In Wasteland T.S. Elliott tells us that April is the cruelest month. He clearly didn’t grow up in North Carolina.
Here, February is the unmatched champion of disappointment. Spring shows its face and disappears. Verdant shoots break the surface only to be blanketed in snow. The treetops are painted in a red hue on Wednesday and frozen on Friday.
This year February was like a one-month time capsule of the joys and heartbreak of the pandemic. Oh, look at this number. Surely it is over. Surely, we can rejoice and reunite. But wait. Did you hear that report? Did you see the news? Please, not again.
Is Holy Week the most joyous seven days of the Christian Calendar or the cruelest? It is all about perspective.
I am re-reading The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. The utter sadness of the book is that as we read the hopes and dreams of this young Jewish girl, we know the ending. We know that the children she writes about will never be born. We can see around the corner, but she cannot.
The disciples begin what we now call Holy Week with this same joy and hope for the future. They witness the triumphant arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem. The hope and joy of springtime-like greenery line his path as he rides the little colt toward his destiny. But the scales had yet to fall from the disciples’ eyes. The lens had not been turned to achieve focus. They are walking toward death in a hopeful dream. Cruel reality awaits their arrival.
Even the Passover meal must strike them as familiar and routine. Lounging with their friends, sharing food and drink, talking about the events of the day. But when Jesus washes their feet, stands and turns the same food and drink into symbols, and tries again to tell them the end of the story, the lens turns, the focus sharpens, and spring seems farther away.
The trial, the cross, the tomb. The cruelness of hope snatched away. The deepest of winters on the cusp of spring. The refocusing on his words. The memory of all the times he told them. It was over.
Close your eyes. Think of the most beautiful spring day of your life. Recall the warmth of the sun, the gentle breeze on your cheek, the fresh smell of the air flavored with flowers. Think of just how alive the world around you seemed and the hopefulness that consumed your heart.
Now walk to the tomb with the women.