Preparing for a Contemplative Easter
This year is unique for us. It is unlike any other Easter, any other Passover, any other Ramadan we have experienced.
We do not remember any like this one before and we will remember this week for a long time. It is a spiritual experience which will shape the rest of our lives.
What is this time telling us about ourselves? How is it revealing spiritual truths to us? Who are the people it is showing us we are becoming?
Are there particular ways this experience is reflecting who we are and what we believe?
In the tradition of my own background this is a particularly holy week. Each year we gather together and listen to significant parts of the story we share. Many of us practice remembering these parts of our story by acting them out. We speak new life into these old stories each time we remember them.
This year we will not sit next to each other hearing our stories and seeing them acted out. Will our stories still be true when we need to share them in different ways?
Can we continue to believe in a path through suffering and new life in the midst of death?
Many of us will celebrate the most contemplative Easter we have ever known. We will sit still, listening to sacred stillness within us and in the world around us.
Will spiritual life show us how to face the fear and uncertainty even when we are on our own?
What will we remember next year, and in the years after that, about this time?
Are we prepared for a contemplative Easter? Will we be able to clear away the distractions and obstacles which threaten to get in our way?
Celebrating a Contemplative Easter
I belong to a liturgical church. It is not enough for us to understand our beliefs intellectually. We need to experience and appreciate them deep within ourselves.
My favorite service of the entire year is this week, the Great Vigil of Easter on Saturday night. It lasts for at least two hours and includes a series of readings which retell our shared story. The service begins in candlelight and, slowly but dramatically, light enters the world.
The Great Vigil of Easter is my favorite service because there is a moment when Lent becomes Easter. The church, which has been dark, is flooded with light and the congregation, who have been almost silent, bursts into celebration. In many congregations bells and tambourines appear from where they have been hiding and Easter explodes into reality. There is no mistake. We celebrate the moment Lent is transformed into Easter morning.
This year will be different. We will gather and remember our story electronically. Our time will not be filled with familiar sights and tastes and aromas. Each of us will sit in front of our computer screens and participate in new ways.
I have a serious responsibility at this Great Vigil of Easter. Beginning the Liturgy of the Word, I will read the story of Creation in near darkness early in the service.
Each year, we experience the story in new ways. Some years it is the lessons of Lent which make the greatest impression on us, some years it is the life of a new Easter. Some years it is in darkness and stillness, other years it is in the light and celebration.
We remember when we have told the story before. The lessons and practices of each Lent open into the life of each new Easter.
Are We Ready for a Contemplative Easter?
Our contemplative Easter is already beginning. Its seeds were planted in the rich soil of a contemplative Lent.
This Lent has been contemplative for us in ways we could not have imagined when it began on Ash Wednesday in February. Each day has sparked our reflection and imagination in new ways. Many of us have practiced Lent in ways we never have before.
We expect Lent to be a season when we let go followed by a season of rejoicing.
What is there for us to rejoice about and celebrate this year?
Some of us are waking up to the realization there is more to Easter than bunnies and eggs. We are facing an Easter stripped of its traditional trappings and decorations. How will we move from the disciplines of Lent into new life this year?
The contemplative practices we have established in Lent will serve us well going forward.
Easter is beginning to reveal itself to us as more than we expected it to be. This year we recognize in new ways Easter is about new life born out of sacrifice.
Our Easter will arrive for us no matter where we are.
Beginning a Contemplative Easter
We still have time to prepare, though it is coming whether we prepare or not.
There is nothing magical about this week, even if we call it holy. Each of our days is filled with new life no matter what liturgical season, if any, we recognize.
Our contemplative Easter is like the sacred stillness within us and all around us. It waits for us, patient for our ability and willingness to listen.
Even as we keep our bodies at home spiritual life fills us and calls us out to play.
We sit in stillness and listen, contemplating the power of spiritual life all around us. As we sit and listen Easter reveals itself to us.
Surrounded by fear and frustration we become open to the new life in the world. We begin to let go of our expectations and assumptions, recognizing possibilities and potential.
Our darkness is suffused with celebration and rejoicing and new life.
Even now, in a time when we do not gather to share our story, spiritual life embraces us and fills us with hope.
How will we prepare for a contemplative Easter today?
Are we ready to begin a contemplative Easter this week?
[Image by Johnragai-Moment Catcher]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He has served as an assistant district attorney, an associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.