Pastels – Pastor’s Reflection
Our publication deadlines demand that I write bulletin letters ten days early. In these days of pandemic that is a much longer time lag than usual. Last week’s Palm Sunday letter was obsolete days before the bulletin arrived from the printer. So I have decided to write two letters, one for the bulletin and one for our daily parish email. This will allow me to address two aspects of this year’s Easter mystery. First, there is the wistfulness of this day: we might want to spend time with how Easter usually is. Secondly, there is the contemplation of the promise of resurrection in light of this death dealing moment in time. I hope the letter from 2018, printed below, will facilitate reverie, and that the letter in the email will help you face our circumstances in faith.
Color is the language of Easter. Just think of how this feast revels in its own palette. The eggs we paint, the outfits we don, the flowers we arrange, and even the candy we devour, all sport the light, crisp shades that speak spring to the heart. Remember that at Christmas we relished red, green, and gold opulence, but now we are far from such imperial trappings. Here we are, loving mint green and peppermint pink. Are your eyes not feasting on the buttercup yellows with their foils of lavender and hydrangea blue? Wouldn’t you also like to throw a little sherbet orange into the mix. Perhaps it’s the flowers of Spring that teach us how to dress our image of the true feast of feasts.
At any time of year our colors make an assertion, even if we do not intend it. Somehow we use Easter’s range of shades to assert life at Winter’s end. But perhaps with these colors we assert more about life than we realize. For a few days we swath ourselves in these pastels and go for brunch, and then many of us put them away to resume raiment of more sophisticated reserve, daring intensity, or perhaps edgy minimalism. But as the cycle of the year moves on where do Easter’s colors remain but among children?
For a glimpse of Easter in July or December visit the nursery or the nursery school, or behold what the little ones wear when they are dressed up for presentation. It’s all straight from the Easter basket. Why? We array our children in Easter colors all year long, but we also array ourselves in children’s colors at Easter because for us these are the hues of innocence.
Some colors seduce and others enliven. Some shades impress and others soothe. Some tints pack heat, while still others offer a long cool drink. Easter’s colors are too fresh to have any such agenda. Where Beaujolais stands among wines, so these colors stand, in the place of sheer freshness, on the arc of the spectrum. When the colors have a cocktail party the pastels are the little kids sent in to be smiled at and then sent to bed. We say they are pretty and mean that they are not more than pretty. But have we reckoned with the power of pretty, the compelling appeal of innocence.
Most of us link innocence with loss. We may have lost it by being hurt, or by making a compromise with life, and so we carry suspicion and calculation as grey baggage that is never checked. We also presume that mature and interesting people have left innocence behind, and that the powerful and political have long discarded it. Even so, we will do anything possible to preserve it in children. We want for them a life that is far from the violence of guns, but also from the violence of manipulation. We do not want them to be hurt, or to respond to being hurt by becoming violent or manipulative themselves. How much this means to us became clear in our horror at the intrusion of violence into our schools, and in our amazement at the eloquence and gravitas of the students’ own reaction. They have spoken to us with the power of innocence. They have come before us without any ulterior in their agenda, and so they compel our attention.
Perhaps they can help us grasp Easter this year. For Easter makes the astounding promise that what we crave for kids can be ours again.
Jesus lived among us and died before us in innocence. He is the adult who never outgrew the child. Through this “narrow way” he enters eternity. Eternal life is not being allowed into God’s presence, it means being comfortable there. God and the humanity of Jesus delight in each other’s innocence, and here lies the unceasing joy of the resurrected life. Being perfect, that mutual delight does not exclude, and so from the resurrected communion of God and Man the Holy Spirit comes to us and the sacramental life is established among us as the road back to innocence.
Baptism and Eucharist, Confession and the Sacrament of the Sick work in concert to give us the Risen life of Jesus as a platform for living in the world without violence or manipulation, and for walking in this time as an innocent adult. Those who let this work become reliable friends in love and marriage, in work and play. They live without life’s greeds because they possess the security of a home in God that cannot be taken away. Their beauty compels because we can see straight through to its source. Those touched by Easter are the are the bright fresh color in the room, relishing all the other bright fresh colors in a life beyond envy and comparison.
You may well smile at the forgoing, but face it; this is what you want for yourself. This desire has brought you to church on this Easter Day and prompted you to pick up this bulletin. It prompted me to labor over these lines. You and I both know who is the Giver of this desire, and who has provided the means for realizing it.
Now is the time to lay hold of Christ’s Easter gifts for ourselves and for others. Even as Spring begins our world is grey with worry and needs the Easter color that can be ever fresh in us and among us.
Published in our bulletin April 12, 2020