This is what Holy Week is supposed to look like:
And this is what we woke up to this morning:
How long, O Lord?, we northerners start to wonder with winters that persist into April. “There seems to be so much more winter than we need this year,” wrote Kathleen Norris, and we’re living her words this morning.
Last year during Holy Week, I mused about reversed expectations. How everything the disciples thought would happen with their messiah, in fact, didn’t. Then almost a year later to the day, I wrote about my own reversed expectations with this pregnancy.
So I woke up this morning to snow – certainly not the first time a late spring storm has surprised us – and I thought about expectations once again. I simultaneously protest “This isn’t supposed to happen!” and accept “I should have known this would happen.”
We all learn, as we grow, that life will continue to confound us. But why do I seem to need to relearn this lesson over and over? My plans and expectations – a walk outside with S this afternoon, a handful of blooming hyacinth to pick for Easter – continually bump up against the plans of God and the world around me.
Is it my own stubbornness, my unwillingness to learn and let go, my desire for control?
Or is it the simple fact of being human, of needing reminders, of having to hear the same story over and over again before we start to understand it?
The liturgies of Holy Week are the same every year. We wash feet, we break bread. We kiss the wood of a cross. We hold candles and sing Alleluias. We hear the same stories, pray the same prayers. And yet every year it feels different. Every year we learn something new.
A priest who taught me in graduate school once told us that he reads T.S. Eliot’s poem Ash Wednesday every year to begin Lent. And its meaning, he told us, “depends on how many ashes I’ve had in my life that year.”
Holy Week is like that, too. The years where we’ve given so much of ourselves in service to others, it may be Thursday’s foot-washing that speaks to us. The years where we’ve struggled with suffering, it may be Friday’s starkness and mourning that calls our name. The years where we’ve moved from darkness to light, it may be Saturday’s bursting forth into flame that brings us alive. The years where we have so much to celebrate, it may be Sunday’s hopeful dawn that rings out our joy.
It all depends on what our life has been like that year.
We need to hear the same stories, go through the same motions, and watch the same rituals in order to learn the same lessons all over again – at once new and undiscovered.
So perhaps April snow is good, too. It reminds me that Holy Week will surprise me again this year.