Here we are at the end of Lent and Holy Week. And, I don’t know about you, but this has been a very strange season. Just as a reminder. Ash Wednesday was about 6 weeks ago was on February 26th. At that time, the news in Canada was reporting single-digit numbers of COVID-19 cases in both Ontario and BC.
That seems like a lifetime ago now.
The liturgical calendar, which walks through the life of Jesus and the church every twelve months, sometimes feels like a map for the change that happens in the gospels – from Jesus’ birth and then moving from obscurity to gathering a following to the Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday to crucifixion on Friday to the resurrection on Sunday. A map of what happened – just not to scale.
But this year so much change has happened in the 40-day time period of Lent. In some ways, this rapid change makes it easier to see how the world transformed when Jesus was walking around encountering people in the flesh.
Usually, during Lent, I feel like I can only embrace one aspect of Jesus without getting whiplash adjusting to a different reality — born, died and raised from the dead every liturgical year. Yet, the church calendar keeps insisting on pairing the darkness of Good Friday with the unimaginable light of Resurrection Sunday. They are inseparable.
Looking back over my own experience of Lent, this year I found myself in a Spiritual Direction session on Ash Wednesday, feeling more than a little bit guilty for not making a plan for Lent. As I assessed my life with my Spiritual Director, we heard the call of the Spirit to try to be present to the reality around me for at least a little while each day. To simply give my boys my full attention, to put the to-do list on hold, to silence the “shoulds” and the overthinking. And to not overthink even this practice. It’s been good. I know there are days I did better than others, but it’s been good.
Little did I know how much my reality would pivot during the season of Lent this year. With the advent of the global pandemic, life has changed in many ways we didn’t see coming. I’ve had seasons of staying home before, my Facebook memories have popped up the last several weeks with the images of my youngest at just a few weeks old. Two years ago my family was staying home with a baby with some feeding and sleeping issues. Back then it felt like life was going on around us as we hunkered down.
These days, as life has collapsed down into our homes, it has felt like a global Lenten fast, just not of our choosing. There have been a lot of things to give up together as a community.
We gave up our plans.
We gave up our social closeness.
We gave up our certainty about the future.
We gave up parties and theatre productions, social gatherings and family visits, water-cooler chit chat and running into friends in the park or the grocery store.
We gave up so many parts of normal.
This experience of isolation or physical distancing, whatever we like to call it, can be an opportunity or a struggle – and probably both at the same time. Maybe it’s that tension that has been causing me such emotional confusion.
One moment this whole situation feels like it is full positives – a chance to reset our expectations, a chance to experiment with new ways to connect with our church community. A concrete reason to reach out and care for our physical neighbourhood.
Yet, in the next breath, there is anxiety and fear of the unknown and concern for those who could get really sick. The grief, not only for those who have or will be impacted by the virus but the grief for all the things each of us has lost.
And maybe that tension in our lives is a lens through which to view Easter this year. The beauty and darkness of Good Friday need to be held in tension with the glorious miracle of the Resurrection on Easter.The beauty and darkness of Good Friday need to be held in tension with the glorious miracle of the Resurrection on Easter. Click To Tweet
I find myself anticipating Easter this year, wondering what will happen. Not that I am expecting Resurrection Sunday to bring the miraculous healing of all COVID-19 cases. And in many ways I expect the heaviness of Good Friday to linger longer this year, as we as a community embrace suffering from a different angle than previous years. But I am waiting for Easter because I know that God will bring Light into our world during the season of Easter in small or large ways that none of us anticipated.
And, I think many of us desperately need that bit of Light these days.