By Michelle Francl-Donnay
Every tongue proclaim to the glory of God the Father: Jesus Christ is Lord! – Philippians 2:11
“707, 427, 440,” Father Tony rumbles, thumbing through the breviary and calling out the page numbers for Morning Prayer. “It’s still Sunday.” It is the fourth day of the octave, the eight days the Church devotes to this great feast, a week of Sundays following the Sunday. Father Tony, like most of us gathered, has other places to be by 9 a.m. The sooner we are all on the same page, the sooner we can be out the door.
After the thundering glory of Easter’s liturgies, it’s always a wonder to me that these workday Sundays do not feel more awkward than they do. I’m lugging a tote bag overflowing with papers to grade, lectures and meetings are twined around my calendar like invasive vines, yet for these few minutes of my day, alleluias arise and resound from the walls. Garbed to toil in the kitchen, suddenly I am pulled into the feast as a guest. For me, at least, this week of Sundays is a swirling mix of expectations and hospitality, of sacred and secular.
I wonder what the first days after the resurrection must have been like for the disciples. Confusing, I imagine. Terrifying, I am certain. But Jesus comes again and again to them, opening doors that remained locked even by those who saw Him and believed, offering bread and fish and gentle humor. The Church echoes this hospitality, allowing us to soak again and again in these Easter mysteries.
In the midst of these warm invitations to rejoice, to join in the great feast, to know our redemption, there are other invitations being extended, harder questions being asked. The same questions that those first disciples must have asked themselves run through my mind. Jesus was gone from the tomb, where should I look for Him now? He has risen from the dead, how does this change what I have to do today? I suspect many of the disciples were as torn between the demands of the everyday and the intensity of the events of the previous days, as I am now.
Every time I see this passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians my mind, conditioned by modern email etiquette to read all caps as a shout, turns up the volume, like the DJ at a raucous party. Yet the very next line reminds me “God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Easter Sunday trumpets He is Lord, but in these quieter octave days it murmurs: feed the hungry, heal the sick, let the Word be heard through all the Earth.
This year the flowering trees came into their glory for Easter and already they are giving way to a faint haze of new green leaves. No longer distracted by the brilliant hues adorning bare branches, we see again the winter’s detritus – the dead foliage and old leaves, the bits of trash blown into the garden by winter winds. The first triumphant beauty has faded, leaving a gentler growth in its wake, one that calls us to weed and clean, to tend what has been planted, in expectation of a yet greater glory to come in the summer.
What are we tending now that was planted in Lent and set its fruit in the burgeoning triumph of Easter? Can I sing alleluia, rejoice, and be glad – and get out the door to work in the vineyards before 9? I trust that God is at work in us all.
This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad, alleluia. – Response to the readings in the Liturgy of the Hours for the octave of Easter
Michelle Francl-Donnay is a member of Our Mother of Good Counsel Parish in Bryn Mawr. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.