This changes everything! (Except when it doesn't)

Christos Anesti!

Oh, I want to be celebratory and joyous. And I can put on a good approximation with a smile and an enthusiastic voice and an exclamation mark. (Even forced smiles have been shown to enhance your mood.) But, to be honest, I am not much in the Easter spirit this year.

Christ is risen, but I am still very tired.

I love to immerse myself in the Triduum. From Maundy Thursday through Easter Sunday, all Jesus all the time, if I can swing it. This year I couldn't swing it. And I felt guilty about it, because the stuff I was too busy with to devote the whole weekend to devotion was stuff that I should have done months ago. So I had no one to blame but myself.

Friday afternoon I dragged myself to Tenebrae. Didn't feel like going. But, I reminded myself, "He DIED. The least you can do is schlep over to church and sit through the service." The service was beautiful, and moving, and I was glad I went. Didn't have the strong affective experience of Good Friday that I've had in some years past. That's okay; I don't believe spiritual value is measured in raw emotion. It finally felt a little bit like Holy Week.

Saturday evening I dragged myself to Easter Vigil. I was fighting back inexplicable tears, a deep, looming sense of sadness, on the way over to the church. I would like to pretend that this was a mirror of the experience of the women on the way to the tomb to anoint the body of their Lord, but my heart and mind weren't tuned in enough to what I was doing and where I was going for that to really be the case. Easter Vigil was one of the best things about being Episcopalian, so now at the point that was, and still is, the highlight of the church year, I'm reminded of the loss I've experienced in leaving that tradition. I feel orphaned.

I have to find a place to gate crash for the vigil, because my own church doesn't have one. (They're sunrise service people.) Duke Chapel, where I went last year, was advertising something semi-ecumenical, which seemed liturgically problematic to me. (Not that I'm against ecumenism, but I think it only highlights our divisions to have a service that starts out combined and then has the Protestants and Catholics go their separate ways for communion.) I wound up at Saint Joseph's, which was welcoming and had enough of the anointing of friendship that I didn't feel a complete stranger. Not that I could ever feel a complete stranger where there is the comfort of common prayer, but the stronger familiarity of memory and sense of place is a blessing. The fact that I came here for James' baptism makes it a kind of home, even though James isn't here anymore.

The readings felt long. I felt guilty for feeling impatient.

But then there were baptisms. I love baptisms.

The service was beautiful, and moving, and I was glad that I went. But, again, my affections were not aroused as I had hoped. The deep lamentation of good Friday and the great jubilation of Easter were both muted by the particular cocktail of stress, medication, personal issues, and a million distractions that assume inordinate purchase on my attention at this moment in my life.

I am glad that I can affirm by faith, if not by sight, the truth that this changes everything! The event that we celebrated this week, and every Sunday, is the turning point of history, the true truth, the meaningful meaning. So what if I slide through Easter with my mind and heart only half engaged? Christ is risen! (It's a good thing that it's not about me.)

I am also glad for the gift of the church, for liturgy, that can serve as the stream that bears me along when I lack the will or strength to swim. I am thankful for thoughtful musicians and liturgists who do the work to prepare a service that proclaims the Gospel in word and song. I miss helping to lead the church in worship, and at the exact same time I appreciate being able to "just" be part of the congregation. It's so easy for me to not pray because I don't feel like it. But when I go to church, even when I don't feel like it, the church helps me pray. (It's a good thing that it's not about me.)

Easter has come, but suffering and trouble have not disappeared. Some years, some temperaments, it seems easier to embrace the "already"; other times, other conditions, we observe Easter ensconced in the "not yet."

Christ is risen!

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus. Maranatha.


Amanda L. Caldwell said...

Beautiful. I missed this first time around and am glad you linked to it so I can think it all through.

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