The pathos of Holy Week inevitably leads to the absolute joy of Easter Sunday, at the least within the church services. Taken together the services are a safe way to travel through a whole gamut of emotions and have a really happy ending.
Our Easter was certainly joyous and happy. It was a Saturday of catching up with dear family who we rarely see, cousins were reunited and took up where they left off. News was exchanged and the most delicious giant profiteroles stuffed with ice cream were eaten. Other delicious things were eaten, but the profiteroles were seriously amazing.
Easter Sunday was a joyous church occasion followed by a sumptuous Easter brunch. I am not sure I have ever cooked brunch on Easter Sunday before, but I loved it. Brunch is a great meal to be able to create a sense of abundance and it always feels like a treat.
There was of course chocolate, wine, and coffee – all of which had been fasted from by various members of the family. There was the extended family, more cousins joyfully gathering. The day had an underlying retro Wii Sports competition happening, along with Easter egg hunts, Easter egg decorating, dog walks and frisbee playing in the park. And a lot of sun cream thanks to the amazing weather.
All in all a long and joyous day of family and feasting and being very aware of all the many blessings that surround us.
This is definitely my favourite holiday in the religious calendar. For a load of reasons. Last week was of course Holy Week. The quieter time of Lent culminates in a week of traditional services all with different moods and significance. Moving through the week is like a gentle and very supported guide to emotions. It is a week of guided introspection, that follows six weeks of fasting, almsgiving and prayer.
I enjoy the sense of tradition, it makes me feel very grounded and somehow safe. Many of the services are attended by much the same people, so I have a real feeling of belonging to a wider community and being part of something bigger than me.
The music is unusual, not what we hear in the rest of the year, and yet familiar in it being the music of Holy Week. The services themselves are unusual, but the same every year. It’s a delightful mix of familiarity and difference all in one week.
It is wonderful to be encouraged to be quiet, to turn inwards for a few days. There is a lot of silence in the church services, Good Friday is a day of abstinence and fasting. I abstained from my phone and laptop for the day. It definitely changed the mood of the day, making it much more deliberate and thoughtful.
After a long winter, it felt good to have a week of reflection and quiet to bring it to a proper end. The weather was very compliant, starting the week with cold and wind and warming up as the week wore on. Lent and winter ended very well indeed.
We’re a couple of days into Lent already. I enjoy Lent, I appreciate the chance to slow down, spend more time in prayer, spend more time thinking about the world around me and how I can affect change in things that matter to me (almsgiving) and spend less time thinking about me and my needs (fasting). It’s an interesting mix of being more internal: my prayer means more time deliberately alone and quiet or in reflective prayer groups and church services and the external: fasting makes me realise how much I consume; almsgiving brings inequality and social injustice into sharp focus.
I find fasting is the element that is easiest to make happen, it is the part of Lent that most people have heard about. Fasting usually means giving up a type of food or drink, but I have also fasted from plastic use and from social media in the past. The challenge for me is to see it as a reset of my dependence on some sort of consumption, creating an ease and space in me that I can then devote to prayer. Not as a diet! But generally it is fairly easy to put in place.
More challenging is almsgiving. Never mind about giving up the chocolate, what do you do instead of eat chocolate? I need to look around and observe where I can see injustice or inequality and use the chocolate money to do something about it. And – add a bit to the chocolate money and also lend my voice to the cause. Today is International Women’s Day, so looking at an issue focussed on women seems to be in order today. If you can empower women you can change whole communities. The ongoing challenge is that I don’t think almsgiving is supposed to be about a one-off donation, it’s about being much more open to the injustice around you and knowing that you are part of the solution.
The most challenging for me is finding time every day for prayer. A proper chunk of reflection and listening to God – finding the requisite time feels ridiculously challenging. I worry I don’t pray properly. I worry I don’t hear what I should hear or see what I should see.
And that is the beauty of Lent. It is an annual challenge to stop, reset your priorities, move your focus outwards to the world and also to a higher power. It is a time to prioritise my spirit, not tick lists, not outward appearance, but the why of my life.