“Lent is not preparation for Easter. Easter equips us for Lent.”
– Steve Hassert
Dear People of Ascension,
Last weekend, I was at Trinity Retreat Center, leading a retreat entitled “Listening to the Still Small Voice”. It has become a tradition for me to do this every Lent with clergy colleagues, and it’s always wonderful to go away with participants from Ascension and several other parishes for some reflection, prayer, refreshment and quiet. This year we traveled in a nor’easter, and despite some harrowing driving adventures, once we got there the whole world was draped in stark, beautiful, heavy snow. Lawn, buildings, and tree branches were all brilliant white, with only a little counterpoint of grey-brown trunks underneath, and the dark waters of the Housatonic River flowing by. Over the next day, though, a thaw began. Shades of green and tan peaked through the snow, the trails were full of puddles, and the signs of spring- muddy, messy, and full of possibility- began to emerge.
Meanwhile, on the board in the dining room (where the food was delicious and local), the quote at the top of this letter was written. It was new to me, and I thought about it quite a lot. One meaning is that as Christians we know the story, and always read it backwards, from the point of view of Jesus’ resurrection. It is the Easter message that makes the rest of the gospels make sense. But on a more existential level, this quote reminds me that it is our faith in a God whose love is stronger than death that enables us to face the struggles and challenges of our lives. What would we do, what would I do differently, if I believed more wholeheartedly in the message of Easter? The world seems so very Lenten so much of the time. How can Easter equip us to face the suffering and injustice around us?
At Ascension, our Holy Week liturgies are a great blessing; they help to form our faith. They allow us to ponder the story of Jesus’ last week deeply, to participate in it, to find ourselves in it, and to be found anew by the mystery of resurrection. By moving through the week together, moving through the passion story to the wonder of Easter, we may be equipped to live with a deeper courage, compassion, forgiveness and hope in a world in desperate need of God’s vulnerable and life-giving love. Here is a link to the schedule of Ascension’s services for Holy Week and Easter. Please join us for as many of them as you can.
Every year, I look forward to sharing this holy time with our Ascension community. As we enter it faithfully, may we be surprised anew by the grace at work in the murk and mess of our own lives, whatever season we find ourselves in. May we be signs of grace for our world.
See you in church!
(The Rev.) Elizabeth G. Maxwell, Rector