It felt like Easter was postponed this year.
Sure, our PiE community gathered for a Sunrise Celebration virtually, we declared that Christ is risen, and we sang the traditional hymns while muted on Zoom. Eggs were dyed, sweet breads consumed.
But here I sit, 5 days later, even deeper into grief about the state of our world, and my life, right now.
And yet, Easter invites us to receive a pretty incredible gift: life out of death.
Just as we stood at the foot of the cross on Good Friday, in these days following Easter, we are invited to receive the Risen Christ. To claim our faith in a God who cannot be conquered by death and promises us new life.
And for today, at least, I don’t think I’m ready to receive it.
Almost 5 years ago now, I participated in a month long retreat called the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius. The retreat includes three ‘weeks’ that focus on praying with the life and ministry of Jesus, his journey to the cross and death, and then his resurrection.
The time spent in each of these sections varies from person to person but as I reflect on how I am experiencing Easter this year, it has been helpful to recall one of the lessons of this retreat:
The gift of resurrection takes time to receive.
The intention that shapes the prayer of that final week is seeking to share in the joy of Jesus in the resurrection. And it is assumed that this is a process just like any other. Joy can be a tough spiritual gift to receive – especially in a time such as this.
And the truth is, that while it is more acute right now, the joy of the resurrection is never free from the reality of suffering in the world.
Easter invites us into a profound sacred mystery that is so much more than feeling happy.
Is it possible that the spiritual gift of joy, unlike emotional happiness, can co-exist with compassion or suffering with others? Is this part of the gift we might receive this Easter season?
If you are like me, and you struggle at all with not feeling happy at Easter, join me in letting yourself off the hook. You are permitted to feel whatever you are feeling. I’m not sure why this is so hard to remember.
But I think it is why our sacred, communal rituals are so essential. We need to ground ourselves in the liturgies that remind us of the deeper mysteries and gifts of our faith – that operate both within and beyond our current situation.
Robin Wall Kimmerer reminded me of this as she writes about how essential ceremony is in Indigenous communities:
Ceremony focuses attention so that attention becomes intention. If you stand together and profess a thing before your community, it holds you accountable.Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass, p.249
Ceremonies transcend the boundaries of the individual and resonate beyond the human realm. These acts of reverence are powerfully pragmatic. These are ceremonies that magnify life.
In many indigenous communities, the hems of our ceremonial robes have been unraveled by time and history, but the fabric remains strong. In the dominant society, though, ceremony seems to have withered away.
Whether I feel the ‘right’ thing or not, it was important to stand (technically sit….) with my spiritual community on Easter and declare that death cannot contain Love.
And that the gift of new life is always being offered to us. God is holding it for us until we are ready to receive it. For today, this is my hope, that Jesus is inviting us to share in the joy of the resurrection – whenever we are ready.
- Are you ‘feeling’ Easter right now? If not, how do you respond when your experience doesn’t seem to align with the church calendar?
- Do you distinguish between happiness and joy?
- What does the spiritual gift of joy mean to you?
- Contemplate the story of Jesus meeting the disciples on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-27)
- Enter your contemplation seeking “to share in the joy of Christ” (or whatever longing you carry at that time)
- Read the text slowly a number of times
- Imagine the scene – allow yourself to enter the scene and see where God takes the story through your imagination
- Journal and reflect on what comes to you