All night I laid in bed, staring at the slats of the bunk above me. ” Tomorrow is the day we have been preparing for, the day we have been fasting for, praying for, waiting for. Easter. Hope fulfilled.” Around 3:30am Kelli climbed down from the creaky top bunk and shuffled out into the common room to read. In the half room connected to ours, Julie clicked on her light and I heard her rustle through her journal for a blank page. It wasn’t long after that the Ascension House staff started making their final preparations for breakfast; slicing tomatoes and apples, washing the grapes, warming the pancakes and boiling the water. The guys set up the tables out on the porch, only the house light lit to guide them in their task. I continued to lay there with growing anticipation. Easter.
We went up to the mountain the afternoon before, to wait for the Easter Sunrise Service. We ourselves had made preparations for a big day. We had taken off the day from work, make arrangements for a place to stay, read the stories, prayed the prayers, fasted the fasts. It was all leading up to this morning, long before the sun even rose. Finally, I couldn’t lay in my bed anymore. I was up, and so was everyone else. We were quiet, respectful, but busy. Flipping on lights, setting out food, gathering candles, finding shoes and sweaters. Standing outside the chapel, its blue roof lost in the unbroken morning sky, we tried to get our bearings and figure out which way was East. The singing started. A door slammed to represent hurried excitement as the women and disciples rushed out to the tomb. Prophecies read. Hope. We lit our candles and walked in a jagged single file down the stone path to the cross. From the church grounds, through the woods, we walked silently through the stone opening that lead to the clearing. The cross stood waiting. Empty. We could see the beginnings of the morning creeping into the sleeping city below. There was no sunrise, but there was light from behind the clouds that mercifully withheld its rain. A symbol of remembrance in the form of bread and wine were passed around. Greetings of peace and joy followed.
“He is risen.”
“He is risen indeed.”
A closing prayer. The blowing out of candles no longer needed. We marched down the broken steps slick with mud to the breakfast waiting for us. The waiting has ended, because hope is here.
I think of the waiting the disciples did, with the women cooped up in a small room. Waiting for the soldiers to come and take them away. Waiting for the nightmare to be over. Waiting for word as what to do next. Waiting for the Sabbath to be over so the women could set to the sad task of preparing the body. I imagine that Mary didn’t sleep much that Saturday night either. I am sure she tossed and turned, rising well before the sun, arriving at the tomb at the first light. But her anticipation, her preparations, what she waited for, was not hope. In her sorrow, she did all she knew to do. To say goodbye. From the moment the blood and water flowed from the spear, to that very morning, Mary had been waiting to say goodbye. Then, standing outside of the empty tomb, expensive spices sitting unused on the ground, she didn’t know what to do other than to weep. In all of her waiting, had she really lost her hope?
“Mary!” Jesus exclaimed. She finally recognized him. “Teacher!” He called her by name. She recognized his voice. The oils and the spices would stay unused. They were no longer needed. All of her anticipation, all of her preparation, she was glad to abandon. Hope fulfilled.