A Broken Alleluia

The last time I drove my car anywhere public, besides two trips to Stony Creek Metro Park for hiking, was March 22. I went to Kroger. In the days after, our family decided that Brian would make all of our grocery trips for both our family and my parents, to limit those going out in public. Today we added my brother/sister-in-law. Brian, a package deliverer for UPS, is already going out almost every day to work. He’s using his day off to grocery shop/deliver. I am grateful that he still has a job. I am scared about him being out every day. I am holding space for both of those realities. So far, we have all stayed healthy, but I know that is not the reality for many. Lord have mercy.

I read an article that articulated much of my own experience going through these last few weeks (https://gen.medium.com/parents-are-not-ok-66ab2a3e42d9). I know everyone’s experience is different, but these simple words resonated: This is really hard. I work full-time from home, and I am in my last year of a doctorate program, attempting to write my dissertation. And now, with school cancelled for the year, I am trying to manage all of my “normal things” while having the kids at home and managing crisis-schooling. I have tried providing routine, fresh air, and fun. Some days are better than others. Some days are bad. Sometimes the kids comply. Sometimes they resist, vehemently. This is hard for them, too. What I can say with certainty is that nothing is normal. I am not functioning at a level even resembling “normal.” I cried in bed last Thursday for two hours. Things feel broken. This is really hard. Lord have mercy.

I wrote the following Easter reflection and thought it a good opportunity to reflect a bit more on this moment in which we find ourselves:

In the Catholic liturgical tradition as well as in some other Protestant traditions, once the season of Lent begins, the church “buries” the Alleluia. That is, in all church liturgies each Sunday during Lent (the 40+ days before Easter), the word (and sentiment) “Alleluia” is absent from songs, readings, etc. This is one way that reflects this season of Lenten fasting – a season of relinquishment, repentance, lament, reflection, giving up, and letting go.

This year, it feels hard to talk about resurrection. It feels like it may be too soon to resurrect our “Alleluias.” Our reality in this strange moment in history is one that fits well with Lent and with Good Friday. But what about the hope of Easter? I wrote this “Good Friday” prayer earlier this week:

In the season of Lent, we fast – we lay down our satiable hungers for a filling only accomplished by bread and water from the source of life. We fast, and we sit, and we open ourselves to the possibility of hurt and grief – both past and present. And in our fasting, both planned and in this season forced, we have anticipated this Holy Week where we learn what it means to participate in the body of Christ – in serving, in suffering, in darkness, and in death. We have buried the Alleluia, and though we want nothing more to rush toward Easter to resurrect it, we first rest here, at the cross. With the saints of old, we pray, “Take me to the cross and leave me there.” And we pray, in faithful solidarity with the suffering of the world, “How long, Lord?” May we have the courage to stay here in this Good Friday spaciousness, knowing that even here in the darkness and the unknown, God dwells.

But today, this Easter Sunday, we add this line to the prayer: And we trust, in faithful defiance, that the story will not end here, for the story of Jesus, our story, is the story of death, burial, and resurrection.

We see hints of it – moments of resurrection even in the most shadowed spaces. I met with my spiritual director last week and she asked me what I was feeling. Fear. And then she asked me what the opposite of fear is, and I almost automatically responded by saying, “faith,” but stopped myself. Love. Love is the opposite of fear. So the question and the call on my heart over the past days has been to love. Love casts out fear. Love conquers death.

In this hard, sad, shadowed season of fear and death, may we learn to love in ways we’ve never known before. We are part of this resurrection story.

Alleluia! He is risen! He is risen indeed!

In the spiritual practice of the Examen (a prayerful review your day), we are invited to pay attention to these questions: What was the most life-giving part of my day? When today did I have the deepest sense of connection with God, with others, or with myself?  What was the most life-taking part of my day? When today did I have the least sense of connection with God, with others, or with myself? Where did I experience faith, hope, and love? This practice is particularly helpful in times of uncertainty and restlessness – times when we are looking to discern what God is up to in our lives amidst trials.

What does faith, hope, and love look like in this season in which we find ourselves? I wonder if maybe it looks like death, burial, and resurrection? In death, I try to live in faith that even in death itself, God is present, suffering with us as creation groans for redemption. In burial, perhaps the hardest part, we wait in hopeful expectation that God is working, bringing about God’s purposes. And in resurrection, we love: Those who can, stay at home, because this is how we best love our neighbors. Those who can’t stay at home, go out and work and serve (selflessly and some, frankly, by no real choice of their own) – doing their best to love their neighbors in spite of their own fear and uncertainty. We give of our resources, even when we are uncertain of our own financial security. We check in with our friends, family, and neighbors. We give others grace. We give ourselves grace. In the little and big ways, we love. Moment by moment.

My Alleluia feels broken right now. It’s okay. This is hard. And here, right here, God is present.

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