For many of my friends who are pastors, this is the most demanding week of the year. Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter, includes many extra services such as the traditional foot-washing service on Maundy Thursday, the afternoon observance of the Seven Last Words on Good Friday, the Easter Vigil some churches hold on Saturday, and of course the special services on Easter Sunday.
Other friends belong to churches who are adamantly opposed to referring to this holiday as "Easter" because of its pagan roots, and they prefer to call it "Resurrection Sunday". To be honest, I am still figuring out how to observe the crucifixion and celebrate the resurrection for myself. I love the idea of celebrating resurrection during this time of year when buds are blooming (at least in some parts of the world) and warm air is bringing a refreshing thaw after a long winter. But don't we need resurrection in our lives throughout the whole year? Perhaps we especially need it in the dead of winter or in the scorching heat of summer.
There is a hymn in the Christian Science Hymnal that ends with this line: "…Every day will be an Easter filled with benedictions new" (hymn 413). I actually like the idea of making every moment an Easter. Some might say that in order to experience resurrection moments, we need to have crucifixion moments, moments when we allow old, inspired ways of thinking and living to die. Galatians chapter 5 speaks to this effort. Verses 24 and 25 say this: "Those who belong to Christ have crucified their old nature with all that it loved and lusted for. If our lives are centered in the Spirit, let us be guided by the Spirit."
The previous verse of the hymn I mentioned echoes this call to endeavor: "When we turn from earth to Spirit, And from self have won release, Then we see the risen Savior; Then we know his promised peace." Okay, so when or how often do we have to do this? Is this "turning" a one time thing? What if we want resurrection moments to become common in our lives?
When I was reading this week's Christian Science Bible Lesson, a word stood out to me. The word "constantly". I saw it in this passage from Mary Baker Eddy's Science and Health: "If the disciple is advancing spiritually, he is striving to enter in. He constantly turns away from material sense, and looks towards the imperishable things of Spirit" (p. 21). Constantly.
Eddy defines spiritual sense as a "conscious, constant capacity to understand God" (Science and Health, p. 209). And she also says this: "To live so as to keep human consciousness in constant relation with the divine, the spiritual, and the eternal, is to individualize infinite power; and this is Christian Science" (Miscellany, p. 160).
To keep your thoughts constantly focused on things that are spiritual? This sounds really demanding, maybe even almost impossible. It reminds me of the behest to "pray without ceasing" from I Thessalonians 5:17. For a helpful discussion on this topic, check out a blog post from my friend Sharon (also a Christian Science practitioner) here. Eddy's use of the word "capacity" in the above quote points to the fact that we all have a natural ability to do this. It's not impossible to keep thoughts aligned with the Spirit. The most important thing is the desire to do so. Desire opens doors.
So, for me, this is what I've decided Holy Week will be about: the endeavor to constantly turn from earth to Spirit. I know it will not be easy. I'm aware that there are constant temptations from which to turn. So many other things to think about. I also know that when I am thinking about things of the Spirit, I feel the deepest peace, clarity, freedom, and joy. I imagine there will be moments this week when my thoughts will move toward contemplating chocolate or attractive men or my judgement of something someone posted on Facebook. But each moment I have the opportunity to move my thoughts to gratitude for God's satisfying goodness, love for others that goes beyond desiring something from them, and appreciation for people's uniqueness even when I don't agree or understand fully.
And these are what resurrection moments look like. Enjoy them every day.