Alleluias, joyous and wilted

Somewhere around the 4th or 5th week of Easter, I find myself remembering my friend, classmate, and colleague the Rev Cody Unterseher. I think about Cody not because the anniversary of his death is around this time of the year (April 25). I remember Cody because of what happened on Facebook in 2010.

Cody and I were at seminary together for one year–just long enough for a couple of those stereotypical (because they really happen) late night theological (well, liturgical) conversations, long enough to share parts of our stories, long enough to hear him preach (a sermon I still remember). We graduated together in 2008–me with an MDiv, Cody with an STM. After graduation we were Facebook friends. I would read his articles around the internet as he posted about them. I like having smart friends who make me think, with whom I don’t always agree. I hope he found some level of interest or joy in the updates from my life as a parish priest.

In 2010, for the Great Fifty Days of Easter, Cody posted “Alleluia! Christ is Risen!” in a different language everyday on Facebook.

For the first couple of days I thought it was interesting and a good reminder. In the second week, I thought it was a little drawn out. In the third week, I was over it. I could no longer even guess at the languages; I was no longer excited by the novelty of our yearly proclamation. But Easter and Cody weren’t over.

Just like our Easter Lilies, our Alleluias wilt–only faster. After 40 days of stifling our voices, of missing our joyous four-syllable proclamation, we can speak, shout, sing it again. At the Easter Vigil (my favorite), on Easter Sunday I can always hear the joy in people’s voices, in my voice as we proclaim our ‘Alleluias’ again.

Then the joy of reclaiming our “Alleluia” fades into the normality of life more quickly than the shocking joy of the resurrection should. By Easter 4, the joy of being permitted the recently forbidden has faded. The idea that “Alleluia! Christ is Risen!” is extraordinary starts to go over as well as another verse of “Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia.”

Until Cody. Until 50 days of reminders. By holding “Alleluia! Christ is Risen!” up for all of Easter, Cody moved me through the wilted Alleluia phase.

This year, most years since 2010, I remember Cody and 50 days of Alleluias I only understood through context, through what I knew those strange foreign words should mean. I remember reaching for a meaning I didn’t always understand, couldn’t prove, didn’t always feel. I remember the moment when I realized that this is what it means to be Easter-ed.

In the first moments of Easter it is easy to be over-joyed with our yearly proclamation. Then life continues. Our transformation into the people God calls us to be is slow, hard work. Sometimes I have to reach to be the person God is calling me to be, reach for what it means to be a part of Christian community when I don’t know if either can really exist. What God asks of me often feel strange and foreign in a world full of really terrible, sad things. When I act as if I have been Easter-ed, when I believe in and act on the things God asks of me, strange and foreign as they may seem, I start living into the meanings, the transformation, the faith I faithfully keep reaching towards.

So on Sunday I will remember Cody and 50 days of Alleluias. I will remember to reach for what I don’t always understand. Then, as the last strains of the processional hymn finish, as I exhale the in-between breath, I will faithfully and joyously proclaim, “Alleluia! Christ is Risen!”

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An Anglican/Episcopal priest, bibliophile, dog owner, and Montanan

One thought on “Alleluias, joyous and wilted

  1. Thank you, Robyn. I, too, was a friend of Cody’s and miss him. I learned a lot about how to live one’s faith as if it means something. I love the story about the 50 days of Alleluias! It’s so Cody! And it’s such a good reminder to keep Easter alive all year long.

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