I love Chocolate.
And I love Easter.
However, chocolate is not why I love Easter.
The journey to Easter began 6 weeks ago on Ash Wednesday. In the Christian tradition Lent is a period of 40 days where Christians are called to pray, fast and give to others in need. It is a time of simplicity, preparation and reflection. Traditionally, people are called to ‘give up’ something for Lent. This year, I decided to take up something that was transformative. I would try not to yell so much at home when things got a bit stressful. Easier said than done. To remind me of my Lenten promise, I painted my finger nails a Lenten purple so every time I would see my nails I would remember my promise. That trigger worked, often after I had yelled at the kids. I would then see my nails and say, “God, I am sorry … again!”
Whilst I probably didn’t live the promise as much as I would have liked to, it did begin a transformation in me. I began to be conscious about the way I would react to situations. And that is what the journey to Easter and beyond is about. It is about the transformation. A word that has come up a few times this past Holy Week has been the Greek word “metanoia”. Metanoia translates to a transformation of one’s heart and mind. My changing of heart and mind began in Lent and continued more deeply into Holy Week.
I love Holy Week.
It is one of the most intense, emotional and spiritual times of the year. And because I work in a Catholic Church, one of the stressful times of the year!
This year, much more than previous years, it stood out to me how much the Easter Triduum – Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday reflect our daily cycle of life. I’d like to also remember Holy Saturday. Let me explain.
Holy Thursday is about a group of friends coming together to share a meal. No doubt at that last supper they would have shared stories, had a few laughs but then also shared those serious moments that we know so well – the breaking of the bread and sharing of the wine, the washing of the feet as an example that we are to serve one another. At its simplest, it is a group of really great friends, as close as family, coming together, sharing life and love together – as community.
In my own life, I do that everyday. I share meals with my own family, hear about each other’s day, and share stories. As a mother I serve my children and in turn they serve each other by cleaning up and working together (I’m not saying it is a peaceful service to each other because I guarantee you it is not!). But again at its core, that is what it is. At work, we gather for lunch around the table and share stories about our lives and what is happening in the community, again so we can be of service to those who may need some help. And I often catch up with friends for meals. We live the elements of Holy Thursday every day.
Good Friday is also lived in our own lives. Not all sad moments are as intense as a Good Friday experience, but in our lives we have big deaths and little deaths. Each day when we have to let go of little things that we are used to – they might be those little deaths. Or they could be huge changes when we have to transform our way of being as a result of a major event in our life. Transformation happens over time, but we all come to decision points at some point in our lives when we have to make a choice on how we are going to live. But the great thing about Good Friday, is that while the disciples didn’t pick up on it at the time, Jesus gave them so many clues that his dying was not the end. To our advantage, we know that the story continues. So therefore the message of Good Friday is about hope.
The sign of hope is so evident for me at the Good Friday service. There is a point in the service where people are invited to come to venerate the cross. It is a time where EVERYBODY is invited and lots and lots and lots of people take that opportunity to come to the cross. Fr Rob Galea in his song “At the Foot of the Cross” sings,
“So come see, come rest, where ever you are. Come broken, whole, how ever you are.
He calls your name who ever you are.
There is room for you, at the foot of the cross.”
And as I sit there and watch the lines of people wait to venerate the cross, I see people in all their vulnerability. I don’t know their stories. But I know they have a story because everyone has a story. And they come. They come and they are welcome. Because there is room for EVERYONE at the foot of the cross. And I pray that they too experience transformation in whatever it is they bring to the cross. And that gives me hope.
Holy Saturday is a day of waiting and stillness. Although you wouldn’t think that as you watch the shopping centres with all that last-minute shopping. Working in the Church is definitely not still with all the preparation and stress that goes on in preparation for the Easter Vigil. But yes – it is a day of waiting – the day the earth stood still. Fr James Martin SJ writes,
“Most of our lives are spent in Holy Saturday. In other words, most of our days are not filled with the unbearable pain of a Good Friday. Nor are they suffused with the unbelievable joy of an Easter. Some days are indeed times of great pain and some are of great joy, but most are…in between.”
These words are so true. We live in that Holy Saturday moment. If you continue to read the article it talks about “the right way to wait”. The article shares that the right way to wait is to wait in hope. We are people of hope.
And then there is Easter Sunday. Where hope is visible! “I have seen the Lord” says Mary Magdalene (John 20:18). The Easter Vigil in all its glory has the awesomeness of light through the Easter Candle, the sound of joy in the music, the newness of life as our Baptismal font comes to life as we welcome new people to the family, and the sheer joy and happiness that the story doesn’t end in death. That the ultimate transformation from death to new life has happened.
The Easter moments in our lives aren’t limited to this one day – or the Easter season which continues for seven weeks. There are so many moments of joy in our lives. Even the mediocre moments in life can be moments of joy. Our world is marred by news stories and television shows that focus on the negativity of humanity. (Santo Passarello, principal of Patrician Brothers Blacktown writes a good article on this.)
Easter teaches me that if I am going to live in this world and make it a great experience for my children, then I have to be a person of hope! I have to live authentically the deaths I may experience, the waiting that will happen and then celebrate those moments of joy that make life extraordinary!
So now my nails are painted white because white is the colour of the Easter Season. When I look at my nails it triggers me to remember to smile, to be a person of hope! My faith asks me to believe that everything is possible! It might not always be the way I would like it, but it will be the way it has to be for that time. And there will be times I will forget this and I will look at my nails and say, “God, I am sorry … again!”. And that is OK. Because metanoia is not a once off thing. The transformation of heart and mind is ongoing.
And we will have Lent, Holy Week and Easter again next year, and the year after and the year after that and again be given the opportunity to grow, reflect and continue to transform our hearts and minds to be the best version of ourselves that we can possible be.
And we can eat lots of chocolate!!! Because I love chocolate. But I love Easter more.
So Happy Easter in the complete fullness of what that means! May the Easter Season bring hope and joy to everyone!