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“God will fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” Job 8:21
I am intrigued and amused by the varied traditions and customs that converge on this particular Easter Monday, April 1, 2013.
This week is known in some Christian traditions as “Bright Week” as faith communities around the world continue to celebrate the new light that dawned with Jesus’ resurrection. In this tradition, each day of the week following Easter Sunday carries the adjective “bright.” Easter Monday holds the additional distinction of being referred to by some as Risus Paschalis—Easter Laugh. Early orthodox communities began a tradition of gathering on the Monday following Resurrection Sunday to tell jokes as a way of marking Easter as God’s ultimate joke played on Satan by defeating death with life. Some observe the Easter Laugh by including jokes or humorous anecdotes in their Easter Sunday sermons. Others emphasize laughter on the second Sunday of Easter, sometimes called Holy Humor or Hilarity Sunday. This year’s Risus Paschalis (if observed on Easter Monday) is particularly interesting as it falls on April 1, or April Fools Day, a day when people play practical jokes on each other.
Since the official opening day for major league baseball is also on April 1 (following opening night on March 31), it seems important to note a historic Demon Deacon Easter Monday tradition. For many years, North Carolina observed Easter Monday instead of Good Friday as a state holiday. Some attribute the reason to a long-standing Easter Monday baseball game between Wake Forest College and State College (North Carolina State). Thomas Hearn, president of Wake Forest from 1983 until 2005, writes about the famous rivalry in a history of the school entitled Wake Forest University (Arcadia Publishing, 2003):
Beginning in the 1890s, Wake Forest and N.C. State played the annual Easter baseball
classic in Raleigh on Easter Monday. It is believed that the North Carolina legislature
made Easter Monday a designated holiday for North Carolina to ensure that people would be able to watch the game.
North Carolina observed Easter Monday as a state holiday from 1935 until 1987.
Bright Monday, Risus Paschalis, April Fools Day, Baseball’s Opening Day, historic Easter Monday rivalries, Fall 2013 registration—all of these converge on this particular April 1, 2013. Coincidence? Perhaps. Nevertheless, the possibilities for a day of joyful remembrances and hopeful anticipation remain as we recall and celebrate yet again Gospel resurrection promises. Life has defeated and will continue to defeat death. The promise is cosmic but infuses even the most mundane dimensions of human life. This seems particularly important for those in pursuit of a Master of Divinity degree and especially for those who sign up this week for another semester of tests, research papers, and long days and nights of study. How often have people said to ministry students when they announce their decisions to undertake a divinity degree something like “are you sure you’ve thought this through?” or “are you joking?” When uncertainties arise as any of us pursue God’s call, or when everyday trials make us want to give up, or when the going gets tough and we are tempted to think the joke is on us, we can remember again the contagious, life-giving gift of the Easter laugh. Perhaps on this Monday, April 1, 2013, we can join Sarah who all those years ago announced: “God has made me laugh. Everyone who hears will laugh with me” (Genesis 21:6).
>> View the full edition of This Week online.
Blessings on the week ahead,
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs