Easter is a Way of Life
By Donna Frischknecht Jackson
Easter Sunday was quiet this year. Being a “free-range” pastor (I have been inspired by my chickens to dub myself that) I didn’t have the Holy Week and Easter Sunday responsibilities my friends had. There were no multiple services to plan, sanctuaries to decorate with flowers and plastic eggs to fill with candy for the children.
It was quiet, and that can be a good thing — especially when your soul is thirsting for peace in a world filled with noise, strife and sadly, violence and hate. It is in the quiet where you can do nothing but listen to your heart speak its deepest desires. It is in the quiet you can hear Spirit’s wisdom softly howling in the wind that blows through the gaping windowsills of my 18th century house. It is in the quiet I feel the presence of the Risen Lord speaking his beautiful post-resurrection words, “Peace be with you.”
Yes, peace be with you. With me. With the world. Yet there can be no peace if we do not put healthy boundaries around all the ceaseless activities and demands filling our lives. There has been much talk lately about work-life balance, but what about work-life AND faith balance? What are we doing to nurture our relationship with the Divine?
I think that is why I welcomed a quiet Easter Sunday — even when its celebratory dinner was a bag of stale chips and a wilted salad because I didn’t expect I would have a problem getting a last-minute restaurant reservation.
I didn’t mind, though, because Easter is not a day. It’s not even a season leading us to Pentecost’s mighty rush of Holy Spirit wind. Easter is an invitation to a new life and a new way of living that life. To live with hope — always, and in all things. Hope amid failed plans. Hope amid missed opportunities. Hope amid betrayals and heartache. Hope in the promise of seeing those we love again in the great by and by.
Easter Sunday gives way to Easter Monday and then Easter Tuesday and Easter Wednesday, etc. For those who are not of the Catholic faith, there is officially the eight days of Easter. This time is called the Octave of Easter, and each day a mass is held and the Glorias are sung and the Alleluias are shouted. Scripture readings focus on the various appearances of the Risen Lord, reminding us that he is alive and, as one of my friends likes to say, “Jesus is on the loose!”
The Octave of Easter is rooted in the great feasts found in Hebrew scripture, where many Jewish celebrations lasted for eight days. The Octave of Easter ends on the second Sunday of Easter which in the Catholic Church is known as the Sunday of Divine Mercy.
My Protestant Reformed upbringing has never included the Octave of Easter in any liturgy or even conversations. The closest I ever came to celebrating the Octave of Easter was honoring Easter Monday. My father is Swiss, and I remember growing up hearing how in Europe, Easter Monday was observed with a day off. That intrigued me, especially as I wondered why we here in the states returned to work the day after Easter Sunday. It seemed that we celebrated the Risen Lord and then the next day forgot all about the life-changing opportunity we have been given in his resurrection. It just seemed wrong. Even now, this focus on a one-day Easter Sunday celebration seems “off.”
In my own work circles, more emphasis is placed on extended time-off during Christmas, with Easter getting just a nod. This year, on Easter Monday, friends I knew arrived at airports as the crack of dawn so that they could gather for weeklong church meetings. Other meetings, like a weekly 8:30 a.m. Monday meeting, went on as usual. Easter seemed quickly forgotten. I, though, chose to embrace the profound holiness of Easter Monday that I have discovered exists when you choose to live — not just observe — Easter.
I lit a candle, poured a cup of coffee, spent time in prayer and then went for a walk in the woods. During my walk, story ideas to write came. Ideas for future Old Stone Well Farm videos filled my mind. I felt my steps quickening. I felt lighter. Joyful. Hopeful. I was excited about this day and the ones to come. I also pondered what a friend wrote on Facebook that I found so beautiful. She said that “Easter Monday was like breathing in a deep breath of Resurrection power.” I paused on the muddy trail and drank in a deep breath of that power. It felt good.
It was then I realized something: Could all this busyness after Easter be because we really are afraid — or hesitant — to accept Easter’s invitation to a new life because that would mean doing things differently, thinking differently, acting differently…and “differently” is not what many people want, is it?
As for the pushback I receive from valued friends when I bring up a more monastic way of doing business, with their insistence that there is so much work to be done, I ask gently, “Who then are you truly seeking to glorify with all the busyness and Zoom meetings? Self? Others? Or God?” (In the corporate world, I know my views will probably have me crucified.)
I’m sorry, we have no availability for Easter dinner for two. We are booked.
I thanked the hostess on the other end of the phone and turned to my husband and smiled, “Oh well. We will have our Easter dinner another time.”
He smiled back. He understood.
Easter is every day if we only dare to say “yes” to a new and risen life. Now take that deep breath of Resurrection power — and live.