Last year during Lent, I had my fingernails painted purple, and black crosses applied to my thumbnails. I planned to keep them like that until right before Easter Sunday, then polish them with something brighter to signify spring and new life.
But not far into Lent, the unthinkable happened. Our churches were shuttered, and Easter as we’d known it was canceled. As the Easter Octave passed, my outgrown nails with the crosses reminded me daily of that profound loss.
I’d done my best with the gloomy news, preparing a ham feast, sending an Easter care-package to my son in Arizona, and watching Mass on TV with family nearby. But an emptiness overtook my soul. Adding to my sorrow, for the first time in years, my Mom couldn’t join us due to the restrictions.
I knew Jesus had risen, but in post-Easter days, I found myself revisiting the coldness wrought on Holy Saturday, when the earth fell silent, and we dwelt on Jesus’ death.
To me, being denied Easter Mass, the pinnacle of the Christian life, was the starkest indication that something very dark had entered our world. Being cut off from music ministry brought additional grief. We couldn’t praise God as well muffled; months would pass before we’d open our hymnals again.
But this year, in-person Easter returned. As it drew near, I didn’t want to get too excited. Could I dare hope “Lift High the Cross” would resound through our sanctuary once again?
In the days leading up to this year’s Easter celebration, a thought related to the cross struck me, as described in John 12, Chapters 27-33. Jesus is contemplating the Crucifixion in advance, telling some of his friends, “I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.”
Jesus then told them the time of judgment of the world had come, and the ruler of this world – Satan – would be driven out. “And when I am lifted up from the earth,” he said – indicating how he would die – “I will draw everyone to myself.”
It occurred to me: Jesus had to die in this manner, because he had to be lifted up from the earth. If the Crucifix had not happened, we would not have taken note of Christ as we do.
Indeed, this carpenter’s son from an obscure, faraway town is now known by nearly all of humanity, despite that not all believe he is God. His death has caused many of us to contemplate our own hearts, and his resurrection, given us the hope of heaven.
Thank God we made it through the year when Easter was “canceled.” Though we don’t know what the future holds, and what other losses might come, one thing seems certain: I will never again take Easter for granted – nor the reality of what Jesus’ succumbing to the Father’s will has done for me, and the whole world.
Rejoice! He is risen! Alleluia!
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on April 5, 2021.]