As I mentioned yesterday, this is such a strange Easter Season. While I’d love it dearly if I could be with my mom and other family members, and while I certainly wish I were preparing an epic meal for Easter like I normally try to do, it’s not possible this year. And, in a strange way, as much as I long to be with my beloved family, it struck me today that maybe this year will be a way to reawaken my faith. To reawaken my longing for the celebration of the Eucharist. To remind me of the reasons why Easter Sunday is cause for such joyful, colorful, happy celebrations. Absence truly does make the heart grow fonder, doesn’t it?
This absence of celebration has given me time to truly reflect and think. I am not merely going through the motions this year. I am honestly taking time to think about how very much God has given to me, to my family, to all of us. Just as Good Friday, yesterday, was a time for more poignant grief and sorrow than usual as I reflected on the incredible gift God gave us through his only son, so has Holy Saturday been a day of acceptance and hope.
I heard Rick Warren, evangelical pastor and author of “The Purpose-Driven Life,” earlier today speaking about how this Saturday before Easter, for the first time since the very first Easter more than two thousand years ago, there will be no gathering, no joyful reunions with our families, and no formal services in our churches. The day before that very first Easter, remember, the disciples were hiding in their homes, huddling in quiet, fearful of what might be in store for them as associates of Jesus. His mother and those closest to him were beginning their journey of grief and mourning, praying for comfort as they worked to accept the loss of their beloved Jesus.
The day before this Easter is similar in many ways, as we reflect on our emotional and physical circumstances today. We are confined to our homes, afraid of what might happen to us if we venture out. We’ve been confined long enough now that most of us are, like Mary before us, beginning our own journeys of grief and mourning for our lives “before COVID-19”, unsure and prayerful about what will happen next. Holding our faith, but testing our faith. We’re praying for acceptance and understanding of how our lives will be changed moving forward.
Today I had a great feeling of preparation, but not for a house full of people or a fancy, complicated meal to prepare. I made sure the laundry was folded and put away. I cleaned and tidied the kitchen. I took the sofas apart and vacuumed them piece by piece, scooping up more dog hair than I’d like to admit in the process. I even tried my hand at yeast dough, one of the few cooking disciplines that I’ve never been able to master. I wanted to make fresh bread for our Easter meal, even though we’ve been carefully avoiding bread and other carbs since our New Year’s resolution kicked in to get in shape and lose some weight. I know it isn’t a Communion host, but for me it will be a symbol that when I wake up tomorrow morning, I’ll be able to celebrate with my own particular Bread of Life.
Today was a day for reflection. Isn’t it interesting that between his death on the cross on Friday and his resurrection on Sunday, God gave us the time in between to sit with our grief? Why didn’t he relieve us right away from our grief, as soon as he was crucified, with the miracle of rising from the dead? Why did he let us suffer in this time, and give us time to question our faith before he showed us that he had risen?
I think it’s because He wanted to give us closure. To go from such profound sorrow to immediate joy wouldn’t allow for time for reflection, acceptance, and realization of value. It wouldn’t help us learn that despite the most profound of losses, our lives can and will go on and the only variable we can control is how we choose to move forward. So today, I’ve done my best to move to acceptance of what needs to be accepted in my life. This virus and our country’s response to it is dictating more to me than I’d like, but it’s something that I must accept if I am going to be able to formulate a plan to move on, rather than remain mired in fear and uncertainty. I cannot change the behavior of other people, no matter how much I want to try. I have to accept that and make a plan for how we will move forward in our lives regardless of their choices. There are sorrows I hadn’t really taken the time to acknowledge and mourn until today.
So tomorrow, for the first time in many years, my heart and soul are truly eager, ready, waiting and joyful about the celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection. No distractions. My mind is clear, my heart is full, my eyes are open to the promise of my Lord and Savior. He will either shield us from harm and sorrow, or will give us unending strength to bear it. All we have to do is believe and have patience this Holy Saturday. His promise is about to be revealed, again.
I close my day today with a peaceful, hopeful heart. What an unexpected gift of this uneasy time.