Easter is a time of renewal believers and non-believers fully share, even while not sharing most (though not all) Christians’ belief in the resurrection of Jesus. There is no contradiction, especially in America. It is a unifying season.
Thirteen words from a familiar hymn sung at the memorial service for a friend last month were a reminder of the power of Christian belief. This takes some explaining. The hymn was Julia Ward Howe’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” which is one of at least two hymns expunged from some Christian denominations’ hymnals. The other was “Onward Christian Soldiers,” which 40 years ago was deemed to be too militaristic. The distinction between marching to war and “marchingas to war,” in the hymn’s lyric, was rejected. (Today, students taught English at many of our leading universities would say, “marching like to war.”)
So the only way for a wonderful man to have “Battle Hymn of the Republic sung at his own memorial service was to have the words and music printed in the program. The 13 striking words are:
He died to make us holy; let us die to make men free.
A friend’s lifelong commitment to Julia Ward Howe’s rollicking hymn of commitment to the Christian life and to the abolition of slavery during the Civil War. For us, inspiration in a time that sometimes seems to have reduced the English language to a single letter. “I.” The first person pronoun at the center of everything.
Believers and non-believers can envy the well-led Christian life.
From services at sunrise to nature-walks in the middle of this very northern-New-England-like mud season, Easter Sunday will be celebrated in many ways. It is not for us to instruct. We will only note an opportunity that should appeal equally to either the secular or the devout….
On Sunday, the Corner Stone Lodge at 565 Washington Street will hold its monthly “all-you-can-eat” breakfast from 8 to 11:30. The cost is $5 for children, $7 for seniors, $8 for adults. At 10:30 there will be an Easter egg hunt for children 12 and under.
The proceeds of the Lodge’s many charitable activities go to the Interfaith Council’s Food Pantry; to $500 scholarships for Duxbury High School seniors; and to other nearby causes. Its events on Sunday aren’t the only way to spend Easter morning. If one does attend one may be confident the “first person pronoun” will be nowhere in sight.
–D.A. Mittell, Jr.