Leaving a school function last Friday (you may recall that it was Good Friday), a well-meaning and thoughtful teacher greeted everyone at the door with a hearty, broadly-smiling “Happy Easter.” I thought: Well, no– not yet. That’s not what time it is. Today is a day we remember an agony, an abandonment, and a death.
That teacher could have been me 20 years ago, so I did not feel indignant or offended. What I did feel, was an acute sense of incongruity, and the collision of different worlds: the world of the Bunny who has been in stores since Valentines Day, and the world of Jesus, whose followers have been preparing for the Feast of Resurrection since Ash Wednesday.
What is happening to the time preceding Easter– and Easter’s Christmas-ification– are the clearest signs of how Christian practice is being swallowed by the culture of commerce, limitlessness, and frenetic death-denial. That is not said in a spirit of hand-wringing; nor is it a scold. It is merely an observation.
The happiness of a Happy Easter is of a special kind. It’s a happiness– joy is a better word– beyond what words can say; a joy that lives in the same place as our deepest feelings of belonging, and of being loved. This joy comes with a price: the requirement to descend into darkness and abandonment. There is no light without the dark; no dawn without the midnight. Easter might be a lovely spring day without Good Friday, but it is not joyful in the way that followers of Jesus know that particular joy.
This world– beautiful and good as it is– cannot give such joy.