Whatever seasons or holidays we are in the midst of, they are most always reflected in a little bit of decor details around our home. I’ve just always enjoyed the changing of seasons, the anticipations of family holiday celebrations around the bend, and weaving that inspiration into the fabric of my homemaking.
But increasingly over the years I have found, that the way to Easter in the heart and home, doesn’t come so easily.
I don’t want to bring out the Easter specific elements of our decor in the weeks before Easter. I don’t feel drawn to embracing that beautiful spirit of Easter joy just yet, that I know is on it’s way, come Easter Sunday morning. I don’t jump on the anticipation of excitement, as I do with any other approaching season or holiday.
But I do know why.
It’s not that I don’t love Easter. I DO! Especially when that Sunday morning finally arrives, or family is gathered, light-hearted and feasting on all of the goods this celebration brings. But the days in the season leading to Easter is not at all the same as say . . . . Christmas.
See, come the beginning of December, our Christmas decorations start coming out, the house becomes aglow with lights and special ornaments we only enjoy these few weeks of the year. We set up our beautiful Nativity set gifted to us. We begin preparing for Christmas in joyful anticipation, right up until Christmas Day!
But the way to Christmas in the heart and home, is not the same way as Easter in the heart and home.
Not if you’re a Christian, anyway. And if you’re not a Christian, what are you celebrating on Christmas and Easter, anyway?
Christmas is of course, the celebration of the birth of baby Jesus. God made manifest in flesh and blood, here on earth. The man who would grow to be our most important teacher, divine Master, and ultimately the Redeemer of the world. Throughout Advent, we simply and joyfully anticipate the celebration of his birth all the way through the season, as the coming of the Savior of the world, and all that means for us.
Easter Sunday is of course, the celebration of His Resurrection from the dead. Which is joyful to think about, and certainly worthy of our celebration! However, the season leading to just prior to that joyous day, is not one of anticipation….but the reliving and remembrance of all that lead to that day. The Season of Lent, 40 days, for which we as Christians devote to fasting, abstinence, and penitence in commemoration of Christ’s fasting in the desert. Starting with Ash Wednesday, bringing us through Palm Sunday. And then . . . .
Holy Week can be hard! And it should be hard. We can’t truly celebrate Easter, without first acknowledging all Jesus went through for us, leading to that day of His fulfilled promise, also for us.
Holy Thursday – The Mass of the Lord’s Supper, when Jesus spoke those words to His disciples, His first followers, ( representative of and continued in generations in us)…“This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” And many of us witness or experience the washing of the feet, as Jesus also did for His disciples.
Good Friday – The darkest day of all. The suffering and death of Jesus, as He is crucified, and dies on the cross. The veneration of the cross.
. . . . and Holy Saturday, as we wait in anxious anticipation of Jesus’ promised Resurrection.
Holy Week . . . . it’s often difficult, for most Christians, I can only imagine, who choose to walk the journey of the truth of Easter. It is a period filled with solemn anxiousness. It certainly is for us as Catholics, through the Liturgies, that chronologically well paint and depict the details of all that Jesus painfully lived, in heart and body. All so beyond our comprehension. Still, knowing how His life story goes, with each passing day, as we willingly make ourselves present, in body, mind, heart and spirit, we relive in most every detail the chain of events, right up to and through the grueling and torturous suffering and death of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Of course, we all know the story. And we all know it’s the true story. We hear it in the Gospel over and over again. But even still, I don’t think we all entirely get it, with our imaginations. Nothing helped us truly see the Truth in detail more, than watching the film The Passion of Christ (a Mel Gibson film), many years ago. It was incredibly hard to watch at moments, but it made us realize how much us Christians like to sort of clean up the gruesome and horrific events of what truly occurred, and what Jesus truly went through. FOR US. Some say “No, no….I don’t need to see it. I don’t want to see that. I get it.” But you know….it changes the heart, of even already-believers, and lovers of Jesus. If one lets it, and gets it. It certainly changes Holy Week.
