E Sunday, 4 April 2021 | 2 in the morning
Note by Editor Brian Greenspun: I first met my Las Vegan friend Bill Kenny in 1964. He was a student at Catholic University in Washington, DC and I was a freshman in Georgetown. It was Thanksgiving at the Mahlon Brown IIIs home. Mahlon was a law student at Howard University.
Many years have passed since the first meeting. What has not changed is my respect for Bill for so many decades now, Father Bill and his commitment to his faith, his community and his country.
I asked him and he politely agreed to write today’s Easter column. He nailed it.
Hallelujah! Christ is risen! Hallelujah! This singing is joyfully appreciated by Christians all over the world every Easter: it is a song of triumph. It celebrates the victory of Jesus Christ over Satan, sin, evil, and even death itself.
For Christians, Easter resurrection from the dead of our Lord Jesus Christ is the most important holiday on the calendar. Christmas, perhaps the most popular and most commercially celebrated holiday, commemorates the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, but birth is common to each of us. On the other hand, we believe that only Jesus is risen; he is the first to be raised from the dead, and his resurrection is a vision and a promise to all of us, as he spoke: In the house of my fathers there are many abodes. If not, would I have told you that I would prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am you may be. (John 14: 2-3)
Easter has many memories, traditions and customs over the years: wearing the most beautiful Easter ones (including that Easter cap) to church, Easter lilies, sunrise services, traditional Easter lunch, blessing of Easter foods , Easter baskets filled with candy and other goodies, the Easter bunny, Easter parades and, of course, the increasingly popular Easter egg hunt.
Easter can arrive on March 22 and later as April 25. The Easter meeting is complex and goes as far as the council of Nicea in 325; this council used the Gregorian calendar and set the following formula: Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon that occurs on or just after the spring equinox (the first day of spring). However, the Orthodox churches use the Julian calendar to determine their date of Easter causing some confusion and controversy over the true date of Easter. This year, Orthodox Easter is May 2nd.
With such a wide spread of possible dates, Easter Sunday is not always sunny and bright, as it seems it should be as it is a spring holiday. Many parts of the country have actually snowed over Easter, which could happen this year in the UK. And here in Las Vegas, we can achieve record highs in the ’90s.
I think Easter 2021 can be one of the most memorable of our lives. It may only be from Easter 2020. At the time we celebrated Easter a year ago, on April 12, Nevada like much of the nation and the world was closed, for all practical purposes. Worship houses were allowed to accommodate only 10 people and they had to keep a distance of six meters from each other. What a strange and somewhat sad Easter it was for the Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, and Christian churches in Las Vegas.
But this year, Easter will be different in a very positive way. I see the light at the end of the tunnel. With vaccinations now at the rate of more than a million a day, awaiting the achievement of this goal of herd immunity, and with the release of COVID-19 protocols, Easter will truly be a celebration of new life.
Sure, Easter has always been a celebration of new life, the resurrected life of Jesus, but I think we are all ready and excited to celebrate new life for ourselves. This new life means more people in our churches on Easter Sunday, a capacity significantly higher than a year ago. We pastors are so happy that we can see real people sitting on our floors. These washes are empty for a long time. Oh true, people in large numbers beat and watched church, synagogue, and temple services being broadcast live or pre-recorded, but that is not the same as being there in person. For Catholics, the inability to receive communion has been painful. This year, many of our parishioners will be able to partake of the Eucharistic sacrament for the first time in a month. They are enthusiastic about doing this.
I have read many near-death experiences, and one thing they all have in common, as described on Wikipedia, is a tunnel experience or entering a darkness … (and) … a rapid movement towards and / or sudden immersion in a powerful light. Well, Easter 2021 will be just such an experience: a light at the end of the tunnel. Post-COVID is approaching. A new normal is almost here. I feel it in the air.
As a Catholic priest, I have always looked forward to celebrating Easter. But this year, I’m more excited than ever. I miss our congregation so much. I look forward to seeing familiar and smiling faces once again. I stand with the women in the empty grave and my joy is almost wordless. All I can say is: Hallelujah! Christ is risen! Hallelujah!