Holy Week usually comes at a time when one is pretty well heartbroken anyway, with the ground coming out of its winter cold and damp and the buds on the trees swelling even while everything might still look just like winter all around it. The miracle of new life, even the basic Spring version, has something mysterious, almost tragic, about it. When you add to that a story of torture and death, the best thing we ever knew taken from us by treachery and consigned to darkness, it’s almost overwhelming. It can easily take a week to absorb; it takes all the ‘gestures’ we make all during Holy Week to make it soak in.
We Episcopalians are big on holistic worship – when we ask God to help us walk the Way of the Cross, we mean it. We walk, all around the church, as we pray the Stations of the Cross. We hear about our Lord carried away to his death, and then we carry away all the beautiful things that are so much a part of our worship of him, to remind us of his absence, his loss, his abandonment. We sit there on Good Friday, in the empty church – and pray for the church. It is doing all that that enables us to get our minds around the impossible – as death always seems to be – and to begin to think and pray it all better.
And when you add to that the news that all the heartbreak is then undone, rolled away like that rock over the door of Jesus’ tomb, you can understand why Easter might take fifty days to absorb. It’s always a surprise, always impossible, in the circumstances of our lives – that’s why it’s the most compelling testimony to a God for whom ‘circumstances’ are just the raw material for whatever miracles he is up to at the moment.
We who tend to see circumstances as the last word always have a shock coming from God. The shock is something like, “Guess what? All your sorrows, all your anxieties, all your wickedness, all your confusion – they’re all in my hand, all part of my experience too, all taken up into my infinite love and justice. The stone is rolled away. Life, not death, is the Son’s destiny, and yours. Nothing is worth being afraid of any more.”
Once we begin to get our minds around all that (not that we ever do it completely), it becomes possible to make the Easter confession. And once we say it, it seems to become possible for us to believe it.