It is late afternoon. The sliding glass door is open slightly, letting in the sounds of children splashing in the pool, cars driving past, someone is vacuuming three doors down. It is as quiet as it is going to get for a moment of reflection time. Holy Thursday Mass happens later tonight. Tomorrow, the Good Friday Service. Then finally, Easter morning itself.
For the past few days I have been thinking about what Easter means to me now. It used to be colorful Easter baskets with the green plastic grass. Plastic pastel Easter eggs filled with jelly beans and chocolate. Easter used to mean getting dressed up in my white and pink flowered dress with the puffy sleeves, wearing pretty sandals, and singing my favorite Easter hymn. “Jesus Christ is risen today, Aaaaa-le-e-lu-u-ia.” It used to mean decorating a dozen Easter eggs, eating bagels with strawberry cream cheese, and the anticipation of a delicious late afternoon dinner feast.
But today, Easter feels very different. Partly because I won’t be getting an Easter basket, but mostly because I want it to mean something different. I don’t want to just go through the motions. I want to understand in a deeper way.
When I lived in the Philippines, I got to experience some incredible Holy Week traditions. One year in particular, I went to the Holy Week Festival in Marinduque. We watched a live play of the passion story that started in the streets, then we followed Jesus to a field where we watched him get crucified on the cross.
Another day I witnessed special men in the town who flagellated themselves until they bled, in order to experience the suffering of what Jesus might have felt. One evening, I stood on the street watching a candlelight procession, watching the faces of the faithful as they passed by. It was one of the most powerful Holy Week images I have witnessed in person.
What I’ve noticed about Filipinos and Holy Week is that they focus a lot on the suffering Christ, on Good Friday – Jesus’ death and suffering on the cross. Perhaps, when most of your life is a series of struggles, it is a suffering Jesus that is easiest to relate to.
However, Easter is not meant to focus only on suffering but on the joy of the risen Christ. It is the signal of a new beginning, a new age, one that we are all called to participate in bringing about the kingdom of God. We don’t just sit around waiting for the second coming; we live our lives working towards that eschatological vision. Jesus’ death and resurrection – showing that our bodies and creation itself are good – help us to know that our lives here on Earth have meaning too.
Trying to contemplate the fullness of what the resurrection means can make your head spin. It is complex. However, what does speak to me is that the resurrection is God’s love statement. It is an “I love you” expressed to each and every one of us. The fact that God had a plan to become human and reveal himself to us is a great act of love. One that I still have a hard time understanding.
I’ll never forget the Easter Mass in Marinduque. During the uplifting song the “Gloria,” a cloth that had been placed in front of the statue of Jesus was dropped to the ground and a spotlight was turned towards it. Smoke began shooting upwards from behind Jesus, catching the light in a surreal way – a real vision of Jesus risen in glory. I almost laughed out loud at the scene. While all of us may focus on the suffering of Christ at times, it is Easter that reminds us that there is hope, that God’s power is present among us, and that God loves us very much.
a girl who dreams