I read a great blog post by John Pavlovitz the other night that precisely captures how I feel about the Easter Triduum, once my most beloved time of year:
“When your beliefs begin to shift or when doubt creeps in, those dates on the calendar that used to bring such joy, that once set the steady rhythm of your spiritual journey each year, suddenly don’t provide the familiar comfort they used to.
Instead of being more deeply connected to God and to your community of faith than ever during these highest of holy days, you tend to feel more like an orphan; a former insider pushed to the periphery of the party, no longer sure whether to jump back in again or walk away for good.”
We were just home from the Holy Thursday mass at our parish, and I remarked in the care on the varied emotions and reactions I experienced during the service. There is such beauty in the hand washing ritual that our parish does on this night instead of foot washing, so that everyone can participate. I love witnessing children pour water over their parent’s hands and then dry them with the fluffy towel in a reversal of the usual daily routine. It was touching to see a couple I’ve known for many years, the wife now quite infirm, as her husband guided her through the ritual with quiet help from others. The woman who offered a reflection on scripture presented a compelling message about how to imitate Jesus in our daily lives, not only in “service” settings but all the time. But the atonement language of the liturgy and the absence of women from the Last Supper narratives bother me a lot.
In this high holy season I find myself still looking for an “answer” to my “religion question.” What am I? Am I still Catholic? Do I want to call myself Christian at all? Would I feel more peaceful if I just let go of Christianity altogether? By clinging to Christianity from the periphery, am I just coaching my emotions into something more manageable? Instead do I need to roar a big No, Goodbye! to all of it, the patriarchy, the misogyny? Who AM I? (Does this question even matter?)
The next morning, on Good Friday (on which I did not go to church), a quiet, almost trite response gently surfaces: Person on a journey. I am a person on a journey, no more and no less. Let the labels fall away. This image rather ironically brings an immediate association with the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. I’ve always loved the inherent mystery pulsing at the heart of that encounter, and I am amused to realize that following the Easter events, the followers of Jesus likely felt similar to what Pavlovitz described which resonated so strongly for me. Confusion. Sadness. Loss. Not knowing who they were. A sense of not fitting back into their old box without a new box to belong to — maybe not wanting a box anyway.
Presently the image of myself as a person on a journey is also true in a very literal way as my husband and I depart Tuesday on a three-week trip to Europe that we have been planning for almost a year, primarily in Germany and Poland. We are able to do this because he is on a one-semester sabbatical from teaching, and we seized the opportunity in celebration of our 25th anniversary earlier this month. Between packing for the trip and covering responsibilities here at home, I feel buried in details at the moment, but I look forward to stepping across the actual threshold of this adventure and getting underway. Open to mystery!
(The WordPress app is on my iPad so international posts are possible. Stay tuned.)