When I think of flowers and Easter, white lilies are always the first to come to mind. The front of our sanctuary was always decorated with pots of white lilies given by the congregation in remembrance of a loved one.
Their glorious fragrance filled the auditorium, the scent of spring and new life and resurrection provoking an inward alleluia. After the Easter service, these lilies were taken to congregation members too ill or frail to attend services, bringing a bit of Easter and resurrection joy to them.
Any flowers can be used to decorate the auditorium, but bulb flowers (and especially white ones, which are the traditional “color” of the liturgical season) have a special significance. Unless you live in a very cold climate where they are dug up and “wintered over” for planting the following spring, bulbs rest in darkness in the earth during the stark winter months, representing the darkened tomb. In spring, they return with new life, rising upward from the ground in resurrection, a visual “alleluia.”
Some churches build a flowering cross for Easter. Our church had a large cross on display throughout Holy Week. It was draped in purple through Maundy Thursday, and in black for Good Friday and Holy Saturday. On Easter, congregants were asked to bring flowers from their gardens and place them on the cross (which had been covered in chicken wire to secure the blooms). By the close of Easter services, the cross had been transformed from an instrument of death to the symbol of eternal life through the resurrection while church bells joined in the celebration. It quickly became a tradition for families to take pictures together in front of the floral cross.
After the darkness of winter and Holy Week, the whole earth seems to wake up in resurrection. Light and life return, and creation itself speaks Alleluia to the world.
I remember one choir rehearsal when Joe was trying to give us some choral tips for an anthem we were working on. I was sitting between two other altos, Belinda, who was a fabulous sight-reader and singer, and Kerry, who could never seem to find the right note. I had purposely positioned myself with Belinda on my right because I hear better out of that ear. This put Kerry on my left, where I couldn’t hear her as well, preventing me from straying off-key with her. While Joe was talking, someone’s wristwatch alarm started beeping – and it continued to beep and beep and beep. Finally, in frustration, he asked, “Whose watch is that?!” Everyone was looking around, no one speaking up, the alarm continuing to beep. Finally, Joe’s brother Steve, who was sitting behind us tapped Kerry on the shoulder and said, “Kerry! That’s your watch going off.” Kerry’s reply: “Well, I can’t hear it. What do you expect? I’m tone deaf!” Of course. The perfect qualification for choir. Tone deafness.