the Easter of Christ Jesus, who despite seeming defeat on the cross of death returns reborn, freely to bestow new growth to the entire world of this earth, bringing a new and renewed season of fruitfulness, not only to our faith in the God Who surprises us with joy as His Word evokes new life from death, but also bringing the gracious gift of another fruitful season to the striving, yearning and hoping of all creation! Sometimes when we celebrate the presence of the crucified and risen Christ in the eucharist we sing:

Let us Talents and Tongues Employ

Let us talents and tongues employ,
reaching out with a shout of joy:
bread is broken, the wine is poured,
Christ is spoken and seen and heard.
Jesus lives again, earth can breathe again,
pass the Word around: loaves abound!

Christ is able to make us one,
at his table he sets the tone,
teaching people to live to bless,
love in word and in deed express.
Jesus lives again, earth can breathe again,
pass the Word around: loaves abound!

Jesus calls us in, sends us out
bearing fruit in a world of doubt,
gives us love to tell, bread to share:
God, Immanuel, everywhere!
Jesus lives again, earth can breathe again,
pass the Word around: loaves abound!

© Fred Kaan 1975

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