I was raised Roman Catholic which means that I cannot go through Holy Week without feeling the urge to do something. Go to mass everyday. Attend the stations of the cross. And, of course, Holy Thursday communion (the mass most likely to make you cry every year). Even after I left Catholicism, Holy Week continued to be a time of increased spiritual activity. Get some palm leaves. Hold a fake seder. Do a special devotional. Consider doing footwashing with the kids. Cut back on Friday’s dinner and call that sort of like fasting in honor of the day. Things like that.
I don’t know why other people do these things, but my urge was always driven by a need to make it real. To make those strange, confusing, important events of 2000 years ago seem real. Because maybe if those things become real to me, then God could be real enough for me to be satisfied.
The thing with religion and scriptures is that they take on this flatness after a while. We no longer understand the elements of the story well enough to really understand it, but we keep repeating it anyways. Which makes it unreal. So we try various ways of putting flesh and bones on the stories. We meditate on the cross. We dress our preschool son up as a scourged Jesus on the cross. If you’re particularly desperate, you allow yourself to be faux-crucified so you can experience it all yourself. Or watch a gory movie about it. (I’ve never seen Passion of the Christ, btw. I was raised Catholic, so I just didn’t see the need.)
At any rate, this year, I find that my urge to participate in holy week has disappeared. This morning I wondered if I should plan something for dinner tonight with the kids and I thought, “no. It’s too sad and ugly a story to go through right now. I’m not up for sad and ugly right now.”
A friend recently sent this quote from Anne Lemont to me:
“We are a resurrection people living in a Good Friday world.”
I told him that I keep thinking it must be Holy Saturday by now. Frankly, I’ve had enough of suffering.
Not too long ago, I could psyche myself up by reminding myself that others had it much worse. But after a while it started to dawn on me that this was actually a load of bullshit. If my life is this hard to deal with, then the idea that other people’s lives were worse is horrifying, not comforting! How are we supposed to survive and function down here if life can be as awful as it is? I don’t need the cross to be real to me to see what an awful condition human beings are in. I can see it all around me.
It seems like there aren’t any answers, except for the one we’re still waiting for: resurrection. And that’s certainly not within the scope of our powers to bring about. We have to wait on God to do that. And we don’t have nearly as much pull with him as we’d like to think. So, unless you have super-human faith, you can’t help but fear and resent the suffering which will take place between now and then. Should then ever arrive.
The suffering of Holy Week is plenty real now. I’ve traveled far enough down the path of suffering to know that I’ve learned as much of what it has to teach as I am able or willing to bear. There are no more answers for me there. Whatever answers there may be will have to be found in the resurrection. Which frankly scares the crap out of me because only God can bring resurrection. And even if I had perfect faith that it’s coming, what do I do between now and then?
This year, I don’t need Holy Week. I just desperately need Easter. I think WE desperately need Easter. To remind us that sometimes it does get better as well.