I was 22 when I made a deal with God: save my brother from the claws of heroin addiction and I will be your most loyal follower. The orthodox’ church loyal follower that is. I became a regular, knew sermons by heart, fasted and read like crazy, trying to make myself feel something that had not brought me to the church in the first place – faith. Obviously, what I got was a deepening of my OCD rituals around religion, a lack of any joy in living my life ( as one is bound to get this when all you hear is how big of a sinner you are) and short moments of make-belief. Writing this now, I find it rather ironical (the orthodox church would call it only natural) that the year I left the church my brother died. But this is another story.
There was however a ritual in the orthodox calendar that brought me the closest I ever was to … another realm, divine entity or whatever we want to call it: the week before Easter. In the orthodox religion this week’s sermons bring to the memory of all church goers the last week of Jesus Christ. The sermons are sung stories of each day Jesus got closer to the cross. There are songs of grief, wailing of mothers, pain and loss of faith and culminate with a symbolical burial. And then comes Saturday. And on this day … nothing happens, the world holds its breath. I remember how strange I used to feel, remembering the service just the night before when I had wailed alongside a choir of church goers, lamenting that “our Lord, the beauty of the world, is now laid in a cold grave”. Everything seemed to have stopped – much like these days.
I have left the church almost 9 years ago to walk the path of my own truth and I find myself every year, on Easter, craving ritual, grief, held breath and resurrection. I have looked for meaning in my own heart, in the seasons, in the people I follow and trust, and I get bits and pieces that make sense to my soul. I guess we all make our own story about what Easter represents in our life. There is however a common thread: the way resurrection, rebirth, spring reaches us is only after we have lost our way for a bit, went through pain and grief, have our old selves die and then … rise as new. First the pain, then the rising.
And never in our existence has this been revealed more clearly, universally, in the world around and inside of us. Sunday is a day when, remembering the story of Jesus, his works, pain, death and resurrection, we are reassured that after all these tribulations, all the pain, the death will come resurrection and we will be renewed. On Sunday we celebrate hope. The only thing that has ever kept anyone going.