I awoke this morning and sat on the couch for a few moments, attempting to recollect my thoughts and feelings of the past week. Do you know that exhausted, almost numb feeling you have the day after a momentous event like a wedding, or birth, or funeral? You know, those events when your life is virtually consumed for days, if not weeks; where every waking moment and your entire schedule is completely altered in preparation for that event. And then you wake up the morning after the event and realize in the midst of your quiet fatigue that your life, as you knew it, has been changed forever.
That’s how I feel right now.
In over twenty years as a Christian, I have never been so completely immersed in Jesus’ journey to the cross and empty tomb. And I have tried. In the past, I’ve fasted for Lent. I’ve attended Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter Services. I’ve used resources to help me understand the culture and theology around these historical events as well as reflect upon and pray through this pivotal moment in creation’s history. And many times I’ve had some wonderful and personally meaningful Easters.
But nothing I have done over two decades can even compare to what our family experienced this week. In fact, until this week, I would never have known that such an experience was possible. Sitting here on this side of my first Pascha, I feel like we actually journeyed with Jesus from Bethany where he raised Lazarus from the dead. I feel like we walked through the gates of Jerusalem with him to the cries of “Hosanna.” I feel like we stumbled back out of the city walls to the horror of the cross and then to the despair of the sealed tomb. I feel like we were with the first women as they discovered the terrifying and miraculous truth that he had risen. Even as I write this, tears are welling up again. What has previously been words on a page or scenes in a movie has become very real.
I’m not sure if I can fully express it in words, but my entire being feels like the events of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection actually happened this week and I was a part of it. I was there at the cross hearing the nails being pounded. I was there at his sealed tomb grieving the loss of my friend. I was there in Hades witnessing the ultimate vanquishing of death. I was there at the empty tomb awestruck at the impossible reality that he was alive. And all of this resonating with the truth that Jesus has conquered death by death.
And I was there not by some Hollywood-like realistic re-creation of historical events or by somehow reading and thinking my way into what those events may have been like. I was there through the power of the Holy Spirit as God’s Church, invoking its two thousand years of Living Tradition, created a fully immersive environment of worship, prayer, Scripture, liturgy, symbol, theology, wisdom and community that made all of this Real to me and made me Real for it. I experienced powerfully how the Church’s Living Tradition is truly the life of Christ.
And now I sit. My heart is full. My mind is reeling. My body is exhausted. My eyes burn from both fatigue and tears. And my spirit is joyful at the prospect of living in and with a community whose very identity and life resounds with the cry, “Christ is risen! Truly He is risen!”