For our family personally, there is certainly no escaping the week of keen awareness and of difficult reflection on the suffering and death of the One we love most. Our personal circumstances may be a bit unusual but….as an employee of our Catholic Church, it’s an incredibly busy week for Michael and the rest of the amazing staff, as they have much to prepare ahead of time, for these most crucial celebrations, involving the rich symbols of this most sacred week in our Liturgical year; especially in the way of water and fire. They all put in a lot of extra hours, after hours. Our kids, will all serve at the altar (as usual), for actually every (kind of) celebration throughout Holy Week this year, because we sadly did not have enough volunteers to fill all of the slots necessary! Slots that far exceeds the necessities of ordinary Mass. So they will assist at Holy Thursday, Good Friday, The Easter Vigil (and then decorate the church for Easter Sunday morning), and also an Easter morning Mass. Thankfully, our kids are always more than willing to step up, and this is a blessing to us. Although there is no denying it will make the week all the more demanding for our family, as it usually does, we take heart in the promises of the fruits our own small sacrifices will bring. And honestly, it forces us all to immerse ourselves in the Truth all the more.
So more to my point again: If you allow yourself to go there . . . . well aware, and in sincere prayer, over the course of these most significant days of Jesus’ life during Holy Week, as we are all called to do as Christians….there is quite frankly, a bit of dread. There is anxiety. There is a heaviness of the heart that is hard to shake. There is at times a sense of pitch darkness, fear and even helplessness. And ultimately, there is grief – there in those moments after, following Jesus’ last breath.
By all accounts, Holy Week is a rough week, for all those who practice their faith in their heart’s desire to live a life that leads to hopeful Salvation, with our Almighty Father, in His Heavenly Kingdom. With HIM. Eternally. Think about that word: Eternally. Have you stopped to think what that means? For you? Each one of us. Never-ending time. With Him. Not separated from Him. That’s what we want, over anything in this temporary world, and incredibly brief life. We only have this life to get it. And this life is but a minute.
Time is running out quickly, for all of us, no matter how we look at it. Whether we see, believe and live the Truth, or not.
The day will come, when we will all take our last breath, like Jesus did, and we will all face our Maker.
Did we ever think of Him, and the whole point of our life, until then?
I don’t know everything, for certain.
I’d even say I know very little, about anything at all.
But I’m quite certain of a few things:
If we can have any hope of our Salvation . . . . we, of capable mind and heart, need to believe Jesus was the Son of God, fully divine and fully human. We need to know and truly acknowledge all that He did for us in His life, suffering, death, and life again…. and love Him with all we can, because of it!
For the simple fact that His suffering and sacrifice opened up a way for us to have new and everlasting life! For the simple fact that He tells us so! We must eat His Body, and drink His blood at His table, just as he commanded us to. And what a gift! To be nourished with His own body, blood, soul and Divinity! For us to become one with Him.
“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
We must repent, and come to Communion with Him. Eating this flesh and drinking this blood, in the consecrated Eucharist regularly, means believing in Christ. We partake of Christ and His benefits by faith. Meditating upon the cross of Christ gives life to our repentance, love, and gratitude. Whether we choose to believe or not, does not change the Truth, in the end.
And if we want to experience the true joy of Easter Sunday, if we deserve the right to that joy at all, of celebrating His Resurrection, we need to walk with Him through His suffering, Passion, and death. We must suffer with Him, in this (very) small way that we can. Is it not the least that we can do, to repay Him?
Having done that, come Easter . . . .
. . . . I promise you, you will find yourself feeling closer to the Lord your God, than you have ever felt before. You will feel more loved by Him, than you have ever passingly known you were. You will feel a new kind of peace. You will have spiritually grown in a way, that leaves you just wanting more of the same.
And you will feel a JOY and hope in your heart, that is so BIG! The life of the Holy Spirit will be alive within you, and you will feel it. Not only because Jesus rose from the dead and will forever live on, but because we know our Father fulfills all of the promises He makes to us, for our own lives. We feel deep joy on Easter, because we are wide-eyed children made new again, who have seen and know how blessed we are.
So yeah . . . . I’ll get those bits of Easter decor up, in the nick of time. And sure . . . . we could take the short and easy path to a semi-celebratory Easter day. One filled with goody baskets, and special feasts at our table, possibly following Easter Sunday morning Mass. But that is not enough, nor will it be in the end. Not for us. Not for many, who have somehow come to realize and see that there is so much more for us than we can even imagine, in this mystery of faith!
It’s nice to know Easter is coming. But there’s a long and dark path ahead, beforehand, if we go this other way, that we want to walk. The way through Holy Week. WHY? Because the glorious light of joy and love, is always at the end, and it is much brighter, and it is everlasting. It’s only a taste of what we have to come. So we can only imagine.
Therefore for us, and for so many other Christians and Catholics, we know . . . .
. . . this is the only way to Easter in the heart and home.
Our prayers and wishes are with you and your families and loved ones, for a blessed and meaningful Holy Week, and an Easter filled with great love, peace, and joy. – The Richard Family