Of Death and Celebration
I grew up in a village in southwest Germany. My childhood was filled with Catholic traditions and celebrations. A small church, and the graveyard that surrounded it, were the center of the town in every way. After mass we stopped and prayed at the graves of loved ones. There were the graves of our great grandparents, grandparents, friends and children of friends. We took time to remember those who passed and our own mortality.
We tended those graves, planted flowers in the spring and pulled weeds and watered in the summer. We stuck small shrubs in the ground in fall and always lit a red grave candle and placed it on the stone.
There were other traditions. In June we picked wild flowers in the fields and made altars in front of our homes. We said our prayers there, too. We swept the streets and scrubbed the sidewalks. We cut the grass and trimmed the bushes, made everything presentable. Then we joined the procession with the priest leading. He walked under a cloth canopy and carried the body of Christ in a golden monstrance. He led the congregation to several outside altars. He was the only one allowed to walk on the flower-carpets, which the women had prepared. As a little girl, I remember wishing I could just walk once on that carpet and get close to such holiness.
When I was older, I left those traditions and altars, moved far away from the small town and fields, from the hills and the woods. I tried to find my own traditions. I questioned what I should remember and what to forget. I always looked for Jesus, and wondered if He ever escaped from under that canopy and came out of the monstrance.
I did find Him, but not in any traditions or in inapproachable holiness. Actually, He found me – in a dark room at the end of my rope and without a shred of hope. I was planning to end my life.
That’s how He finds many people. That’s how He found His friends over two thousand years ago. They were unable to celebrate and felt abandoned and alone. They had lost their hope, too. They were heading to His grave, trying to tend his decaying body.
If you are feeling sadness this Easter because so many things are different and you can’t celebrate like you did before, let Jesus find you. Let Him show you that He overcame death and the grave. He is as near as you need Him to be. He never leaves nor forsakes. He has power over death and victory over sin. Because … He is risen. He is risen indeed.
God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death,
because it was not possible for him to be held by it.