There is an Easter hymn that when I first heard it, seemed a bit obscure. The first verse goes.
Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain,
Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain
Love lives again that with the dead has been
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green
I found myself thinking of this hymn as I visited Arlington National Cemetery recently. Many of us here in Northern Virginia have been there, but if you haven’t, it is hard to capture the scale of Arlington. In it are divisions of the dead, row on row, rank on rank, laid out in every direction, marshalled under the names of our military’s dead commanders – McClellen, Eisenhower, Nimitz, Patton, Marshall, Bradley, Halsey, King – to name a few.
Yes, there is so much death in Arlington. Some died in the violence of combat. Others died due to old age. Some lost their lives to disease and accident.
But there is also so much hope in Arlington. There are so many graves marked with the sign of the cross, saying that in this ground, or in this niche is someone who confesses “the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” To add to that, the grounds are beautiful, especially this time of year, with flowering trees and plants everywhere, green grass between the white grave markers, and a gentle, rolling landscape that descends toward the Potomac River.
What struck me was how much the hope I feel in Arlington is an Easter hope, not just a vague good feeling. It’s a hope that the tens-of-thousands who are buried there will one day rise again, like green blades pushing up through the dark earth in the springtime. It’s a hope that Arlington’s grounds themselves prefigure on purpose, I suspect, through the careful landscaping of their springtime greenery.
Friends, Arlington and places like it need not only be places of sadness for us, but also ground zero for the fundamental hope we have as Christians. Spring is coming. Under the earth, grass is growing. Someday soon, the dark earth will be covered over with green blades.
The Rev. Peter Frank, rector
Church of the Epiphany