Easter on campus is a solemn time. A strange stillness descends upon us every year on Wednesday evening, as almost all the students depart for their Easter break. This year, there were two special aspects that lent richness to Holy Week. The first was a beautiful greeting to us Jesuits from Rabbi Norm Cohen of Minneapolis, a house guest in Ciampi Hall when he visits his alma mater, a good and wise rabbi who enriches our house and campus with his presence. He had also greeted us for Ash Wednesday, another sign of support and prayerful solidarity. The other variable this year was the fantastic weather, as if God had raised the curtain on meteorological beauty after a month plagued by Noah-type deluge. The forsythia and other early bloomers fairly exploded on Holy Thursday when the sun came out full force and all the rain gear went back into the closet.
Four religious services bring the diminished community together–Fr. McFarland, Frank Vellaccio and other administrators; Alice Laffey and other faculty colleagues; a few local alumni and friends; members of teams that happen to be in residence–this year, baseball, men’s and women’s lacrosse, crew, and a few others.
Thursday and Friday services are in the Mary Chapel, the renovated space that has held its beauty for almost a decade now, and enhances community worship by means of the centrally located altar. It’s moving to watch the foot-washing ceremony on Thursday: after having your feet washed, you kneel and wash the feet of the next person in line. And on Friday, as the whole group of worshipers advance to reverence the cross, there’s a powerful sense of our oneness before the Lord, regardless of rank, age, or experience.
Holy Saturday, in a good year like this, begins its service at dusk outside on the plaza with the blessing of the new fire and lighting of pascal candle. Our rector, Fr. Hayes, presided this year and braved his way through the sung Exsultet with satisfying success. And on Easter morning, again this year, Fr. McFarland presided in a space basically at capacity, as we sang the allelujas and lingered long afterwards to exchange our “Happy Easters.”
Now, on Monday afternoon, the students are returning and the oasis of tranquility has been displaced by the usual hustle-bustle. Even so, we are not exactly the same people we were a week ago. For a few days, for those of us here to experience it, Easter became a verb. We are the richer for it.