In the flower bed, the lilies are up, and the spider-wort and the grasses; also the Star of Bethlehem from Grandma's yard, a perennial favorite. I've poked around, trying to remember what else is in there. I've moved houseplants to the deck. And I've moved them back inside, where the morning glories are peeking through the potting soil in a planter next to the window.
It's a test of patience, this slow process every spring -- the earth shaking off the dormancy of winter; a long process of back and forth warmth and cold that sometimes makes winter's sameness seem easier to endure. They say the farmers love it, the on-again off-again freeze and thaw that breaks up the soil and prepares it to receive the plow and the seed.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and admit that I don't like Easter.
Or, more likely, what I'm trying to say is that I don't like the way we observe Easter. Maybe it's from too many years of cantata rehearsals, or of throwing on a winter coat over a new, lightweight spring dress and shivering in the church parking lot. Maybe it's the memory of indoor Easter egg hunts, or of the kids' muddied shoes, and holding onto our hats in the wind. Mostly, though, it seems that I'm thrust into something that feels too contrived--of pageantry and exuberance, of false cheer and certitude, the noise and color of which rakes across my contemplative heart. Maybe that's all it really is.
So every year I avoid it.
I much prefer Holy Thursday. Or, better yet, Holy Saturday, when I like to reflect on those holy liminal Myrrh-bearing Women, and their role;;; , ;; ; k of of keeping vigil through the dark; waiting together for first light and the opportunity to prepare for burial the body of the One whom they love.
I've learned that I would rather sit through a three-hour-long Saturday evening Vigil service than an hour of Easter Sunday morning. It just feels noisy and artificial and, honestly, like something to which people have a difficult time relating. (But, then, how would I know? It's been years since I've attended an Easter Sunday service.)
"I will wax romantic about spring and its splendors in a moment, but first there is a hard truth to be told: before spring becomes beautiful, it is plug ugly, nothing but mud and muck. . . .but in that muddy mess, the conditions for rebirth are being created."
"I love it," she said. . ." 'plug ugly' . . .I think that is where we are. I will be trying to incorporate that phrase into my everyday language."
Yes. Because "plug ugly" is where we live. . . even if it is Easter Sunday. The Liturgy even reminds us that those present (Mary Magdalene, Peter, and the other disciple, for instance) "did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead." That's the way John's Gospel tells it, at least. . .that they first had to live through the seeing but not fully understanding part; and the believing but know knowing what the belief meant part. Plug ugly. No trumpets, no bright colors, no noise, or cheer, no certainty. (That's the stuff of Palm Sunday, remember?)
I suppose I should clear something up. I live in relationship to the Risen Christ. I sometimes am aware that Resurrection Life courses through my veins. He's Alive! That is the source of my hope, and my deepest joy. But I'm also in a plug ugly place most of the time. Waiting in the dark. Longing for light. Hoping for rebirth. Engaged in the struggle. Trying to trust. Going on what I'm given. (which often, gratefully, seems like so much! ) All of the above are true--a paradox.
Parker Palmer speaks also of paradox -- (para = beyond; doxa = opinion).
"In a paradox, opposites do not negate each other. They cohere in mysterious unity at the heart of reality. Deeper still, they need each other for health. If we (in nature) allow the paradox of darkness and light to be, the two will conspire to bring wholeness and health to every living thing."
Easter is, of course, paradox. Life out of Death. Light out of Darkness. Renewal and Rebirth out of Barrenness and Futility.
In my faith, we share in the Mass (communion; the Eucharist) every Sunday. So every Sunday is Easter. Easter, therefore, is threaded throughout all of our days, giving us a way to manage the muck. Even during Lent, we get to have a reprieve, a little Easter every Sunday.
So let's not get together one day out of the year, and pretend we understand; that we totally get it, or that we somehow have all arrived. Just give me something real. Give me something I relate to, muddy and messy, the way my life is. Something that puts me in touch with the heart of reality that brings wholeness and health, eventually. And let it take its own sweet time.