Saturday, April 07, 2007

Happy Easter

New York is in the grip of winter's last stand, with snow flurries, temperatures around freezing, and an icy wind roaring down the avenues, stealing hats and scarves, and anything not securely fastened to my person. But the city is so beautiful with spring flowers peeping out of the winter-bare soil and the leafless branches of trees covered in pink and white blossoms, that it is hard to think of it as anything other than spring. I drank my now customary cup of hot cider in Union Square this afternoon, and watched a man feeding the few skittish squirrels who were bold enough to get within peanut-tossing distance of him, while a team of gardeners spread fine straw over the daffodil studded lawns. Such a beautiful way to spend an hour in New York city.

This evening was the great easter vigil, and as tends to happen, I had more places to be than I could manage. I started out at one church in the village, where a friend of mine was being confirmed, and then slipped out just after his confirmation and dashed up town to make it to my usual church in time for the big service. It was a particularly special service, as the Presiding Bishop of the United States was officiating for the evening, and so the church filled up quickly. I have been to easter vigils before, and even sang in one at St. Mary's cathedral in Johannesburg when I was in highschool, but I have never been to one quite as big and dramatic as the one tonight. The service began with a completely dark church, but was soon illuminated by a huge number of candles lit one at a time as the procession entered the church. The standard selections of readings and chants followed, with baptisms, confirmations and renewals of baptismal vows in the middle of the service, and then the dramatic climax as all but the main candle were extinguised, and the main church lights were brought up as the opening hymn of the Eucharist was sung. It was all very spectacular, not least because of the enormous number of flowers all over the church.

In South Africa, Easter has, for good reasons, always felt distinctly autumnal to me, with the weather at its mellow best, and the air infused with the scent of pine and veld fires, and various shades of orange, yellow and gold. But I can understand how important the theme of renewal is during a northern hemisphere spring, like this. The effect is different. It was very lovely. Happy Easter, everyone.

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