This morning at church we flowered the cross. It’s a tradition we’ve followed every Easter for many years and an act potent with symbolism: restoring the dead , heavy wood with the bright color and fragrance of spring. Our little family of Christ always celebrates this ritual with joy, laughter, a strengthening of our bonds to each other and our faith, but alas – this year winter ended early and Easter arrived so late. Would our gardens still hold flowers to share?
Most years by the end of worship the cross is replete with spring’s full spectrum: daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, even redbud and dogwood. And scent! On Saturday I clipped cuttings from the few azaleas that hadn’t already browned. Oh well. Make do. Such as it is.
Was it the rain we had Friday night? The cool mist Saturday morning and again today? Everyone arrived with azalea sprays bright and retaining all their freshness, every shade of pink, lavender, red, salmon. And now that we have sung and prayed and shared the message of the rock rolled back, now that we’ve each taken our turn in adorning the cross, I see a figure rise before me as I’ve never seen before.
The cross is not hidden by greenery and flowers. Not concealed. Not denied. It is enlarged, towering, perfected. More than a crucifix, it has become a presence with arms stretching out to me. To you. To any one who will see. An attitude of inviting – come, return here every time you need what you find here today. So often life is heavy, deadening. The time of blooming may seem to have passed without recognition or celebration. You may convince yourself you don’t deserve beauty; you don’t deserve renewal, forgiveness. Love. Remember this gesture and this moment – may you live each day in a house where all is good.
In the Valley of the Elwy
Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)
I remember a house where all were good
To me, God knows, deserving no such thing:
Comforting smell breathed at very entering,
Fetched fresh, as I suppose, off some sweet wood.
That cordial air made those kind people a hood
All over, as a bevy of eggs the mothering wing
Will, or mild nights the new morsels of Spring:
Why, it seemed of course; seemed of right it should.
Lovely the woods, waters, meadows, combes, vales,
All the air things wear that build this world of Wales;
Only the inmate does not correspond:
God, lover of souls, swaying considerate scales,
Complete thy creature dear O where it fails,
Being mighty a master, being a father and fond.