Monday, February 23, 2015

Preparing for Easter

Living in a catholic country means that the year is marked by religious holidays. This does not necessarily mean that the meaning behind these holidays is celebrated, but it does mean that traditions are carried on, stores are closed and the year becomes cyclical. This last week, the holiday we know in the US as Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday (the day before Lent begins) was celebrated. Here, "Fasching" generally involves dressing up in costumes, having parties and celebrations, and eating candy. There are also carnivals and parades in some cities.

The benefit to living in Austria, where days like Fasching are hard to miss, is that it reminds me of the church calendar and seasons of preparation. In the States, I would often allow Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent to go by without noticing, but here I cannot forget. So this year, this reminder led me to finally download a lenten devotional I had been wanting to read for years and to start daily readings.

I am a big fan of Walter Wangerin's Christmas devotional book "Preparing for Jesus", so I was excited to start reading his lenten book "Reliving the Passion: Meditations on the Suffering, Death, and the Resurrection of Jesus as Recorded in Mark". Walt has a way of communicating creatively and whimsically about the story of the bible and when I read his thoughts, I am often transported into the world of the characters themselves. He helps me understand how the disciples were really feeling at the time of Jesus death and resurrection. So far, his devotions have been a blessing to me.

I'd like to share a quote from Saturday's reading that really struck me:

The disciples approached the Resurrection from their bereavement. For them the death was first, and the death was all. Easter, then, was an explosion of Newness, a marvelous splitting of heaven indeed. But for us, who return backward into the past, the Resurrection comes first, and through it we view death which is, therefore, less consuming, less horrible, even less real. We miss the disciples' terrible, wonderful preparation.

This was a new perspective for me, to really think about what it would have been like to see the man the disciples followed and served as a disciple for three years be brutally murdered on the cross. And did they really know or understand what was to come? They may have hoped for resurrection, but didn't expect it. They were down in the depths of anguish when Jesus returned and their world was turned upside down.

May we, too, allow ourselves during this season of Lent to truly ponder Christ's death. He suffered and died for us and it was terrible. He went to hell for us. As we also celebrate his return, may we also not forget what came before.