Perhaps it's my place in life. Perhaps it's the fact that for the first time I had the opportunity to attend every service in Holy Week. Or, perhaps it's just a function of ancient architecture and strong incense in the thurible. Whatever it is... I've had a really powerful Easter.
Growing up, Easter was always a sort of "second holiday," taking its place in line behind Christmas. I think that's how it is in a lot of evangelically-leaning Protestant churches. Sure, we celebrated Easter, but not nearly to the same extent as we did Christmas. In my family, as often with my church, Christmas begins with the end of Thanksgiving and goes all the way until New Year's Day. It's a sweeping celebration filled with loads of decorations, more Christmas trees than our house can hold, wonderful food, and a celebration of our love for one another. I absolutely LOVE the way my family does Christmas, and I plan on carrying on that tradition in my own family later on.
But Easter never got the same attention. For one, we didn't get much time off for Easter, and so any preparation for it had to be rather rushed. And two, the Easter Bunny just isn't nearly as magnificent as Santa Claus... it's just not. Even our Easter service at church failed to live up to the candlelit extravaganza that was Christmas Eve service. And so, while Easter is, theologically speaking, infinitely more significant than Christmas, I just never saw it that way.
I think that's why this Easter had such a profound impact on me-- it was made important. It was acted out over the course of two weeks with special liturgies and readings and processions. The altars were stripped. The vestments lost their splendor. The songs grew somber. The Archbishop came to preside over services. He washed people's feet. We all lived as the disciples did, confused at what was happening around us. We celebrated baptisms and confirmations, we all renewed our vows of devotion to Christ and the church. We lit candles and sang lamentations. And then--Christos anesti!--we celebrated.
In a culture so far removed from the miracle of Easter, I think that the more liturgical way of observing Holy Week makes more sense. It makes the events told in scripture more immediate, and forces you to truly contemplate them as you actually participate in each part of the story. You engage with the text; you empathize and interact. All of this rises in personal importance as I draw deeper into the discernment process for ordination.
While in Dublin, I began corresponding with my priest back in Champaign, discussing among other things the most pertinent steps I'd need to take when I get home in order to form the necessary committees to begin the ordination process. As it turns out, there are quite a few things on the list to get done, and the alacrity with which we'll have to move to accomplish everything on time does not leave me encouraged. It will be tough. But as this Holy Week has taught me, there's always centering devotional practice, there's always calm to be found, and there's always renewal that comes in the end.