Once upon a time, as the calendar moved slowly into the week before Easter, I knew what to expect. Holy Week, seven days commencing with Palms on the Sunday and punctuated by Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday or Easter Vigil, coming to a climax in a week of chocolately Easter alleluias. That was then.
Once upon a later time I was involved in planning Holy Week parish liturgical celebrations. They sit there in my memory – words, music and actions, creative, well-planned, occasionally lop-sided, stretching to link Jesus’ death and resurrection, traditional practices, do-not-meddle-with liturgical rubrics and reality. But within a few years diocesan guidelines had faded anything so innovative into nothing.
Those years of faithful liturgical celebration had changed me. Where I had once equated religious faith with fidelity to liturgical practices, now the Gospel story of Jesus’ last days culminating in the joyful but hard-to-believe resurrection, had gradually woven its way into my everyday. And what an everyday 2022 has been so far!
The first Holy Week was set in world where betrayal, abandonment, mockery, violence and ultimately death changed the course of history. This year, across the world, people have experienced that and more. Many millions suddenly and unexpectedly are losing so much, if not everything.
Maybe personally, but mostly via endless social media bulletins and updates, our carefree, safe lives have been infiltrated by the on-going-ness of Covid, devastating floods, the terror and brutality of Russia’s bid to control Ukraine and now the tiring speechmaking that is the current face of Australian politicking in the lead-up to an election.
It’s a liminal space, a Holy Saturday space. We are called to live it with compassion as we sit and stand and live out our lives in solidarity with those who are living in grief for what has been lost, before moving into hope for the future. Without security they are living on the edge.
I think being open to the gap that exists between the religious traditions of my baptismal faith and life as it opens out in front of me, is what living on the edge means to me. Living on the edge has given me the space to recognise and to depth the Holy Week story as it unfolds, not just across one week, but 24/7. It means too, that I’ve experienced the security of some faith beliefs being washed away like a low-lying house in the recent Queensland floods. It’s gone, and all one holds dear has gone with it. Like that first Easter week and as the Apostles found out for themselves, it’s not easy to recognise the resurrected Jesus when your eyes are on the crucified Jesus.
There will be no Easter eggs tucked away behind the rocky outcrops and skinny gum trees around our house this Sunday, thanks to a family seven day Covid lockdown, but there are sunflowers in a vase. Those flowers are my prayer for peace in war ravaged Ukraine.
I wish you a balanced Easter, sprinkled with gratitude for the gifts that come wrapped with God’s name on the accompanying card.