My 8-year-old son is very disappointed that his Annual Easter Egg Hunt had to be canceled this year. And rightfully so. He’s grieving the loss of one of his favorite traditions. For the past few years, he has delighted in sending out invitations, filling the plastic eggs with surprises, hiding them all over our yard, and then hosting his friends for the big hunt. But not this year.
Honestly, I totally identify with what he’s feeling. This week was also scheduled to be Master’s week. Growing up in Georgia, the Master’s golf tournament in early April really is a tradition unlike any other (thank you Jim Nance). Every year for as long as I can remember, the green grass, flowering dogwoods, azaleas in full bloom, and caddies dressed in white have been plastered across my television screen. But not this year.
We’re in the midst of Easter Week, the high holy week of the Christian tradition. Like the Master’s, this week has more often than not marked the coming of spring for me. As a child it was full of baskets and bunnies, and there were family gatherings to attend after getting all dressed up for Sunday church. On Easter morning my mother always made me wear uncomfortable clip-on ties with jackets that I couldn’t wait to get out of. But not this year.
Only later in life did I come to understand that Easter Sunday is not a stand-alone event, but is actually part of a larger story. It occurs after the long, dark season of Lent, where the faithful are called for 40 days to consider our mortality in preparation for the hope of new life promised at Easter. And as part of that larger story, many traditions mark the final days leading up to Easter with specific spiritual observances. But not this year – at least not in the embodied ways some of us are accustomed to them happening.
Only later in life did I come to understand that Easter Sunday is not a stand-alone event, but is actually part of a larger story.
There will be no communal Maundy Thursday service where we participate in the ancient practice of washing one another’s feet and partake again of the bread and wine. There will be no assembling for a noon Good Friday service where we sit in silent reflection ‘till three in the afternoon. No gathering with our church community for the outdoor Stations of the Cross on Friday evening. Nor will we wake up absurdly early on Easter morning to witness the sunrise in the Great Vigil of Easter – an ancient service I’ve come to treasure in recent years. And there will be no arriving to the church building early in order to find a seat on Easter morning.
So many familiar aspects of life are not happening this spring. I’ve heard from many people that every day feels like Groundhog Day – sameness on top of sameness. The isolation of quarantine life has a particularly repetitive quality about it.
And as I am grieving the loss of known and important markers of the Easter season this year, I wonder if this Easter is actually more like the first Easter than any I have experienced so far.
Those who dared to hope in that first Easter were isolated and afraid. Life as they knew it, and hoped it could be, had changed suddenly and dramatically. At best, the future was severely unclear, if not lost altogether. There were no special services where they could hear the old story told again and find reassurance or encouragement.
Those who dared to hope in that first Easter were isolated and afraid.
While your Easter traditions and indicators of spring may differ from mine, I suspect you’re missing most of them this year. Maybe you feel somewhat groundhog-ish about the whole thing. Or perhaps you’re grieving the loss of life as you knew it, and anxious about an uncertain future. And you know that no Easter service or egg hunt or golf tournament will really make it all OK. Especially not this year. If that’s you, then you are not alone.
If you’re in a similar place as me this Easter, will you join me in receiving the gift of being exactly where we need to be? Removed from the familiar rhythm of life, this Easter offers a unique hope to those of us who are displaced from normalcy as well. This type of hope accepts the tragedy of Good Friday and silence of Holy Saturday as pathways to the joy of Easter Sunday.
While looking unflinchingly at the pain and sorrow around us, this hope also takes in the goodness springing up alongside. I need a hope that believes this too shall pass. A hope that is robust enough to feel and acknowledge the stunning complexity of this moment, and continue to press on toward tomorrow.