I am looking forward to the Easter services this week-end. If that statement sounds as if it should be non-newsworthy for a pastor, allow me to explain:
Holy Week has been hell for me for the past three years. With Josh gone ~ my Josh, my beautiful son, the one member of my very nonreligious family who would make the effort to share things with me that no one else cared about, the one who walked under the dark sky and the full moon to the Sunrise Service with me each year~ the memories were too much to manage.
The first year, I simply skipped all observances. Well, I attempted an Easter Vigil at a Catholic church, but when the lights came up and joy filled the sanctuary, I left. Too much. Seven months had not been long enough to absorb our loss, let alone three days.
The second year, as a student pastor in a large church, I made my way through the whole series of services in a state of complete numbness. I'm not sure which was the more tortuous ~ the suffering and death of Jesus, events which had become extremely personal in terms of lived experience ~ or the Resurrection, which was not my lived experience at all. Last year, I went to some of the services at the Carmelite Monastery, but my heart wasn't in them.
This year: this year I admit to glossing over much of Thursday and Friday of Holy Week in terms of my interior approach ~ I have spent so much of the past three-plus years there ~ although I am making every effort to create a meaningful Maundy Thursday service for my congregation.
This year: this year I am all about the Resurrection. Finally. Joyfully.
I'm "skipping ahead" in these Ignatian reflections to the final one in the Exercises, the one Ignatius called "The Contemplation to Attain Love." In that contemplation, Ignatius suggests four ways in which we might understand God, the third of which has to do with how God labors for us. How God works on our behalf.
A deep appreciation of God as laborer, as one who toils for and in and with me, has taken hold of me these weeks of Lent. There have been many, many days since Josh died on which I have questioned my basic sanity in continuing with my education and my ministry, with my life in any kind of way. And yet, here I am, about to celebrate the Triduum with my first congregation, and with a life filled with other opportunities to serve, because God has worked with great diligence in my life.
And, much more important than anything I say or do this week, God's labors on my behalf, most of them through the care and persistence of other people, have filled me with the sense that God's love for my own son overflows, that my own son is safe and cared for and completely held in God's protective embrace.
The man whom I might call my spiritual director emeritus once sent me a little bookmark with a photograph of this Chartres Cathedral statue (yes, I've posted it before). The statue depicts God creating Adam; I immediately understood it, as he had hoped, as God re-creating Josh.
Easter: re-creation for all of us.