“Tending our sorrows” is the title for a Holy Week musical meditation series. The title caught my attention. Along with most people, I have been busy following the advice on how to stay healthy during the pandemic. I have tried to include consistent physical activity, limiting daily Zoom calls, ensuring space for creativity, and setting aside time to meditate and pray.
Yet I have been aware of something else within me. It is difficult to describe. I have come to realize it is familiar. It is like a numbness that accompanies grief. I notice the more I try to create the illusion of control the more this numbness grows. I have come to think that attending to our sorrows allows us to acknowledge our shared grief, a reminder mourning is a part of healthy practices.
What are we grieving? For each of us it is different and can be difficult to articulate. There are the obvious losses such as the death of a loved one. It might be the loss of the familiar. Communal worship, family gatherings, holidays, even the simple freedom to visit friends or family.
There were losses in our lives before the pandemic. Then we had familiar resources. We could gather at a funeral to mourn and share coveted memories. We could celebrate special occasions in person. We did not fear a handshake or a hug.
Daily choices remain complicated. The possibility of a third wave is balanced by the growing number of vaccinations. Yet there doesn’t appear to be a definitive end to the pandemic. How do we live with this constant ambiguity? Perhaps the better question is how do we tend our sorrows?
This will be our second “pandemic” Easter. Traditionally, the week before Easter is devoted to prayer, contemplation and lament. Life is pared down. Prayer and worship take precedence. This is preparation for the events recollected on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. As we remember the events in the garden, the trial and crucifixion of Jesus, our own grief is another constant companion. Our own sorrows accompany us as we walk with Jesus to Golgotha, as we mourn with all who follow him.
We have something to learn from the disciples and the women who followed Jesus. The disciples, witnesses to the crucifixion, could not take in what had occurred. Jesus was dead, there had been a rushed burial. They were fearful of the authorities. It was too much. They hid in a locked room. Fearful and confused their only company was razor-sharp grief.
Mary Magdalene had gone to the tomb in the early morning. The two angels seated there asked why she was weeping? Tears running down her face, she turns from the tomb and begs the man she thinks is the gardener to show her where they have laid Jesus’ body. Jesus says: “Mary”, she turns and recognises him.
When the knock on the door comes that early morning, the disciples are afraid. Mary persists. Her story is shocking, the tomb is empty! She has seen the risen Jesus!
The disciples take time to embrace the risen Jesus, from the walk to Emmaus, the upper room to their seaside breakfast. They teach us about the importance of allowing grief its rightful place. Mary shows us another aspect of grieving. Sometimes the greatest joy can only be seen through tears of mourning. Tending to our own sorrows opens the door to hope and joy.
Jesus Christ is risen! Alleluia, alleluia
The Reverend Canon Nancy Ford, Deacon, is the Anglican Director of Deacons for the Diocese of British Columbia and Deacon to the City of Victoria out of Christ Church Cathedral.
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* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, April 3rd 2021