It is not so early in the morning on Bright Monday, but my house is still completely still. There is a deep sleep in the air, the kind you wear like a winter coat. It’s heavy with contentment. I am sitting here drinking my coffee and reflecting on the weekend, the culmination of Lent, and what it means to be really human.
This weekend was a lot. If it were a person we would say she was so extra. She was a lot to take. She did too much.
And not going to lie, it was exhausting. You could feel the Triduum coming afar off. It loomed. Ordering extra food for the school, students almost buried in choir practices, altar servers polishing the brass for hours. Smells of all good things coming from the kitchen—but no one allowed to eat anything except the penitential soups and breads provided. When I say it loomed, it loomed.
Holy Week arrived with processions of palms, expectation in the air. Tenebrae on Spy Wednesday, foot washing on Thursday, Veneration of the Holy Cross on Friday while the Passion was chanted (the most beautiful I have ever heard it). The entire college community maintained silence from noon to 3PM on Friday. That alone was enough to make me want to find a spot to cry. Instead, I baked Hot Cross Buns in total silence, reflecting on his Passion.
On Holy Saturday the Vigil Liturgy started off outside in the pouring rain, the Knights of Columbus holding up a canopy so the Easter fire could be lit (so Maccabean). We processed in, lighting our candles, sitting in otherwise complete darkness. The aggregate of all the pieces came together. Darkness, incense, chants, Sacred Scripture. It invited each to enter deeply into the mystery of this night. Our sin, our wounded humanity, the Savior, the cure. The King was dead; his friends were scattered. Betrayal and Redemption just hanging there in the balance. All the things we need to sit with from time-to-time, because they speak into our souls and help to unmangle the mess of our moderated lives.
It’s a lot to take. It’s too much for the soul to really grasp. You cannot do it easily (or at all, really), which is why we have the entirety of Lent to prepare for that moment to sit in the darkness with our fears and the audacious hope of rescue.
Just sit with that a moment. You have to walk through it for all the days leading up to it. But in that moment, you just sit there and let it heal you. Just when you feel like you cannot bear any more healing…
The the lights burst on and all the bells ring! The candles are all lit revealing all the icons and candles and all the tears becoming joy.
After the Vigil the whole community feasts. Not a few Easter cookies and coffee, rather a true feast is set that took weeks of planning and days of preparation. It’s 11PM and we are eating ham and herbed chicken, challah and stuffed grape leaves. Desserts practically piled on a table with candles and flowers capture the attention of all the little children who dozed during Mass but are now ready for some cake!
By the time I left the dining room it was 1AM and people were still partying. No one wanted to leave. No one was ready for the night to end. For some it did not. Students grabbed granola bars and water and hiked the mountain at 3AM to welcome the Easter sunrise! They came right down to head to morning Mass, which was followed by more festivities and feasting.
When I say the weekend was extra, it was extra. It was all the things it could possibly be and then some. I unequivocally maintain that there is no virtue in being reserved when the occasion calls for exuberance. If ever there were an occasion where one should exhaust oneself for the sake of the celebration it is Easter. It’s only the redemption of the whole world we are celebrating! The triumph of death by death! And all the happy faults that gained for us so great a Redeemer!
On the way home my eight year old said, “This was the best Easter ever.” It was magnificent. I think he says that every Easter though. That feeling on Sunday is inexplicable and utterly unattainable….unless you live your Lent. You don’t arrive at the place of eating carrot cake with caramel rum sauce at 1AM with friends and strangers unless your heart prepared for it and your hands did the hard work of preparation. That moment is the harvest of seeds sown in hope.
When we got home we napped (of course), then drank wine and rum and played games putting in another late night of celebration. My oldest son said of the celebration “It is what the mystery demands of you.”
Yes. The great mystery, about which all other intrigues are only an analogy, demands a response.
He went on to say that the reason those who practice an ancient faith can have such extravagant, over-the-top, insanely ridiculous celebrations is because there are times when all that is withheld. There are times without wine, oil, and dancing. It causes you to enter the mystery and receive what it demands. Sometimes what it demands is mirth and festivity.
This is what it means to be human.
“Man is a mystery. It needs to be unravelled, and if you spend your whole life unravelling it, don’t say that you’ve wasted time. I am studying that mystery because I want to be a human being.” (Fyodor Dostoevsky)
Easter is a day, but also an octave, but also a season. If you leaned into Lent, let yourself now lean into Easter. The mystery demands joy. Give the great Mystery the joy He deserves.