This post was written by Hilary Ann Golden, MDiv. Hilary joins us in each liturgical season this year through Ordinary Time, offering insight into how we can integrate the liturgical calendar into our own journeys. We’ll hear from Hilary next during the the season of Pentecost. -Lacy
“…let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down
are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new…”
Just three days ago the Christian Church celebrated its oldest and most extravagant of feasts — Easter Sunday. This day of celebration marks the beginning of the season of Eastertide, a season in which we strive to live into the joy and freedom of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. In light of this celebration, I wanted to share with you about the pilgrimage that has most revealed to me the heart of Easter and the joy of the Resurrection.
The first time I set foot in the hot, dusty streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, I was sixteen years old. The first glimpses I received of Port-au-Prince are forever etched in my memory; the bursts of vibrant colors everywhere you look, the guards holding machine guns as we walked out of the airport, the dust in the streets rising in clouds like steam ascending from manholes, the faces of the fruit sellers sitting along the side of the road.
That short time in Haiti left in me with a deep longing to return again. That experience was beginning to transform me in ways that I still have trouble articulating. Years later I had the opportunity to visit Port-au-Prince again. And again. And again. Each time I am filled with the same longing to return, to take in the familiar sights and to garner new ones.
On my very first trip to Haiti in 2001, I spent the majority of my time in downtown Port-au-Prince in the area near the National Palace. My team worked at a church there and walked through the streets to get crepes for lunch at Jack’s each day. I became intimately familiar with the sights and sounds of those streets.
In January 2011, my team drove through this area to see the National Palace which had collapsed during the 2010 earthquake. We drove through streets that once had been familiar to me and now were unrecognizable. The streets were filled with dust and lined with buildings reduced to piles of rubble. Directly across the street from the National Palace was a vast sea of Red Cross tents housing thousands of refugees. Nearly a year after the quake, the scene looked almost post-apocalyptic.
There is one particular scene from my time in Haiti that sticks quite profoundly in my memory and in my heart.One Sunday we were driving through the streets of Port-au-Prince on the way to church and along the way passed a handful of churches whose doors were flung wide open and whose congregations were spilling out onto the streets. The churches were too full to accommodate all of those who sought to be there for worship. Those who could not fit into the sanctuary stood on all sides of the buildings, peering in through the windows and worshipping along with those inside the church.
Singing bellowed through the church building and echoed down the streets. People danced in the street and prayed at the top of their lungs.
This is Easter.
I know Haiti hardly seems like the traditional pilgrimage destination. It’s certainly not the Holy Land or the Vatican. I’m embarrassed to say that the main reason I went on that first trip as a sixteen year old was because I had travel itch; I didn’t even really know where Haiti is located, let alone anything about her people, culture or history. But as I’ve visited again and again, I have come to realize that part of what compels me to return to Haiti is that for me, it is a thin place – a place where heaven and earth collide, and where God’s presence is most profoundly felt and known and trusted.
Haiti is the destination of my pilgrimages; it is the place where I wander after God. It is Haiti which has called me forth into joy, gratitude and celebration. It is Haiti which has caused me to look suffering in the face, name my own pain, and open myself up to the suffering of others. It is Haiti which has deepened and widened my love of God and neighbor. It is Haiti which has beckoned me toward embracing true beauty; beauty that is not without heartache. It is in Haiti where I have seen most clearly the face of Christ. It is Haiti which has taught me most about what it means to place my hope in Resurrection; to believe and trust that life emerges from the most unlikely places.
I’ve seen firsthand the devastation caused by the earthquake that tore through Port-au-Prince and outlying areas. Hope thrives despite the devastation.
Easter is a time when we can live into the joy and mystery of Christ’s Resurrection. We receive new eyes to see beyond the death and decay, the ruins and violence of our world and in an act of stubborn hope envision what the above prayer calls us toward: “…let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which have grown old are being made new….”
We sing an Alleluia Song that proclaims, in the words of James Broughton, “Nothing perishes; nothing survives; everything transforms!”
Christ has died; Christ has risen; Christ will come again.
Where have you experienced new life in places that seemed hopeless?