The symbols and rituals of Holy Week and Easter have not resonated with me this year the way they used to.
Easter has always been my favorite holiday, ever since I was a little girl perched up on a tombstone in the church graveyard for the Sunrise Service and playing in the mountain cemetery where my father was buried under the shadow of three crosses.
Easter always meant something to me, but it became much more of the celebration I felt it should be when I encountered the Anglican liturgy and traditions of Holy Week. Growing up Baptist, we’d tended to squeeze the cross and resurrection into one service on Easter morning, but once I had the opportunity to walk the journey of Jesus through the week of services designed to do just that, it all became even more deeply meaningful to me.
Part of me misses that, because now they don’t resonate the way they used to. But it’s not because I’m numb to them. It’s that other things – things that are part of life today – resonate more vividly now.
Instead of swords in a garden at night, what resonates now is shots in a grandmother’s backyard.
Instead of the betrayal of a kiss, it’s the legal fiction of equality.
Instead of Pilate washing his hands rather than defy the religious authorities, it’s refusals to prosecute and jury acquittals.
Instead of a cross to terrorize all who would defy the status quo power of empire, now it’s a gun.
There is one ritual – one symbol – that still hits me like a punch in the gut: the stripping and washing of the altar at the close of the Maundy Thursday service.
It’s always felt out of place to me at that point in the week, rather than at the close of the Good Friday service. It so vividly evokes the stripping and washing of Christ’s body. The Pietà. A mother holding the body of her murdered child. Washing the body of her child who should not be dead.
That still resonates. Too many mothers. Too many dead children.
We’ve put resurrection off for them, left the putting right to a final judgement after this life. But even if that’s what’s out there in the great beyond, it shouldn’t be the answer for today, for here. It doesn’t let us off the hook for all we refuse to see and acknowledge, much less put right.
We’ve turned the “first fruits” of resurrection life into an abstract future, discontinuous from this world, that we aren’t responsible for making with the lives we’ve been given.
I suspect that’s why I’m having trouble connecting with most of the symbols and rituals of Holy Week. Life has disrupted my ability to feel the abstract as deeply, to project the story of Jesus over our heads and into a future that’s out of our hands.
In our hands is exactly where God has entrusted the future, God help us.
God’s intervening through us, or He’s not, because we’re too invested in the status quo to cooperate. God’s making all things new through us, or He’s not, because we don’t like what we don’t know. God has “so much more to say” to us, but He’s not, because we’re convinced He gave us everything He had nearly 2000 years ago.
Where’s Sunday? I’m pretty sure we’ve buried it somewhere where it won’t cause any trouble.
I say, let’s go digging. What have we got to lose?