We work so hard at getting the agony right and then the ecstasy stands waiting in our exhaustion like a puppy with a new bone in a house full of hungover liturgists. Why do we spend so much time and energy on a week of suffering and then collapse into exhausted silence for the second week of Holy joy? Jesus pulls us from sleep to dance, but we go right back to the routine as if cooking a four course meal only to collapse into bed from the effort, leaving the meal to sit on a table with no guests. Where did everybody go? How could we so imbalance this story?
There have been forty days of confessions, bowing, scraping, atoning. It is now time to enter more deeply into the reality of what God chose to do – in order to reorder our relationship with God – in order to show us how great is God’s love and how deep God’s mercy. It is time to recalibrate so that our human fetish for shame and guilt may be balanced with some surprise of joy.
There are two Holy weeks and six stepping stones
A day of washing.
A day of Thunder.
A day of waiting and dawning.
A day of wonder.
A day of hospitality.
A day of encounter.
So the three great days and the quiet one: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. In each we acted out, in relentless liturgical detail, what Jesus suffered. We walked each bloody step. We did what we needed to do to move the events and their theology from our books to our heads and then to our bodies. And Saturday night has turned to Sunday morning as we shifted gears with The Exultet, welcoming the happy morning after the long night.
And what of Easter Monday?
It grieves me that we put so much effort into the suffering, shame and darknesses of Holy week and then just recover, exhausted with Netflix and candy in Easter Week, too exhausted even to unwrap a Cadbury Egg.
Easter Monday? What of Monday? What of Tuesday? What of Wednesday of this Easter Week?
On Easter Monday I will make my own liturgy. I have to. The church will not help me. Once the sin, betrayal, torture and blood was over She seemed to lose interest. But I plan on my own liturgy for these next Triduum days of joy – every bit as physical as dragging around crosses. Every bit as intentional. Every bit as carefully planned out.
An Easter Week Triduum:
I will go to the Denver Botanical Gardens. There are many beautiful spots in which to physically act out Jesus’ encounter in the Easter Garden with Mary the Magdelene so that my body engages with so much surprise and wonder and joy.
(Mark 16: 9Now after he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene)
On Easter Tuesday I will go to the market to buy some good fish. I will grill it with friends on an imaginary beach and eat it with lots of good bread and olive oil, wine and scotch. We will eat crispy fish, hot, and smothered in butter and fresh dill and imagine what the grilled fish must have smelled like to the disciples who encountered their risen savior cooking fish for their breakfast as the way the chose to present himself to them. There will be fried nan bread and asparagus and almond butter toffee. I want to physically feel the hot, crispy edges of the fish and taste the velvet of herbed butter as a way to make physical a remembrance of Jesus’ joyful reunion with his friends – no guilt, no scolding – only smiles and hot fish after a long Night. (John 21:9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’ So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.)
On Easter Wednesday I will walk my favorite roads in Denver. I will watch people on the road and seek to encounter some of them. Homeless people are stunning conversationalists since they have nothing to loose. I will act out the encounter on the road to Emmaus with my body. What wonder there must have been as they walked that road and encountered joy in their gut! Did our hearts not burn? Sixth Avenue with its marvelous shoppers and shops of scented oils, eastern art and paper for art. I will walk Broadway with its antiques, hookah bars, Italian food, art supply shop for a calligraphy project and my favorite bar full of potential friends – wonderful, good, kind atheists. I will take friends to Chinatown for Dim Sum and we will talk about John Philip Newell and how our hearts burned within us as he unfolded the scriptures to us last week. I will drink deep their questions about my white collar and my black shirt. We will laugh together. (Luke 24: 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed…)
Holy Week. A triduum – three days of physical encounter. But why only Holy Week? Why is all out liturgical capital spent on suffering, sin and swooning. Why do we not act out Easter’s drama with the same fetish for encounter as we do Holy Week? And why is the suffering “Holy Week” and not the Resurrection? Why is it not Holy Weeks? Are we allowed to ask this?
Easter Week. Three days.
Six events in Jesus’ life will be acted out in flesh and bone. Six. Not three. Six.
This is the ying and the yang for which I so long around this dawning festival day. A balance of grief and joy worked, out in my flesh – every bit as physical as it is spiritual.