The Easter prep is fully underway, and we are striving for a peaceful Easter. Somehow I think it will be elusive this year. There are so many little “peas in the mattress” of our lives right now that I am not sure how we will smoothly sail into Easter Sunday. So I am burying myself in the preparatory portion of it.
Once in awhile (it seems to me) we need to regress to the simplest things. We need to do away with the dross and the extras floating around us. Sort of like one of those sensory deprivation tanks – we need to silence the chaos and we need to stop looking at the negative, and we need to focus ourselves on Christ. For example, this week is called Holy Week for a reason. We are preparing ourselves to welcome the Bridegroom. It is the week of the ultimate sacrifice for each of us, death on a Cross. And so I cling to the words of St. Dimitri of Rostov above and place myself with the Angelic Host, and I am praying, constantly praying, and I am clawing my way back to that peaceful place of Pascha prep!
Have you ever experienced the sort of frustration where you shake inside? Where perhaps you are drawn to tears, but it’s not sad tears? They are tears of frustration and anger? Well, I have. Several times over the past week. I don’t think it’s good for my blood pressure or longevity! Sometimes there are situations and people in our lives that make our stress levels just climb. There are people who bring drama and chaos with them, because it is just how they operate. And I seem blessed to have many of them a part of my life. (Another occasion for prayer!). Remember Pig Pen in the Peanuts cartoons? He carried his own cloud of dirt around with him? That can be a bad thing – like the stress and chaos and drama that just accompanies certain people. Another way to approach it is like the snowman character in Frozen, Olaf. Princess Elsa makes him his own little snow cloud, his own personal “flurry,” so he can survive in summer – have you seen that? Olaf and his own personal snow flurry….
This character was so loveable. He just wanted to experience summer, because he had never seen it. He was so thankful that Elsa, through her snow magic, created a little snow flurry to accompany him wherever he went. I was thinking about this (I have two grandchildren who both adore this movie – yes, we own a copy so they can watch it whenever they are here! And no, I will not expound on nor attach an audio file of any version of “Let it Go.” You are welcome). Olaf is happy that he can exist to see the flowers and the sunshine and not melt. He is always smiling and laughing and looking for the good in everything around him. Even though it is a cloud over his head, it is a cloud that keeps him alive, so it is a happy little flurry and a happy little snowman, Olaf.
Why can’t this be how we all operate? Even though it is a cloud that accompanies Olaf, it is a joyous one, because it keeps him alive. Our cloud is the joy we find in Christ, in the Holy Spirit who enervates our very lives. In the Melkite Church (and most of Byzantine worship) we have this amazing ceremony mid-day on Holy Saturday. It is about the “New Light.” We light our new Easter Candle, which we will use the rest of the year; this is the beginning of our new Liturgical year. The first, tentative announcements about the Resurrection are made. I love thinking about the women who went to the Tomb early in the day and found the guards asleep and the Tomb empty. It was very early in the morning; the towns around the Tomb, and the people in them, still slept. The women ran back to tell the Apostles what they saw and heard. They spoke to an “angel” and saw an empty Tomb, the cloth laying in a heap. Those are the first whispers that Christ has risen..that He is not in the Tomb. That Liturgy is so beautiful. It is the early Light of the Truth of Christ’s Resurrection that is being shared, one voice at a time, with the Apostles.
We can carry this Light with us; we can choose to share the Light of Christ with others; we all carry our own personal flurry of goodness, peace, love, and light with us. Or we can hide our Light under our bushel basket of anger, frustration, hate, prejudice – all the negativity swirling around us. We can choose how our world is, around each of us, by the way in which we approach our lives. Elder Thaddeus, in his book entitled, “Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives, ” tells us:
“Our life depends on the kind of thoughts we nurture. If our thoughts are peaceful, calm, meek, and kind then that is what our life is like. If our attention is turned to the circumstances in which we live, we are drawn into a whirlpool of thoughts and can have neither peace nor tranquility.” He further shares that “everything, both good and evil, comes from our thoughts. Our thoughts become reality…when we labor in the fields of the Lord, we create harmony. Divine harmony, peace, and quiet spread everywhere.” He then tells us what the opposite things can do to us: “However, when we breed negative thoughts, that is a great evil. Where there is evil in us, we radiate it among our family members and wherever we go. So you see, we can be very good or very evil. If that’s the way it is, it is certainly better to choose good! Destructive thoughts destroy the stillness within, and then we have no peace.” (Page 63).
Little Olaf is just a simple example of how we often choose to be sad that our lives are so limited. He was going to melt and his life would be over as soon as Spring came to their Kingdom. Or, once he had his own personal flurry, he chose to relish the moments, smelling flowers and playing with his buddy, Sven, the reindeer. We have our own personal flurry we can carry with us everywhere and in every circumstance, the Holy Spirit. We have God. We can choose to put our faith aside, to relegate God and our life of faith to only an hour on a Sunday, and relish in the angry moments, loosing our heads over them, so to speak.
Christ calls us to our better selves, not our lesser selves. My prayer for the rest of this Holy Week is to embrace the better self Christ is calling me to be. I will endeavor to be the wife, friend, sister, daughter, mother, grandmother, mother-in-law – all the roles of who I am called to be – to my utmost, not my least. I will prepare to walk with My Lord down that horribly painful road to Cavalry, where He sacrificed Himself for me. With my own personal flurry surrounding me – the Holy Spirit – I will walk to that empty Tomb with the women, quietly seeking He Who is Risen.