By and large, the Easter Sundays I have celebrated these past thirty-some years have spanned the spectrum and landed primarily on the joyful side. As a child, Easter joy made sense to me for the most part because of things like baby bunnies, Peeps, egg hunts, Easter dresses, fancy shoes, and Alleluias.
What’s not to celebrate?!
As a young adult, I felt my faith deepening as I learned the name for the three Holy Days (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil/Easter Sunday) in which the Church celebrates her highest feast—the Triduum. As a cradle Catholic, I began to understand that some folks had been preparing for entrance into the Church all year through RCIA. Adults, like my college roommate, would join us at Easter Vigil. Sometimes that even meant witnessing full immersion baptism in the Baptismal font!
Imagine my joy when individuals from our marriage prep class and our small faith-sharing group decided to join the Church. We were able to witness not only their faith-journey and discernment process, but we welcomed them fully to the table of the Eucharist. The season went from a very surface-level experience of happiness to one moored in deep emotion and spiritual significance.
The Lenten days meant the final days of preparation before one big celebration!
A Different Kind of Triduum
The rug got pulled out from under me a couple of years ago, when my biggest heartache to date synchronized perfectly with Holy Week.
We had learned earlier that winter that we were expecting our third child. This created space for even more joy in our Easter preparation. What better way to celebrate new life?!
I had been feeling good—suspiciously good—so I was looking forward to our first ultrasound to confirm that all was well. Our doctor quietly shared that she was struggling to find a heartbeat. She wondered if somehow we’d miscalculated our due date. We were told to come back next week for a follow-up.
Our appointment was scheduled for 3 p.m. on Good Friday. We hoped for good news, but our fears were confirmed.
With Mary at the Cross
In some ways it was fitting to attend the Good Friday service that evening. To feel in my whole being the heartbreak of grieving for an innocent one lost and the unfairness of it all. My tears didn’t feel out of place before the barren altar that night. In a new way, I clung to Mary at the foot of the Cross for comfort.
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Celebrating Easter Sunday When You’re Still Mourning Good Friday
What was harder came next. What was harder was the immediacy of hope: coming back to church the next night, candles burning brightly, singing that life had conquered death. If I’m honest, in my very being, I felt like a sham. I felt like a living contradiction to the celebration.
To say the least, Easter joy didn’t come for me that spring.
How had I never noticed the whip-lash extremes of grief-turned-joy that is the Church’s celebration of the Paschal Mystery?
More than that, how had I been oblivious to the faction of the Church for whom the melancholy of Good Friday felt an appropriate metaphor for their own circumstances? I could easily participate in the heartache of Good Friday. But it felt like a lot to ask of me to rally for dry eyes—never mind the excitement of Jesus conquering the grave—despite its significance in my life.
I realize now that I was not alone in this place. Our suffering can be borne because it is shared by the entire Mystical Body.Our suffering can be borne because it is shared by the entire Mystical Body. #BISblog // Click To Tweet
We are Not Alone
A dear friend reminded me during this time that, “Good Friday doesn’t always come on Good Friday and Easter doesn’t always happen on Easter Sunday.” And she’s right.
What I’m slowly learning about my own experiences of death in all its forms—of a hope, of a loved one, a dream, a relationship, perfect health, a job, or even the normalcy of routine—is that our losses deserve to be mourned and to be mourned fully. Jesus Himself tasted grief, betrayal, even death for a short time so that we might not venture anywhere God has not already been.
We have the promise of life fulfilled to look forward to. “We are an Easter people, and Alleluia is our song,” after all. But our grieving hearts aren’t expected to get there on any particular timeline. This is a helpful reminder as the trumpets blast, lilies intoxicate our senses, and our sanctuaries are transformed from barren deserts to lush oases and our tender hearts can’t quite keep up.
Our “good Fridays” can and should be embraced. This also implies that our own experiences of resurrection are to come with feasting and celebration, too.
We have the hope of resurrection to look forward to in God’s own time. It may not happen in the way we would expect or even prefer. But the Lord does not leave us idly stranded in our despair (Jer 29:11).We have the hope of resurrection to look forward to in God’s own time. It may not happen in the way we would expect or even prefer. But the Lord does not leave us idly stranded in our despair #BISblog // Click To Tweet
We’re Praying for All Your Good Fridays and Easter Sundays
So, as I enter into Holy Week this year, I do it with the encouragement to enter fully. To bring my brokenness and the deaths I’ve had to die into the space where we re-enter the experience of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf.
And, in a new way, I do it mindful of those for whom Good Friday’s rugged airiness feels an appropriate place to hunker down for a while. If this is you, know that I enter Holy Week with you in mind as well. I pray that you, too, will catch a breath-taking glimpse at the ways you are being resurrected through Christ’s passionate love for you.
It may not be the way I would have chosen
when you lead me through a world that’s not my home.
But You never said it would be easy
you only said I’d never go alone.
-Ginny Owens, If You Want Me To
When Easter Sunday Feels Like Good Friday #BISblog // Click To Tweet