Monday, March 24, 2008

I'm dreaming of a white Easter

     "Merry Easter" and "I am dreaming of a white Easter" were some of the jokes that parishioners and visitors were making about the snowfall for Easter. I certainly had to chuckle, though, at people's efforts to blur the distinction between Christmas and Easter. Yes, it seemed a bit unusual. I cannot remember the last time where we had to worry whether Rudolph could get the Easter Bunny to his destinations before, but such is life in March in Iowa. Wait an hour or two, we like to brag, and the weather will change more to your liking.

     But this blurring of distinction fascinated me. Personally, I was reminded of a gift of diaconal stole I was given by a lady of Bolivia. One of the personal ministries of Shawnee Lyons, the wife of Bishop Frank Lyons, has been to get some of the ladies in the church in Bolivia to make stoles. She then sells the stoles for the ladies stateside to earn money to support themselves. By and large, all these ladies are widows with no means of real support. Shawnee's ministry has allowed them to provide wonderfully for themselves and for priests and deacons who may lack the budget to spend tons of monies on stoles.

     Without boring you with all the details, I knew I would have to purchase a number of diaconal stoles for worship at St. Stephen's in OH. One fall month in 2005, when I had had a particularly good brokerage month, I purchased two diaconal stoles. My thought was that I would be well covered until I was ordained to the priesthood. I had a blue one for Advent and a green one for after Pentecost. But I lusted after this magnificent reversible stole (purple on one side and white on the other with fish woven into both sides). It was stunningly beautiful! But I could not justify the expense. Christmas, after all, was coming.

     To make a long story short, the next time I ran into Shawnee (she has a soft spot for larger families), she had a gift and a note for me. As I opened the box, I saw the stole. Then I saw the note. Shawnee had to translate it for me as most of my Spanish has long since left me, but the part that sticks with me was her answer to my question. When I first saw the stole, I had asked Shawnee what had ever prompted this lady to make a stole with Christmas and Saint days on one side and Lent on the other. The lady in her note responded to me that "Christmas without Easter is meaningless, and Easter without Christmas is worthless." I had received a real lesson in the "Widow's Might," and I had been priviledged to come into contact with a woman who understood God far better than I. I have no doubt that in the next world, when I go to thank this marvelous widow for her beautiful gift, that she will be much closer to His glorious throne than me.  
     Had He not chosen to come down to earth on Christmas, Easter would be just another tortuous death of a good man in the annals of history. Likewise, had He not gone to the cross for our sakes, Christmas would have none of the awe or wonder with which we are filled when we ponder the Incarnation of our Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth.

     Why have none of you ever seen this stole? For me, the lesson was too profound, and it, like the beauty of the stole, needed to be shared. Upon my ordination to the priesthood, I gave both the stoles and the story to an upcoming senior, Daniel. He in turn has passed it on to another. I have no idea where those magnificent stoles are now, but I thought of that lady's lesson this weekend. With apologies to all those who were distraught over the snow this past weekend, maybe it is not such a bad thing that God linked the day He conquered death to the day He came down from heaven. Maybe, just maybe we are called to remember them both together in that way.

Christ's Peace,


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