St. Timothy's has experienced two funerals in the last eight days. In the very beginning of our Lenten observance, we have already twice done away with our fast from Alleluia, the somber purple vestments of Lent, and the penitential character of the Lenten liturgies. For these two times, we have stood in the radiance of the Resurrected Christ, in the splendor of Easter even while making our way through the Great Fast. It can be a bit jarring for some, but it serves as a valuable reminder of a deep truth.
The Funeral Liturgy is always an Easter Liturgy. There is never a time when the message of Resurrection at the burial of a Christian should be put aside. Though we fast from the jubilation of Easter during this season, even the Lenten Sundays are not used in reckoning the length of Lent: they are Sundays in Lent -- not Sundays of Lent. That is a small but key difference! Sunday, like the Burial Liturgy, is always a celebration of the Resurrection. Though Lent tempers this, it remains an unalterable fact of the Faith: Life and Redemption are God's final word to us. The hope and power of Christ the Victor shines through, inspiring us and leading us to live lives worthy of our calling.
The triumph of Christ is a non-negotiable fact in the Christian's life, just as is the suffering on the Cross. The Love and Redemption made known in both places puts the Christian firmly in the hands of God. Jesus promises us that where He goes, His faithful disciples will follow. This means indeed we will go to the Cross with Him, taking up our own cross and following along. It also means that faithful discipleship will bring us to union with God through Christ. Nothing, not even Lent, can deny this... save one thing. We, and we alone, can deny ourselves this gift and joy. As the Burial Liturgy puts it: "Though we go down to the dust, even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia."Whether we sing this song or another is up to us; whether others will learn this song by association with us is also up to us. A Lenten burial, especially on a sunny, warm, dry February day in the Willamette Valley, reminds us of this fact.
Our Lenten observance is not a time to impose an artificial sorrow for sins we were happy to commit and will commit again when opportunity arises. It is a season of joyful return to the song that is always ours, the melody of redemption, humility, service, and love which belongs to us because Christ has given it to us. Let us sing it with the souls of those gone before us into the Kingdom of God; let the Truth of Easter be with us always, especially in this Holy Lenten season.