The Hope of Easter

The Rev. Nicole Simopoulos-Pigato, Bishop's Chaplain

The last three days of Holy Week are known in the Church as the Paschal Triduum. They begin with the remembrance of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, move through the darkness of Good Friday, and culminate with the Easter Vigil on Saturday night and Resurrection Sunday.  These three days have never before so deeply moved me.  

We’ve experienced these days from what The Rev. Canon Dana Colley Corsello at Washington National Cathedral called “the entombment of our own homes,” and the disorientation, fear, anxiety, grief and suffering of those caught up in Jesus’ last days that first Holy Week have mirrored in a very real way our own state of disorientation, fear, loss and uncertainty.  As I heard the 2,000 year-old stories told again, I was reminded of just how powerful they are, and I’m deeply grateful for the relevance, meaning, guidance and hope they speak into our lives today.  

I participated in these three days by joining Washington National Cathedral’s livestream services, and I commend these to you for your own spiritual journey and grounding in the uncertain times.  

On Maundy Thursday, the Rev. Canon Jan Naylor Cope recalled Jesus’ last words to his disciples.  Knowing that their whole world would be turned upside down in just a few hours, Jesus wanted to equip them with what they’d need to come out on the other side, whole and hopeful.  He reminded them that they would never be alone, that the Holy Spirit would be with them to encourage, strengthen, guide and comfort them to the end of the ages. He reminded them to love one another as he had loved them.  His love was deep, radical, self-sacrificing, and never-ending. He washed their feet, demonstrating the kind of love the world so desperately needed then, and still needs today. Maundy Thursday, Canon Cope said, is a story of transition from discipleship (being a follower or student of Jesus) to apostleship, becoming one who would bear witness to the resurrection and carry the story of God’s hope, light and love for generations to come. Maundy Thursday invites us, 2,000 years later, to transition from disciples to apostles, and to bear witness to Love in the world. 

On Good Friday, the Rev. Canon Dana Colley Corsello invited us to enter into the last hours of Jesus’ life: to be present at the foot of the cross, to witness what Mary and the other women saw, to experience the darkness and despair that Jesus’ closest companions experienced.  When all has been stripped away, when our lives have been stifled and suffocated, when all we know for certain is the uncertainty of the future, this is when we can live most authentically the hope of our faith. It is in these times, she says, that we are invited to take nothing for granted, to remember that we are not alone, to pray for patience, and to never allow the dark side of grief, anxiety or fear to define us but, rather, to allow the merciful, healing love that emanates from the cross to give us the courage to face life as it unravels before our very eyes. The adventure ahead of us, she says, is not dark but light. God holds us each in his heart, and because of this promise, new life and a healed heart are what is most certain.  

On Easter Sunday, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry reminded us that love is what endures, that light shines in the darkness, and hope overcomes despair.  “Love,” he says, “can’t change the fact of death but love can live through it and thereby defeat it.” Pope Francis, in his Easter Vigil sermon, echoed the same truth, reminding us that because of the resurrection of Jesus, “we acquire a fundamental right that can never be taken from us:  the right to hope. It is a new and living hope that comes from God. It is not mere optimism; it is not a pat on the back or an empty word of encouragement. It is a gift from heaven.” 
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