This time of year, I always feel slightly homesick.
Not necessarily for a particular place, but a particular season in my life and way of worshipping. I spent seventeen months (only slightly over one rotation of the church calendar) with a community of believers who observed their faith in this way, but it remains one of my richest church experiences.
Lent is a somber season, marked by sacrifice in order to identify with Jesus. Perhaps this year more than ever, I am attempting to admit, make room for, and even embrace suffering in my life. It is counter-intuitive, but it seems that moving through the pain is the only way to learn what lies on the other side.
As I have done some Lenten reading, this is the theme that is leaping off the page for me.
“Sin, sorrow, and suffering, and death itself, were indeed taken away at the Cross, but we mortals must enter into the depths of this mystery in actual experience. The fact that the Savior bore all this for us does not mean that we bear nothing of it; rather, it means that we are invited in to that place (the Cross) where suffering is transfigured. We (the Church) are his Body, says St. Paul. As such, we share in his suffering for the life of the world.”
-Thomas Howard, “The Crucifix,” Bread and Wine
In the midst of all of this, I long for the rhythms of the church calendar: Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost and “Ordinary Time.” I miss walking through each season intentionally with others and the way it ensures that whatever joys or trials may come each year, we practice certain constants among our life together. For everything, there is a season (Ecclesiastes 3).
During Lent, I have held onto my little rhythms, the remnants of liturgy I carry with me in this busy city life.
I attend an Ash Wednesday service at a church in the city, and pray, Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.
I make Lenten sacrifices, both eliminating and adding to my life in new ways to make more room for experiencing the presence and grace of God.
I read Bread & Wine and consider the faith of those who have gone before me.
I recite to myself the final words of the eucharist liturgy when I take communion: And so we proclaim the mystery of our faith: Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.
These things seem small, but they connect me to the greater, universal church and years of tradition that have come before.
During Holy Week as we look towards Easter, I miss the liturgical traditions.
The Maundy Thursday potluck meal recalling The Last Supper.
The soberness of Good Friday, both entering and exiting in silence.
Easter Sunday evening service and family dinner afterwards.
I have different and familiar ways of commemorating this time now in my current church community. I carry with me the breadth of traditions from the places I have lived and people with whom I’ve worshipped, and I am grateful for them all. It is a heavy week, but Easter is coming soon, and new life with it. There is much to celebrate.