The most amazing Easter of my life was the year 1998. I was in Iowa, without a car, living in an eight-room suite with a group of people I barely knew and counting myself blessed to be out of the roommate situation I’d suffered the semester before. It came on the heels of a Lent of barren emptiness, of overwhelming homesickness and a feeling of great spiritual barrenness, of anxiety I was too afraid to admit. Of a loneliness and alienation that to this day gives me the willies to think about.
That was a semester of long, solitary walks to and from campus along the biking paths, while the creek slowly thawed and the snow eased back to reveal the cold green beneath.
I wanted so badly to be home for Triduum. But it couldn’t happen. I don’t even remember why now.
The Catholic student center in Cedar Falls needed a cantor for Holy Thursday. I don’t even understand why, because they had a choir that had been practicing for weeks. But they wanted a cantor. I volunteered.
I did not know my barrenness, my anxiety, my wasteland, had scoured my soul into a blank slate. Or perhaps, into fertile ground, cleared of weeds. That Holy Thursday evening, in that warmly-lit space, my soul responded in a way I had never, ever experienced. Kind of like salty and sweet, the pain of loneliness made that whole Triduum experience, three nights and a morning at the end, incredibly poignant and filled with the Spirit. For the first time I really got that connection between resurrection and new life, as the long Iowa winter crept to an end.
I’ve been hoping for an Easter like that to come again ever since, and it never has. Truly, I should be grateful; it’s the pain surrounding the mountain experience that makes the high ground stand out, after all.
Easter these days is a lot more prosaic, with moments of extreme irritation and extreme hilarity coexisting. For instance: discovering, when I go in to make sure the kids wear their Easter best, that Nicholas’ closet is once again a mess in which you can’t find anything, let alone the suit I know is in there somewhere, so then pulling out a pair of khakis for him, only to discover that they have a hole in the knee (AAACK!!!! ANOTHER ONE?????? WHAT IS THE ****DEAL**** WITH THESE KNEE HOLES?????????????).
Or choir warmup being interrupted by an extended (and deeply fake) wail from my youngest, who wants what he wants and thinks he deserves it even if someone else has it.
Or looking up during the Communion song to find my two youngest children wrestling over the chair next to the piano, only to realize they’re not wrestling, but hugging.
Or looking up again during “Up From The Earth” at the end of Mass to find them both giggling and playing air guitars and air drums in the space between the sound board and the boom mics.
Or coming out of church and sitting down in my seat in the van only to be poked in the butt by a broken Power Ranger mask, which I’d forgotten I’d thrown there when I forced Michael to take it off before going inside for Mass.
Or trying to take the obligatory pictures of the kids after Mass with my strong-willed child refusing either to cooperate or to decide he didn’t want to be in the pictures.
These are not exactly mountaintop moments. But I’m in a different season of life now, and when I’m not in the thick of being cranky-hormonal, I can admit that I wouldn’t ask for the other. Petty irritations come with little moments of beauty, and this is a different kind of spiritual exercise than the one that led to that mountaintop experience. Different, but no less valid.