What happened to Easter?

What happened to Easter? Did I lose it in attention to liturgical detail? Sheer exhaustion? And this year I didn’t even have to preach at any of the major services – let alone all of them – as I have had to do as a parish priest!

At one point I thought about the effects of the intrinsic intensity of Holy Week in these terms: don’t CULTS exhaust their initiates so that they’re compliant? For that matter, boot camps, plebe years, novitiates of all kinds hone in on personal space and time to re-create the initiate for purposes of the institution. Kidnappers exaggerate the technique to the stress point of a captive’s threatened humanity, until the most modest gesture of kindness creates a reversal of loyalty and the prisoner basically imprints, like a baby duck, upon the enemy. I even thought of Shakespeare’s Petruchio “taming” Katherine the Shrew with perverse kindnesses. By the time Easter comes you’re so worn out you’ll believe anything! Holy Week exhaustion opens you to insights not possible in the routine chores of every day life, I told myself.

Easter Flowers in chapel, (pussywillow, lilies, forsythia, daffodils) photo by Erin Martineau

It’s not so exhausting being a guest at a monastery, say, where you might lose an hour’s sleep to watch at the altar of repose and get up a few hours early for the Great Vigil. I can’t even remember being a parishioner and enjoying the luxury of going to church services a few extra times between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. But I didn’t notice any of the sisters complaining about their assignments. In addition to all the extra work and prayer offices and difficult music and night vigils, THEY labored in the garden every day and then planted all day Saturday!

Everyone worked especially hard. Why were some sisters able to cry on Good Friday? And not me?  The creation of atmosphere, environment, mood, thinking through thousands of details, takes brawn and brains; carrying, lifting, hauling, remembering, finding, attention, problem solving, feats of memory – where IS that thingie we use for the whoseziwhatsit…?! Normally I can discern when too much detail overrides meaning and fun of liturgy and change strategies. All I could think of were the things I had to do for the next service.

At another time this week I thought: I’m just too old for this. My body just isn’t in shape for the holy triathlon of triathlons. During our 3 hour Great Vigil/ Resurrection service I looked around the room as it was beginning to get light to see if anyone else was lagging, faint, or frustrated. Instead, everyone looked concentrated, attentive, eager maybe to ring bells and chant alleluias.

It must be me. I’m probably sick. Dying. That’s it. I’m dying. THEN I remembered. Every once in a while I lose a season of the Christian Year. My soul, working out another puzzle for which the mode of another season offers insight, remains where it needs to be. Perhaps it’s still Lent for me, for the purposes of some kind of breakthrough later. I’m experiencing some kind of holy waiting. So Easter did not happen for me this year, but, as the ever patient and practical Bill pointed out to me, I helped make Easter happen for people I love. And that makes me happy and content.

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6 Responses to “What happened to Easter?”

  1. claire Says:

    I’m probably sick. Dying. That’s it. I’m dying. I could not help smiling when I read this, because every so often I think these same words with so much intensity…

    May your longer Lent blossom in a beautiful way.

    • ammaguthrie Says:

      Thank you. Yeah. “I’m dying” seems to be a default for many people. So glad you smiled. Thank you, again.

  2. Susan Says:

    How is life without your dog Lady?

  3. Matthew Cutler Says:

    Thank you for this insightful post. I stumbled on to your blog tonight, and it was exactly what I needed to read. Easter didn’t happen for me this year either… I didn’t shed my usual tears at the reading of the Passion… had no urge to prostrate myself at the foot of the Cross and pray for reconciliation through Christ… but I did introduce new people to the Easter Season and Liturgy, and that should be enough – that is more than enough.

    • ammaguthrie Says:

      “Enough and more than enough!” We all need each other. I remember Jim Fenhagen saying to me that when you can’t pray “community carries you along like a river”. We step in and out of the prayer-stream. But we can take a nap on the boat when its’ time to rest our psyches, or we’re having a painful growth spurt.
      Thank you for your comment.

  4. Laura Roth Says:

    I enjoyed Easter but couldn’t entirely take it in either…I’m still in Lent. Of course I love Lent and have realized it’s my favorite in the liturgical cycle. I love a good butt-kicking review of the state of my sould more than merriment I guess. But I also thought perhaps your semi lack-luster experience was related to Lady passing. I’ve had a dog for 10 years that was given to me straight from the Lord, I promise (long story) and I know that at the time of his death I’ll need a total retreat from life for a while. They can be like children…in fact, he’s my only. So my prayers still go out to you regarding Lady.

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