For those in the Orthodox and Coptic traditions (and a few others) Easter is celebrated a week later than other Christians. In recognition of that, some reflections on the Easter we celebrated last Sunday.
Someone in Sulzburg had a great idea, though I’m not sure how successful the execution was – but that may be because I didn’t know the songs.
The town has a newsletter that shows up in our mailbox each week. One of the items a couple of weeks ago was a suggestion for Easter Sunday morning, and everyone was asked to take part. There were directions to a couple of websites, materials to download and in theory the whole town could have taken part.
The bells of St. Cyriak church sounded at 9 a.m., a signal of joy celebrating Christ’s resurrection. Then the music was to start.
Social distancing is the rule here, just like everywhere else these days. The downloaded material was songs, sheet music and words for some favorite German Easter hymns.
The idea was that musicians would throw open their windows as the church bells faded and start to play. A socially-distanced orchestra and choir would be created to celebrate the day.
Looking at the sheet music I knew I did’t know the songs, and I was’t going to attempt to play them, but I figured if I heard the music I could sing along. So my wife and I headed out, searching for Easter.
We found it.
From an upper window in the market square we heard the sounds of a tuba. We stood underneath and tried to sing along. Not very successfully – solo tuba isn’t exactly the best for choral accompaniment. So we walked on, listening for other instruments.
In the next block there was some beautiful flute music, though we never did find the flutist. Once again though, not knowing the songs made it difficult to follow along.
Then we heard voices, singing in the distance. It sounded like they were coming from the church. They were.
As we rounded the corner we could see people gathered in the cemetery outside St. Cyriak, properly socially distanced. They were singing together. We could see the pastor was there too.
We found a spot and joined in. Songs are easier to sing when you are with people who know them.
When the hymn ended the pastor read an Easter scripture passage and led in prayer. It wasn’t the usual Easter service, but it felt like church.
In this COVID-19 era, all church services are banned, which made for a very different Easter. At a time when Christians normally would be coming together, they are staying apart for the good of society.
Yet at St. Cyriak a service happened spontaneously, respecting the space between participants. There were about 25 of us, not too close to each other physically, but united in or desire to celebrate resurrection.
After the prayer we were invited into the church, one at a time, to pick up an Easter candle to take home. The Alpha and Omega symbols a reminder of why we celebrate.
When I was in third grade (I think), I first heard about Leif Erickson and the early Viking settlements in North America around the year 1000 A.D. Back then, St. Cyriak was already an established church.
In the past thousand years I doubt there has ever been an Easter Sunday when there wasn’t an Easter service at St. Cyriak. I’m glad to have been part of it in 2020, an Easter we will all remember.