These are the days of holiness and wonder . . .


During our morning coffee Milt mentioned that earlier on the news they had covered “Easter” without a single mention of Jesus Christ.  It was all about bunnies, eggs, chocolate, and sweet-filled baskets—the junk side of Easter, not the heart and spirit of Easter.

I was raised Catholic and, although I no longer practice that religion, I have a lot of memories of Easter season. I remember it as the end of an arduous time of lent, prayers, and of fasting and cleansing. Mom would have us kneel along the length of the couch to pray the rosary. We went to the Stations of the Cross at church, and I can still smell incense and hear the mesmerizing tones as the priest and his attendants sang the difficult journey of Jesus Christ in Latin.

And yes, as a little girl I loved Easter morning, donning a pretty pastel dress, a new Easter bonnet, the pure, pretty white gloves, ribbons in my hair. But even then I understood that these pretty things had somehow been earned by our practices and sacrifices through the long Lenten season.

And yes, we got a small gift, eggs dyed into pale colors and a bit of chocolate and jelly beans in a little basket.  It was a celebration.

On the Saturday before Easter we were not allowed to play vigorously but were encouraged to stay quiet and still to remember the day that Jesus died.

I left that religion behind for many deeply personal reasons, but I kept the holiness and wonder of it when I left. Later, as I sat in an ashram meditating on other saints, smelling the incense burning, and listening to the beautiful chants (also in an unfamiliar language) being sung by people in long robes, I realized that I had not gone so far from where I had begun.  It was, and is, the state of holiness and wonder that hovers in my heart, the inner state of being, that I want.

When I started this post this morning I intended to criticize the crass commercialism of Easter; but as I’m writing along, I see there is much more complexity in the message of Easter. We come to holiness and wonder not by what we are given but by what we must give up. Like Jesus, we come to holiness and wonder through what we suffer in life. We have to give up easy familiar ways of being, we have to be on our knees sometimes asking big questions because life can be harsh. And then, like Jesus, we have to rise and stand up again and go on with eyes wide open.

I have this deep feeling that all of this “fluff and stuff” that the merchants want us to buy is really a way to divert the path. They want me to believe that if I get the right stuff, it will give me holiness and wonder. I can just buy it, right?

Joseph Chilton Pearce in one of his books talked about how our obsessive need to consume and own stuff rises out of a much more embedded and intrinsic need to be connected—in the family, to community, to our own heart, to the spirit. I think he is right. Everything is spinning so fast in our quest to consume that we grow further and further away from our need to connect—and holiness and wonder are lost to us.

We yearn for holiness and wonder. A kind of spiritual starvation sets in when it is missing and no amount of purchased goods, food, drink, etc. can feed that hunger of the soul for what only the spirit can provide.

Can we reverse this out of control spiral of consumerism as a replacement for connection that leads to holiness and wonder?

I think we can, but it will take more than one day a year. And we have to do things differently than we are doing now.

Here is a scenario. Let’s say you spend $300 on Easter junk.  It took you ten or more hours to earn that $300.  What if you bought one Zen tangle coloring book and pretty markers for $15 and then spent ten hours coloring with your children (or your friend, family, partner)? What if you just scribbled and let the trail of conversation go lazily to wherever their heart questions lead them and you just listen? You don’t advise, teach, preach, or condemn and correct. You just listen with every cell of your body to what they have to say.  (And no phones or pads allowed.) Which do you think they would prefer . . . the junk . . . or the time?

Or what if you spend ten hours with your own heart questions? Asking for answers?

The other night I was struggling with this myself. I was in a space of feeling isolated and shut down—no holiness and wonder.  I was awake in the middle of the night with nothing but my own agitated thoughts. The next day when I really talked it out with Milt, the concerns and questions of my heart emerged one by one.  I felt alone. I am sad for my sisters. I’m worried about death and loss. I feel insecure and uncertain. Then as the words flowed out, my heart met his heart and once again, like magic, holiness and wonder rose up in me once again. I had been experiencing “heart failure” and now my heart was restored.

Connection doesn’t just happen. A space has to be cleared for it, the way prepared, the time set aside, the flip tops closed and the screens darkened, the expectations released, the fears allayed, the resentments dispersed, the path swept clear.

And then, without effort and without force, holiness and wonder fill that open space. Again, it is not about what we get—but what we have given up that brings this transformation about.

I hope you have filled your day with holiness and wonder and not junk. I hope you have surrounded yourself with soul mates (yes, there can be more than one) who are unafraid to ask big questions or to just listen as you ask yours.

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