It’s Easter Week, or the Octave (eight days) of Easter, or Bright Week — so called because in the early church, those who had been baptized at the Easter Vigil and clothed in white garments would continue to wear those white garments all week, as they continued to be instructed in the faith, now that they had received the Holy Spirit.
As part of my Lenten and now Easter observance, I’ve been praying the Liturgy of the Hours using the excellent People’s Companion to the Breviary. During Lent, it sensitized me to Sunday, the Lord’s Day, as a day of praise: the psalms to be prayed on Sundays during the four week breviary cycle are noticeably praise psalms, especially the morning psalms.
And this week, all week, we are praying the same Sunday psalms that we prayed on Easter, over and over again. It has given me a deeper appreciation of the Octave of Easter, the eight days over which the Eighth Day is prolonged. It’s also given me a new appreciation for the function of the antiphons that precede and follow each psalm: because the antiphons are changing each day. So although the psalms themselves are the same each day, I experience them differently because the breviary places them in a different context each day. I suppose that, for those who pray the Liturgy of the Hours regularly, the antiphons serve a function similar to that of the mysteries when praying the rosary: they provide a setting, a theme, on which to meditate while repeating the familiar prayers.
The antiphons this week have been progressing through the Easter appearances: first the stories of the women at the tomb; then the story of Emmaus; then the story of Thomas. It’s been very helpful in keeping me “in” Easter.
The other thing that’s been repeating this week is the news of yet another killing of an unarmed black person by a police officer. Walter Scott was killed on Holy Saturday. Every day, this story is in the news, on the net. Every day, the same basic facts are repeated, preceded and followed by new pieces of information that come to light, new events unfolding, new commentators opining. How different the police account looks, when placed next to the bystander’s video of the shooting.
This country is in a repeating cycle of unarmed black people being killed by police officers, in eerie similarity to the breviary’s four week cycle: a cycle that is long enough that each repetition strikes us anew, but short enough that each occurrence is familiar. The similarities in the police accounts are eerie. The video evidence proving that Officer Slager’s account of the incident was filled with lies makes the earlier police accounts look different. Feidin Santana, the witness who captured the event on video, was afraid, like the women in the short ending of Mark’s gospel:
Then they went out and fled from the tomb, seized with trembling and bewilderment. They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Those women did eventually testify to the truth, despite their fear, despite the risk, as Mr. Santana has done. Without them, we would not know the truth.
How do we hold those two things together, Easter week and yet another black person killed by police, icons of the glorified body of the risen Christ and photographs of bleeding, dying, black bodies? When I started this post, I didn’t know; I only knew I couldn’t say nothing about Walter Scott’s death. I didn’t know how to hold them together, because his unjust death at the hands of government power is surely more crucifixion than resurrection, more the cross than the empty tomb, more the Pieta than the Apostle to the Apostles, more Good Friday than Easter Sunday.
But that’s the point, isn’t it. There is no resurrection without crucifixion. There is no crucifixion without resurrection. Our faith is in the Crucified-and-Risen One. We have to hold them together.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ is Risen.
Truly, He is Risen!