On Easter Week – Holy Saturday, April 16th, you might catch a glimpse of the Lyons Catholics gathered around a small bon fire outside Lyons Community Church. It is known as the Easter Fire and it lights the Easter Candle, representing the Pillar of Fire that led the people of Israel out of slavery to the Promised Land.
The Pillar of Fire, like the Burning Bush, can be a striking image for our lives. At times this happens very literally, such as in the tragedies of the Calwood and Marshall fires, which caused much destruction in our communities. Or when we experience all the heartache of pandemics, lost jobs, broken friendships, troubled youth, aging, and simply the struggle and pain of life.
It is these dark and burning experiences that lead us to discover the truth and the mystery of Easter, and the beauty of life itself. Easter reminds us that we are a people who believe new life will prevail and all will be made whole again. As “Easter people,” and like Moses and the people of Israel, or the people who walked with Jesus, we believe in the hope of springtime and the promise of new life symbolized in the empty tomb of Jesus Christ.
In May of 1980, Mt. St. Helen’s erupted in a violent way amid the lush forests of the Pacific Northwest. It was an ancient and abundant landscape. Unlike Colorado’s dry mountains, the forests of Washington state are rich, extravagant and wet. Mt. St. Helen’s changed all that in a matter of hours.
A year after the eruption, that moonscape was devoid of life. It was dry, ashen and bleak. The once majestic trees which had shadowed the forest floor, now lay like matchsticks. Amid this devastation, in a small gully recent rains had carved in the ash, I came upon a single, solitary small yellow glacier lily. Life had returned to the mountain. Amid all the ash, and destruction a small yellow flower announced a new beginning.
I returned there over thirty years later, and the landscape was unrecognizable. Forests had returned and were already ten feet tall or more, grasses and wildflowers were abundant, and the waters of Spirit Lake were crystal blue and clear. Mt St. Helens is truly a story of the triumph of life!
It is that same triumph we celebrate at Easter. We live in a world constantly destroyed by man’s inhumanity to man, such as we have seen in the Ukraine. We see the darkness brought into the world by fire and natural disasters, by illness and by sin. We experience the brutal slavery of greed, drugs, alcohol, violence, prejudice and power.
Yet we also believe that these Pillars of Fire, these ‘volcanic moments,’ are not the end of the story. We believe they can, and must, lead us closer to the heart of God. Easter is a celebration of the new life that God promises his people. In His Son, Jesus, we see the return of life.
It was Jesus and His willingness to lay down His life for us out of absolute love, that showed us the way to that new life. Despite His agony and death, we believe on the third day He rose from the dead and in doing so destroyed even the concept that death was the end. It was the ultimate triumph of life, born in Love, and leading to the promised land of heaven.
It is a promise of a glacier lily growing in a ruined wasteland heralding in a new springtime of hope! Life can triumph over death, love can triumph over hatred, and peace still triumphs over war, when we walk the journey to Easter together, open to the gift of Hope, which was so beautifully revealed in His empty tomb on that first Easter morning!
……………..Fr. Gregory Ames, Lyons Catholic Church
Services on Saturday evening in the Lyons Community Church chapel, 350 Main St., mass 5:30 p.m.