I’ve been thinking this week about how much I love “Low Sunday,” the Second Sunday of Easter. Why “Low Sunday?” Is it because attendance is usually lower a week after the great Festival of Easter, maybe even lower than normal Sunday attendance as everyone attempts to recover from the marathon of Holy Week? Is it because the service itself celebrates at a lower degree than just a week previous? Honestly, it’s probably a combination of the two (although more often, I do think it’s a tongue-in-cheek reference to the number of people at the service). No matter the origin of the name; I just really appreciate the quiet joy of the Sunday following the great celebration of Easter Sunday itself.
On Easter, the church is at its best. We deck ourselves out in our finery, buying special Easter outfits for the youngest members of our congregation and looking to our own attire as well, whether that means wearing a button-down shirt with jeans instead of a t-shirt, a dress instead of pants, or even an Easter bonnet. We deck the church in finery, too, adding gold paraments, special banners, uncovering or returning art that may have been put away for Lent or Holy Week, and generally giving the sanctuary a good cleaning. Our readings are full of the joy of the Resurrection, and the alleluia response is said over and over again. The service itself is extraordinary, as well…we bring in special guest musicians, add additional instruments (is it really even Easter without brass?), and play and sing music that is louder, more joyful, and more complex than our regular expressions. We literally, if you will, pull out all the stops.
But the Second Sunday of Easter is different. There may be less of us in the room. We’re probably dressed more casually, more normally. The gold paraments might still be up, but we might have switched to standard Easter white. The music, while still beautiful and full of Easter joy, is probably scaled back from the previous week. And the Bible readings focus not on the act of the Resurrection, but on what happened next. On the disciples, hiding in fear, not really understanding or believing the events of the day. On Jesus appearing to them in their isolation, (all of them but one), inviting them to see His wounds. On Thomas defiantly refusing to believe unless he has the tactile experience of touching those wounds for himself. And then a week later, Jesus appearing again, and giving Thomas exactly what he asked for, prompting the response “My Lord and my God!” Thomas, who is so often criticized for his lack of faith, who we refer to derisively as “Doubting Thomas” when we would have asked for the same of Jesus, is the first one to proclaim Jesus as his God.
Easter Sunday is without a doubt the highlight of the church year, and I look forward to it and long for it throughout Lent. But there is something equally special about the quiet moments of joy that are found on “Low Sunday” as the Easter celebration continues.