Things Not Meant to Stay Closed
May 18, 2022
For the last five years I have been studying the history of our prayer book and its Spanish translations. As part of my research, I began collecting old books, from the 1715 edition of El Libro de Oración Común to John Henry Blunt’s 1876 Annotated Book of Common Prayer. Then in 2020, I was asked by the Episcopal Church to re-translate the Book of Common Prayer into Spanish. Before accepting the commission, I sat down at my desk in prayerful meditation and mulled over the commitment I would have to make. Then I looked at my bookcase and saw some of the volumes I had been collecting, and even though there was no audible voice, I heard those books speak to me. “Hugo, we are not meant to stay closed like some kind of museum artifact,” they said. “We are meant to be opened!”
Jesus’s tomb was not meant to stay closed either. During Lent, many churches focus on Jesus’s crucifixion. His death on the cross and his burial in a tomb are often themes for reflection, prayer, and worship. Yet Jesus’s tomb is not meant to stay closed. Lent finds its meaning only on Easter morning, when Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome go to the tomb and find the stone rolled back (Mark 16:1-4).
When my husband and I lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, we attended the Easter Vigil at the Church of the Advocate. At the end of the longest service of the year, we would open purses, pockets, and instrument cases; whistles, rattles, and drums would come out, and the service would end with a noisy, joyful celebration of the resurrection. We would also sing many times the Paschal Troparion, an ancient Byzantine stanza which appears in the Burial Rite of our prayer book. The version we sang at our church said,
Christ is risen from the dead,
trampling down death by death,
and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!
Easter is a time of open tombs, open books, and open throats and lungs. Let’s make it also a time of open hearts.
Photo: Hugo’s bookshelf