Thursday, April 17, 2014
Hosanna and Hallelujah
Nico keeps accidentally calling it Black Friday, and though we've explained the difference between Black Friday and Good Friday, I can't help but agree with him a little bit. It must have seemed black that day. I doubt that any who attended the "festivities" on the original Good Friday would have called that day good. To us, now, the outcome is good, but that doesn't erase the fact that it would have been a terrible day to live through.
That's how it is when you're living in the story, not knowing what is waiting on the next page, not being able to see the end of the chapter, much less make out the words on the last page. That's how it is being human, with our infuriating tunnel vision and our complete inability to see the future, with our desperate attempts to look at things with perspective despite being mostly glued down to the surface of a planet and into lives that tend to completely fill our vision.
For me, Good Friday has felt like a dark day since we got our Very Bad News on Good Friday two years ago. Funny how quickly a day that should be about so much more than my own sadness can get co-opted into something entirely about me and what I want. I don't mean to imply that my grief and my remembrance don't have a place in my personal story, just that if I could somehow see past them, past the closeness of this hurt and out into the promise underwriting the day on which my heart was broken, then perhaps I would in some way be lifted from the merciless gravity that can grind us deeper and deeper into the proverbial dirt of this life.
When I was younger, the church we attended put on a big Easter pageant every year. The actor who played Jesus grew his hair out long and, shirtless and painted with blood, he carried a big wooden cross up the center aisle of the church. It was silly theatrics, really, and I was always a little embarrassed for him. Until the part where they nailed him to the cross, when the lights when out and all the music stopped and big men in Roman soldier costumes hammered loudly at the giant nails. Though it was all so clearly fake, though I knew the man playing Jesus would be standing on a little platform and just holding on to the "nails" when they hoisted the cross up into its base and hit him with a single white spotlight, I still got a chill every time the lights went out and the sound of hammering echoed through the sanctuary.
Our little family is light on the liturgical traditions that mark this season for many people. We don't get painted with ashes. We don't give up things for Lent and are thus not salivating to eat or drink or have that thing we've sacrificed for 40 days. We don't get to watch an overdone Easter pageant like the ones I was in growing up. Heck, I didn't even know hot cross buns were an Easter thing until Pioneer Woman made them.
The ramifications of the Easter holiday are talked about year round in our house, the sacrifice and the forgiveness and the hope that come from that day, but truth be told our traditions this time of year have more to do with fluffy bunnies and creme filled eggs than sacred rituals of faith. In fact, I seem to forget how important a day Easter is for me until it arrives every year. After I've dressed everyone in their pre-approved Easter outfits (complementary colors but not matchy-matchy because of course that's better for the pictures), after we've cleaned up the trail of plastic grass that has spilled out of baskets from little fingers completing the "did I get everything?" search down to the bottom, after we've eaten too much for breakfast and scrambled to load into the car and squeezed into our seats at church, after all that, a quiet finally comes over me. And I understand, again as if for the first time.
I spend too many hours of every day struggling against the fact this place is broken. I try to understand why people hurt each other, why catastrophes happen, why I am made to want things that are not good for me, even when I know they aren't good for me. I watch Good Friday approach and think to myself, "Oh not again, I hate this day," forgetting that I can't see the end of the chapter any more than the people who lived through the original Good Friday could, forgetting that I can't really get perspective on what my loss means, or if it even means anything at all beyond being a symptom of living here in the dirt. I hate that we are a world derailed, an often angry and dangerous and altogether floundering place. I see the darkness in this life, and sometimes it can fill my vision.
But, on Easter, I can almost see past it. I stand and sing songs that explain why that Friday was good, though it seemed anything but, and inside me a quiet space opens up, a little glimpse of glories promised. I can almost hear the pounding of the hammer on those fake nails lodged in that prop wooden cross from years ago, and I get a chill thinking about the real thing. For a moment, all the theological debates and all the culture wars and all the tunnel vision fall away, and I am reminded why I believe, why I still cling so hard to a sometimes shaky faith. For a while, for just a little while, I get a look through the dust of this place and into things eternal, and a quiet kind of light takes up residence in me.
Together we sing words like Hosanna and Hallelujah, and they come out without irony, a faithful chorus, perhaps all seeing past ourselves in unison. And I come home to eat a big ham dinner, talking to my kids about what we learned, trying to explain supernatural concepts in words that don't fall flat, thinking of how eternity took root in me for a while and hoping it will for them, too, someday. I come home buoyed and lit up and clear-headed, praying that glow doesn't go out before I can get the potatoes out of the oven, holding on to heaven even as I slip my Sunday shoes off and bury my toes in the grass, feeling the warm spring dirt under my feet. Still tied to the earth, but somehow not as firmly, still singing Hosanna and Hallelujah under my breath.
Image Credit, used under Creative Commons License