Nine of us gathered before the break of dawn.
The word “gathered” is a bit of a stretch. Rummaged really. We rummaged around in the dark.
It is the spiritual life, mind you, this rummaging around in the dark.
The spirituality of Holy Week and Easter. Our rummaging. The darkness.
A veritable ransacking if you think about it.
Darkness and lostness. Denials and betrayals.
And fighting sleep.
Symbols of death.
Disciples who were heavy with the pull of gravity and the grave to where they could not stay awake in the garden with Jesus. Could not pull themselves out, for knowing themselves to be going down into the deep.
The story says that the women came to the tomb while it was still dark. . . (rummaging)
We want to feel it in our bones, know it in the fiber of our being, so there we are in the dark, tromping around in wet grass, bundled for cold in the wee hours of Easter Morning.
We imagine ourselves to be nearing the edge of the tomb, though a simple cold fire pit is what it actually is.
We stumble around and can’t find our stuff and whisper even though it doesn’t matter if any one hears us, it’s the instinctive behavior of operating in the dark or when something precious and holy is under way.
Brave bird-song not minding to wake up the world.
We act things out. That’s what ritual is about. We do it so we know it.
We act things out, not the full extent of the drama, but in symbol and gesture, we act it out.
We kindle new fire.
The cold dark empty echoing fire pit bursts into flame and we say:
“sanctify this new fire”, and
“The Light of Christ!”
“The Lord is Risen! Alleluia!”
“Grant that in this Paschal feast, we may so burn. . .”
The ancient church gave us a pillar candle, weighty, and worthy of leading the lot of us in procession for the whole of Easter season; their instinct that fire is the stuff of resurrection, and that we should carry it around.
The implement. The element. The power.
The uncreated light that fuels the life of the world.
So we kindle. New Fire.
Children intuitively see God in the lighting of wicks and, in fact, their inclination is to play with the flame! Our inclination is to say “be careful you might get burned!”
I think the nearness of God does burn, and I suspect that the resurrection will singe quite extensively, and I remember that story where the Holy Spirit lighted up an upper room, caught their hair on fire, and everybody suddenly spoke in different languages. What a hoot!
God in Holy Fire was playing with them!
Practicing the Resurrection is our taking up God’s invitation to play. Yes, with fire!
We played with fire. This Holy Uncreated Light.
Rummaging around in the dark and Practicing Resurrection.
In this Easter season we will lead the procession with the Paschal Candle, that tall pillar candle that we lit with the flame of the new fire before day break.
And we light our tall thin beeswax votives.
A practice of resurrection.
Our procession of resurrection.
Our ritual play.
We act it out. We want to feel it in our bones, know it in our fiber.
Flickering candles that compel us because of the flame, even if sometimes it seems just a preoccupation with the fire itself. That preoccupation is a good thing!
Recognize that fire as God,
Name it as the Light of Christ,
Carry it as your passion for God, your delight in the Holy One, your want for resurrected life and everlasting light!
This is our rummaging around in the dark for God, and bursting into flame with his Resurrection.
Lighting a simple candle: Death’s vanquishing!
and taking Christ’s victory over the grave as our own!
Playing with Fire, as is my want to do, with you,
(As an added flourish, I collected the stubs of our burned-out vigil candles from Maundy Thursday's altar of repose, and tossed them on the stack of wood as kindling. Thought you’d like to know.)
Reverend Ruth Pattison
Rev. Pattison serves the people of Highpoint Episcopal Community Church as the Parson, exercising her gifts for collaborative leadership through preaching, liturgy, and the pastoral arts.