Although the Sunday after Easter has traditionally been called “low Sunday,” the liturgical calendar of the church calls the time between Easter and Pentecost “Eastertide.” The use of the coastline image in naming the season suggests that Easter is not as much like one big wave hitting the shore as it is like a tide that for a period of time affects the whole coastline.
There are several books that for me underscore Eastertide’s message that Easter is not only about God in Christ overcoming death, it is also about spring’s revelation of God’s presence among us in the wonder of this world. One little book that has been particularly helpful to me in recognizing this, not just at Easter but in all of life, is 100 Ways to Keep the Soul Alive by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat. An example of the kind of things that are in the book is this quotation from Lawrence Kushner’s God Was in This Place and I Did Not Know: “There is another world right here within this one, whenever we pay attention.”
Three books written by an English theologian, Nicholas Lash, particularly focus on Easter’s message for keeping the soul alive. The first is Theology on Dover Beach. The second is Theology on the Way to Emmaus, and the third is Easter in Ordinary. Theology on Dover Beach is a response to a 19th century poem by Matthew Arnold that describes the depressing view of the sea from the Dover coast as a symbol of the meaninglessness of life. A response to such meaninglessness, according to Lash, is where theology belongs.
Then, in moving to a biblical story and symbol, Theology on the Way to Emmaus suggests that the meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection is most likely to be discovered after Easter in the ordinary events of life, like the disciples’ walk to Emmaus. Lash’s message in Easter in Ordinary pulls together words from 17th century English poet, George Herbert, and the 19th century’s Gerard Manley Hopkins, both speaking of prayer. Herbert describes prayer as “heaven in
ordinaire. . . God’s breath in man returning to his birth, the soul in paraphrase.” Hopkin’s way of talking about prayer is significant to Lash in the way he uses Easter as a verb: “Let him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness in us.”
Easter is not so much a wave as a tide in which we are challenged to pray that the Christ will “easter in us.” Easter is not really over.
Rev. Dr. John Patton is a retired clergy member of the North Georgia Annual Conference and Professor of Pastoral Theology Emeritus, Columbia Theological Seminary. He and his family are long-time members of Glenn.