Where Does Easter Fit in a Season of Mourning?

Seeing the Unseen

As I Was Saying is a forum for a variety of perspectives to foster faith-related conversations among our readers with the goal of mutual learning, even in disagreement. Apart from articles written by editorial staff, these perspectives do not necessarily reflect the views of The Banner.

It is Holy Week 2020. The week, which began on Palm Sunday, will crescendo through Passover and Good Friday and culminate on Easter Sunday. One of the most important Christian holidays of the year, Easter Sunday is an exuberant, glorious celebration of our Savior’s resurrection.

Easter Sunday for most of us has long been a day to celebrate life, embrace love, embody hope, and express joy. It has been a day of packed churches overflowing with joyful worshipers dressed in their Easter best, followed by chocolate egg hunts for small children, the painting and decorating of Easter eggs, and the coming together for a shared meal with loved ones around colorfully decorated tables strewn with bright flowers.

This Easter, there will be none of that. No large family gatherings around brightly decorated shared tables, no community egg hunts for excited young children, no overflowing churches filled with praise.

In their place will be thousands upon thousands of deaths to the COVID-19 pandemic that is pummeling our beloved world. There will be the ugliness of social distancing and the darkness of self-isolation, which—while painful and difficult—are one of the most critical acts of love we can do to spare the lives of many, especially the elderly and the most vulnerable among us. This Holy Week and Easter, there is economic hardship, many jobs lost, and fear etched on the faces of the people you see when you go for your one weekly trip out of the home to the grocery store.

How could we even think of celebrating Easter 2020?

Yet even in the face of so much pain and destruction, there is still our Savior’s resurrection. How could we not celebrate?

To be honest, even before the pandemic arrived, I didn’t want to celebrate Easter this year. This Easter will mark the first major holiday since my family lost one of our most important members, our matriarch. Grandma Horne died in mid-January, and even though she was 104, had ferociously battled dementia for over a decade and had lived a good life. The loss has been immense.

Extremely close to her since the day I was born, I called her my best friend; she was one of the most important people in my life. My heart broke when she died, and I have spent the weeks since in mourning, wearing black shirts every day as a tangible, physical symbol of my grief. I named this year my personal Annus Horribilis (Latin for Horrible Year).

How could the celebration of Easter fit into a season of mourning?

And then the pandemic and resulting quarantine struck.

It seemed the perfect excuse to give up on Easter this year.

How could I celebrate one of the most important holidays of our Christian faith during Annus Horribilis, a season of mourning and pandemic? What is there to celebrate?

Further, even if I wanted to—how could my large family celebrate in this time of social distancing, when we cannot physically be together? Gone is the chance to throw the big family Easter meal I have hosted for many years.

Gone also will be the in-person church service, replaced by an online service where we huddle around our laptop.  And gone will be the dressing of my family in pretty Easter clothing. (Who am I kidding? My daughter has not deigned to let me dress her in a pretty dress in many, many a year, and my son, who came to our family late in youth, defines dressing up as putting on his favourite death metal punk rock clothing).

And, then, it came to me. In this time of death and loss, the most important core aspect of what Easter is all about remains: Jesus’s resurrection. It is all about Jesus. Easter is about celebrating life, love, and hope embodied in Jesus’ sacrifice and return to life. We cannot not celebrate Easter.

And so, I determined that this year my family WILL celebrate.

I will be hosting my traditional family Easter meal; it will just be done in a creative way. Using video chat, my little family will eat our meal while connected through our laptop to extended family members on their laptops in their own residences as they eat their meals. We may even be joined by other family members who have never before been able to join our Easter meal because they live far away in Ottawa, Texas, and Washington.

At our online celebration we will pray. Maybe we will sing. We will reflect on the solemnity of this year and ask the Father for mercy and relief. Maybe we will laugh a little as we share camaraderie. Most of all, we will celebrate what God has done for us through the gift of His son Jesus Christ. This year, without all the regular things to distract us, we will celebrate what Easter is truly about.

About the Author

Jenna C. Hoff is a freelance writer and editor in Edmonton, Alta. She is a member of Inglewood Christian Reformed Church.

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