When ‘Alleluia’ Is Not Our Song


6 Apr 2016
It is Easter! (well, it was Easter three weeks ago and we are still in the Easter season.)
Easter is that season where ‘Alleluias’ are plenty, where the dazzling figure of a levitating Christ, shows his open but bloodless wounds across churches.
And why wouldn’t we celebrate? It is all so bright and joyous! Soon enough we will go back to the tried roads of ordinary time, when we go back to having God in heaven, death below and us wandering somewhere in the middle.
For those early Christians, ‘rejoicing’ was just a turn of phrase.
It was simply a greeting before they had to turn to other topics like the slaughter of the first martyrs, the rumours of ambushes from the Jews, finding their brother in prison, or another beaten up. There were the countless sleepless nights expecting their doors to be broken down. There was the death of Stephen and the scourge of Saul who was after them. It was a dark time to celebrate.
Actually, it is like our time, really. Yet, in Australia we get to sing out our ‘Alleluias’ at the top of our voice. We can light candles to our hearts’ content and go on about the joy of Easter, the hope of resurrection and the spices or even chocolate frosting on our hot cross buns. ‘Alleluia’ can easily be our song.
In Syria a Christian is merely rejoicing that the night has come and gone, and her head still rests above her shoulders.
An Afghan Christian is lighting up a candle for the funeral of his brother, killed in combat.
A Nigerian Christian child is struggling to find the ‘water flowing from the temple, on it’s right hand side’.
A Colombian Christian farmer is being forced to leave his lands by a masked, armed man, and embark on the long journey to the promised land of the city, where poverty and unemployment flow like milk and honey.
A Christian woman in Palmyra cannot find the corpse of her child amongst the rubble to embalm it. A Belgian Christian cannot be found amongst the dead.
These are Easter people, yet ‘Alleluia’ is not their song. The way of the cross is their song.
But it’s Easter, right? Time to rejoice and be glad!
I could give an emphatic ‘no!’.
I could say ‘it is not time to celebrate! The death, poverty and misery of this day and age’s reality allows no joy!’
And this would be a just answer.
But the truth is, it’s Easter! Here and now, then and there, Eastertide washes upon us. Right now, in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Colombia, Belgium and Australia, people who are covered in the darkest shroud of misery and desperation, still find a reason to exchange that ‘rejoice!’, however hushed.
They still somehow find the courage and the power to draw the sign of the cross over their chests every morning, they still find that spark of hope which is Christ amongst the rubble of their lives.
Audrey Assad’s powerful song Even unto death speaks of hope in death and in Christ. It is a powerful reflection for Easter. It was written after she watched a YouTube clip of the Islamic State executing some Egyptian Coptic Christians.
Profoundly moved by what she saw (she was unable to watch the whole thing) the haunting words ‘Lover of my soul, even unto death, with my every breath, I will love you’ escaped her pen.
So, today, in peace or turmoil, it is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad!
Susannah Bishop is a Canberra-based writer.
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