I’m really glad for the elaborate liturgies of Holy Week. After forty days of Lent, I am programmed for introspection, facing my sin, unraveling my emotional life and my motives, and stripping down the interior rooms to reveal the truth about my history, my present, my desires, and my fears. If a person attends to such a process even sporadically over that many weeks, she approaches Easter somewhat worked-over. She may feel better for having been cleansed and sorted, but her life’s palette is not sunshiny—it’s more a work of muted, cool colors, the kind that wash over the world before spring green has broken through.
So the long march from Palm Sunday through Maundy-Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday serves to walk me out of that introspective, heart-rending world. One Bible story at a time, one Scripture reading at a time, one prayer and response at a time, I made my way out of my Lenten cave. During our Easter Vigil, we went from individually held candles to full lighting in the sanctuary. Suddenly, color—Easter lilies and hyacinths and various other bright blooms stationed all about. Suddenly, sound—a trumpeter and choir, shouts of “Alleluia!” and hymns charged with glory and grandeur. Suddenly, me in a fancy blouse and shiny earrings, dressed bravely enough to be visible to all. Yes, I needed the pilgrimage of Holy Week to arrive at this bountiful moment.
It helps to have company for transformative events; the more witnesses the better, I think. This is why I still go to church; I really believe that Christianity is a communal faith and that my life shapes up better when I allow contact with other lives. I think of the women going to Jesus’ tomb that morning, making their way in the half-light, still afraid of the Romans and of some of their Jewish brothers, walking quickly in a cluster, hunched against the chill of the morning and the grief that was their whole existence at that point. Not only could a woman not travel alone safely, given the culture and the times, but these women needed one another’s company. For all they knew, the whole thing was over—Jesus of Nazareth was dead and buried, not the messiah they’d hoped for, not the one who would liberate them from oppression in the world. But regardless of the theology, Jesus had been their friend, had brought healing and forgiveness into their lives, and they would face the grim morning, the ruthless guards, the cold and brutalized body, just for love. But they had to do it together.
It was just as right that they encountered, together, the great surprise—that together they saw angels, spoke to gardeners, saw the bare slab upon which the body had rested. I certainly would want to behold a miracle with someone at my side, another person to affirm that, yes; this was real and not a hallucination. No, I wasn’t crazy from grief. I consider myself an honest person, but I don’t always trust myself to perceive clearly events that are immensely horrible or immensely wonderful. I know how easily my memory can garble what someone said. I know how quickly light or darkness can trick my eyes.
A person needs company when walking the road to Emmaus or when beholding a risen friend on the beach. Because although it’s tough to live Lent, to enter that dark and dangerous space and work out our honesty and our faith, I think it’s even tougher to live Easter. Easter is really too much to believe. It is news that’s too good; it is truth that’s too overwhelming. By myself I can’t maintain that kind of faith or that kind of life. It’s much easier to stay in Lent, to see myself as broken, unworthy, inconsistent, and imperfect. That’s not necessarily a happy way to be, but it’s much more familiar and for that reason much more comfortable than Easter living.
Easter living requires that I relinquish my vision of myself. I will always see how I am not good enough or enlightened enough or something enough. Or, I will see that I’m just fine the way I am, thank you, and I don’t need any kind of crazy, spiritual overhaul. It’s difficult to see what lies between those two extremes: a person made in God’s image who is constantly becoming more of who she truly is. A person in process and completely loved and accepted at every stage of that process.
Easter living requires that I hope rather than despair. I must live in the tension of seeing the world as it is and yet envisioning and working toward the world as it should be. Easter living will compel me to live out a worldview that values life, that forgives, and that can wait and watch as transformation does its work in myself and in others.
Easter living requires that I truly live my life. I enter it every day with purpose, knowing who I am and Whose I am. I expect grace at every turn, I look for Divine evidence everywhere. I act as if I am Divine Love in a given situation, doing as Jesus would do, as God is already doing, and as the Holy Spirit is moving me to do.
Easter living is usually at odds with how most of us live. We fear, we avoid, we resent, we regress, we react—because life is hard and we must brace ourselves. When we live Easter, we acknowledge that life is hard, but navigating its tangled paths is less about getting braced and more about receiving grace.
Do feel free to attempt this at home—live Easter wherever you are! But don’t attempt it alone. Find some company. It may be a church nearby that you visit from time to time. It may be a friend online with whom you can talk about this wild life of faith. It may be the memoir, poetry, film, or song that speaks to you and helps you know you are not alone. It may even be a saint or two, from ancient times or from your own family, a deceased yet present person who does care for you and your journey.
It was good that you dwelled in Lent, and did the work that needed to be done. But now . . . welcome to Easter! Grab it with your whole self, and don’t be ashamed to sing and shout. Alleluia!