Two years ago, I spent Good Friday preparing (mentally and logistically) for my baptism and confirmation into the Catholic church. My family was with me to celebrate, Easter was just around the corner, and I’d soon be welcomed into the Church where I already felt home. There was a lot of anticipation and there were many emotions. I cried.
Last year, I spent Good Friday walking through Boston as part of a celebration of the Way Of The Cross, processing through the freezing cold city as the stations of the cross were described through scripture. It was April, I had just arrived from sunny North Carolina, and the unexpectedly cold wind cut through me and chilled my bones. I was shivering the whole day. I cried.
This year, I awoke the morning of Good Friday in a small village of long necks (Burmese refugees) in Northern Thailand. Before breakfast, I watched as the men of the village prepared for the next day’s festival. The previous day, they had cut down a tree, stripped its branches, painted it white, and topped it with a bamboo structure to serve as a house for souls. Like the tiniest, holiest tree house you could imagine. As I watched from the other side of the clearing, men heaved and ho-ed and hoisted the trunk upright using a system of branches and rope, a tradition that had clearly been carried through generations and across borders. As the pole finally stood upright, I was blindsided by the reminder that on this day many years ago, a cross was (similarly?) erected to crucify the Son of God. The symbolism knocked the wind out of me and took my breath away. Many miles from a Catholic church, it would have been easy for me to feel far away from my faith on this day, but instead I felt undeniably close. I could barely stand. I cried.
I’m sad to be away from home this Easter. I miss my family and I miss being within driving distance of the closest church. I miss the hymns and the readings and the lengthy Vigil Mass. But I spent the day in a gorgeous place, surrounded by loving and welcoming and vivacious friends. I even got to talk to my dad. And the magnitude of these blessings was not lost on me. It was a good day. I couldn’t stop smiling.
It may take me the rest of my life to begin to understand the mystery that is Easter. But I know the joy it brings me, along with the gifts of love and hope and mercy and life. Today, I celebrated by soaking up the beauty around me and seeing firsthand just how much God loves us. That, and a generous helping of dessert. After all, what is Easter without chocolate?
Happy Easter, y’all! He is risen!