While the New Year may symbolize the renewal of a calendar year, for many Christians, Easter seems to symbolize the renewal of their Christian faith. We maintain our love of God year-round of course, but there is an inexplicable energy and revival that comes with Holy Week, the Paschal praises, and the Feast of the Resurrection. We spend every Sunday at church throughout the year, sure. But undoubtedly, our day to day lives can make us complacent in our spirituality.
Except for when Holy Week rounds the corner… That is when we all take pause. Our prayers are more intense. Our understanding of His love is deeper. Our time is intentional. For many Orthodox Christians in fact, time belongs to church and church only during that week. In the Orthodox tradition, there are multiple lengthy services every day of the week leading up to Easter. Though liturgy can seem long to some of us, we make exception for that week when we relish that extra time in the beauty of the church, letting the praises adorn our ears.
Then this year happened. None of that will be coming to fruition this time. Home is where we will have to make our peace, for better or for worse. I felt the grief from many friends when that announcement came out… and it got me thinking.
I cannot deny the necessity of being in the church, and the partaking of the sacraments, and attending the services. But… what if this time at home is EXACTLY what God needs of us?
Hear me out. I am NOT saying (nor will I ever say), the church is extra noise and we have no need of it to have a relationship with Him. That is a fallacy and I will never think it or speak it. Now that I’ve put that out there, I want you to dive into this new perspective with me.
Is it possible, that maybe, JUST MAYBE, we have put all of our relationship with God into the church prayers and services, that we have forgotten how to be with Him on our own? Is it possible that we rely heavily on the church’s guidance for how to pray during this time, and have used it as a replacement to our own personal efforts to connect with Him?
Let me take you back to the story of Mary and Martha as a clue. Back when Jesus and His disciples were making their rounds, they stopped at a village where two lovely women named Mary and Martha opened their home in service to them. We are familiar with the events, but for recap’s sake… Jesus began to speak and teach, so Mary sat at His feet and listened intently. Meanwhile, Martha slaved away in the kitchen doing the things that undoubtedly needed to get done. These people in her home needed to be fed, things needed to be cleaned, and drinks needed to be served. No one would dare blame Martha for the work she was doing. It was an absolutely necessary service to all those in her home including herself.
And yet, as Martha complained to Jesus that Mary was doing none of the work, Jesus actually applauded Mary for sitting, and learning, and listening. In fact, He said to Martha (who was annoyed with her sister), “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42
What is that one thing? That one thing was GOD himself! Mary chose the relationship over the service and He was perfectly content with that. I’m sure at some point, the disciples would have been hungry and things would have needed to be done. Martha was not doing a wrong thing… But in that moment in time, per Jesus, only one thing was needed. Consider Jesus is speaking to you here. I’ll put myself in context and you fill your name as needed: “Madona, you are worried and upset about many things (losing Holy Week and Easter in the church), but one thing is needed (ME). Mary has chosen what is better (ME), and it will not be taken away from you.”
Even though the world has taken away the church services as they happen IN church, God has not left. He has not been taken away. And it is the one thing that will NEVER be taken away from us.
So? What if He is asking us to be a little less Martha and a little more Mary concerning the Church? Not always, but just in this time? Can we make purpose in this and not take a backseat to our spirituality, using church as a cover? Can we push out that noise of grief over what we are missing and focus on what we have? In short, what we are willing to do inside our homes that will push us to explore our personal relationships with Christ? Maybe we will be streaming services, setting up altars, or preparing Biblical lessons for our kids. Yes, maybe it will all look different, but God hasn’t left and the glory of His resurrection will never be confined to the church walls. It is plain and evident for all who look for it.
There are so many resources out there right now at the tip of our fingers that can bring Holy Week and Easter to life in our homes. We have an opportunity to be fully hands on with our children without fear of noise or distraction to others. We can answer questions and we can teach freely what we know right in the middle of streamed services if we need to and even look up what we don’t!
** Finally, if you are looking for a way to help your kids have the right perspective, check out these FREE Holy Week Resources from Bridges to Orthodoxy! https://bridgestoorthodoxy.com/pages/holy-week-resources
The website also has some amazing easy-to-follow lesson plans that any parent can download and teach Sunday School at home. In fact, this blog was inspired by one of the lessons from “In One Peace” – a Unit from our new school year, which will be available after Holy Week.
May the glory of this blessed week and Holy Resurrection be with us all, Amen!