Easter was over a week ago, but it’s still Easter. Easter in the church lasts for fifty days until May 28th this year when we celebrate Pentecost which, Wikipedia reliably informs me is a ‘high holiday’ and we sing hymns to the Holy Spirit.
I’m glad it’s still Easter as Easter didn’t happen for me this year. Not if we’re talking Good Friday- Easter Sunday Easter. Which is what I would have said was Easter until I began to learn, mark and inwardly digest the workings of the liturgical calendar.
I had four days planned brimful of pregnant meaning over the holiday –
leading a procession of a hundred and fifty priests holding my candle aloft at the Chrism service
singing the Good Friday liturgy with its heart rending, slit-your-wrists ‘Reproaches’
leading another procession with said candle on Easter Day to the tumultuous sound of the organ and twenty-four choristers singing fortissimo
culminating in my choir belting out a Festal Evensong, fit to wake the dead on Easter Day evening.
None of it happened. Well it did, but I wasn't there.
On the Wednesday before Easter, I received one of those phone calls that make your emotional world turn on its axis. It was my mum’s cleaner. My mum was having a stroke she said – or a fit- and what should she do? This isn’t good news at any age, but as my dear mum is 97 next month, it was more than a tad worrying.
Long story short, my mum was admitted to hospital and after forty-eight hours of excellent care by our beleaguered angels of the NHS was discharged. I couldn’t support her as I’d been busily throwing up having played host to a pesky little norovirus looking for a home.
And it was my husband's 70th birthday.
My son and daughter-in-law were drafted in to minister to Grandma whilst I moaned quietly under the bedclothes and my husband celebrated reaching his eighth decade with gin and tonics on the drive with our lovely neighbour, Julia. (Big shoutout to Julia for saving the (birth) day).
By the time I’d emerged, several pounds lighter, Lazarus-like from my pit, it was Easter Monday. And Easter had been and gone without letting me know. And I felt, shall we say, a little bit cheated. Easter was supposed to be about celebration wasn’t it ? Lent done, ‘Thine be the glory’ on the service sheet, feeling resurrected.
I needed to adjust my thinking. Never easy, but it’s the only way.
It says in Day 29 of our Third Order Principles that joy is a divine gift ‘giving cheerful courage in the face of disappointment.’ I don’t think that means some artificial sticking plaster slapped on real hurts and wounds, but having an inner serenity that can’t be shaken even when life doesn’t go your way. So I missed Easter, but then I thought, Christ is still risen and he is still drawing alongside us as we walk our own Emmaus road wondering and questioning, hurting and missing.
That helped it make sense.
Then on Easter Tuesday, I took communion in my cathedral church just with nine of us and the priest. Jesus was there, with us, just as he is every time his people gather together to be with him.
I’m learning so much as I follow Francis. He wouldn’t have been phased by a family crisis or by a sick bug. He would have been thankful to be so afflicted and glorified God through it. He would have wanted to be challenged by his weakness and his dependency on God for everything.
I’m still a novice and have a way to go. But something is happening inside me – something I never thought I could do. Believing that it is possible to just accept, to be, not to fight, but instead to say, as St Francis said, ‘Lord God...you are safety, you are rest, you are joy, you are our hope...’