This week I had the privilege of attending multiple services that I’d never been to before. First, I went to a Friday service called the Tenebrae. It was a beautiful, solemn evening that began with the interior of the church brightly lit but gradually growing dimmer as a series of excerpts from the Bible were read aloud. After a moment of intense noise and lights that represented the violent earthquakes that followed Jesus’ death, the night ended in silence and complete darkness–aside from one candle, with a bell ringing 33 times to symbolize each year of Jesus’ life. Yesterday, I attended the Easter Vigil, which followed a reverse pattern of the previous evening. We began in the dark with unlit candles, and after the Easter candle representing Jesus was lit, the flame was shared among the church until everyone’s candle was illuminated. The service proceeded with a baptism and the welcome of five new church members; this was especially dear to me because one of the new members was one of my best friends.
I explain all of this to you in efforts to convey just a fraction of the beauty that I experienced within the traditions of these two services. The theme of darkness verses light was something that I’ve always known is biblically prevalent: examples of symbolism wrapped around these two words are found abundantly both Old and New Testament scripture. Perhaps the fact that I hear about them so much is why I typically find myself overlooking the weight of the image that light v. dark holds, especially on this holiday.
In his message yesterday, the priest emphasized just how badly our world needs Easter. We live in a time when war, epidemic depression, suicide, murder, racism, protest, and hatred make up so much of our mental and physical atmospheres. The prominence of darkness is something that I think is universally felt, more intensely every day. We humans love to settle in with the darkness; I can be alone for less than ten minutes before my mind wanders to anxiety and fear and dread. I think you probably understand what I mean when I say it can sometimes be oddly comforting to marinate in the hopeless moments of life. So for a people constantly under the weight of this darkness, constantly burdened with the effects of their own mistakes and the mistakes of those before them, there is nothing more precious than hope. That’s what today is. All of the pain and suffering and devastation experienced in this world–today is the exact opposite of every one of those things.
Today pulls us out of the ruts that darkness digs for us. It hoists us up by our shoulders with the “Grinch who’s heart just grew three sizes” kind of love, the love of our Creator who sacrificed His only Son for us, the love that never stops pursuing us every single second of every single day. Jesus, who willingly endured and conquered the most painful death that our perverted race could concoct–today, He illuminated the world with his gifts of forgiveness and salvation. When that stone was rolled away that first Easter morning, death was expected. Instead, that black tomb was flooded with something else, something that floods the corners of our hearts today, the only perfect remedy for darkness. Light.
If you know Him, I encourage you to be determined to keep His bright light on through this Easter and long after it. Yes, I say determined because I know that after today’s celebration, it becomes frustratingly difficult to keep in focus the hope that Jesus is for us. For those of you who don’t yet know him, find someone who does! Learn about who He is, why I keep rambling about Him all the time. But for now, know this: He is the one God, the only source of true happiness, the best thing that has ever happened to you! And He loves you, you alone, enough to suffer torture and die and save you from darkness.
Because it can’t be spoken enough, Happy Easter! Today the room was illuminated; let’s keep that light switch on.
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Blueberry Lemonade Cupcakes (V)
These cupcakes are sweet and lemony with a hint of cool blueberry and mint to break up the puckering. They’re a perfect way to celebrate the end of Lent and the start of warm weather!
- 1/2 cup vegan butter, softened (earth balance is great)
- 1/2 cup vegan sugar (Florida Crystals is great)
- 1/2 cup frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
- 1/2 cup almond milk
- 2 TBSP lemon zest
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 TBSP blueberries (frozen is fine)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup plus 2 TBSP shortening
- 1 1/2 cups vegan powdered sugar
- 2 TBSP lemonade concentrate, thawed
- 1/4 tsp salt
- zest of 2 lemons
- pinch of turmeric for color (optional)
- mint leaves for garnishing
- fresh blueberries for garnishing
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Fill 12 cups of a cupcake tin with cupcake liners.
- Combine butter and sugar in bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until combined.
- Warm the lemonade concentrate to lukewarm in the microwave. Add to the bowl along with lemon zest, almond milk, and salt. Mix until combined.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and baking soda.
- Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet in about 3 increments, mixing until smooth each time.
- Spoon batter into cupcake liners, filling them just above halfway. It should be enough for about 12 cupcakes.
- Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from pan and allow to cool completely.
- Pulse sugar in a small food processor or bullet until very fine, almost powdered. Add blueberries and pulse until glaze is even throughout and only fine pieces of blueberry skin/seeds remain.
- Keep covered until ready to use.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with a hand mixer, mix the shortening and a small amount of the powdered sugar on low speed.
- Gradually add the powdered sugar. When about half of it has been added, mix in the lemonade concentrate, salt, and lemon zest.
- Continue adding the powdered sugar until all has been added. Mix on medium speed until smooth. Add slightly more lemonade concentrate or powdered sugar to reach desired consistency.
- (Optional) Add a pinch of turmeric to intensify the yellow color. Use sparingly to avoid imparting new flavor on the frosting.
- When cupcakes have completely cooled, drizzle glaze on each one and allow to harden.
- Frost each cupcake with a piping bag fitted with desired tip.
- Top with blueberries and fresh mint leaves.