On This Holy Saturday

I wake up way too early for how late I am going to be up tonight, on this Holy Saturday. Wide awake at 5:30, I lay there, trying to will myself back to sleep for about an hour. I squeeze my eyes shut tight. I try to find comfort on my left side, my back side, my right side. At 6:30, I decide it’s no use and I quietly gather my sweatshirt, jeans and tennis shoes in the dark of our room and I sneak out the door. I walk straight out the front door, where the fog is so thick I can’t see to the end of our driveway. It hangs from the leaves of the eucalyptus trees and runs in steady streams to the ground so that it sounds like it’s raining, even though it isn’t. I walk down the driveway and pause for a moment as two deer have also paused and stand there, staring at me. Their ears are straight up, their muscles are tensed, they are on high alert. Then slowly, slowly, they turn and gracefully walk into the woods. I wonder if they might have been figments of my imagination as they have now disappeared from sight completely and it’s as though they never really existed.

Our dirt driveway is damp with the fog and it smells of eucalyptus and earth and moss. The succulents growing wild on either side have started to sprout large, pointy flowers in the middle of themselves. Even the weeds are beautiful this time of year as the spring rains have turned them a brilliant green color and some of them even have tiny yellow and purple flowers at the ends of their impressive heights.

I turn onto the main road and I walk, noticing the sounds of lizards and snakes and God knows what else skittering through the undergrowth on the side of the road, the spider webs perfectly formed overnight that reach from branch to branch, the baby rabbit that ventures out into the road, waits for a moment and then hops right back to where he came from, his white, fluffy, perfect ball of a tail bouncing right along with him.

Last night, the full moon rose through this very fog as we sat around the bonfire, doing our Good Friday meditations. At the end of the service, the bell clanged 33 times, one for each year of Jesus’ life, and we left in silence and drove home through the fog.

This morning I walk through this mysterious wonderland, full of sights and sounds and smells. I notice my body reacting to the cold, damp air as my hands grow numb and I tuck them inside the sleeves of my sweatshirt. I breathe in the pollen of the new life that’s blooming all around and I feel a constant sneeze developing somewhere in that middle place between my nose and throat. I reflect on how that very Jesus, very God, was the creator of all of it. Of these trees that drip, these animals that run and slither, these grasses and flowers that bloom, of even my very being and the little hairs inside my nose that filter some but not all of even the microscopic particles in the air. And he walked among it himself in his body those 33 years.

Today I will fast as I wait for tonight. I will prepare food that will fill my senses during this last stage of my Lenten fast. I will take the freshly prepared food to the feast that will happen at midnight at the end of our Easter Vigil service. As I go about my day and as I run whatever errands need to be run, I will be thankful for whatever these flowers are that bloom wild on the side of our road. I will decide that they are my very own Easter lilies, placed here just for me, to remind me that he makes all things new.

Even now as I write, the sun is beginning to break through the fog. It’s going to be a beautiful day.

Death will not have victory over Life.

These Hours

Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week.

I arrive at church, we start the service outside and hear the story of Christ the king, riding into Jerusalem, victorious;
We wave palms and sing as we process into the church.
Once inside, my grandson reaches his hands up to me,
Arms outstretched, total surrender, face gazing upwards.

I hold him.

He lays his head on my shoulder and begins to relax,
I sway to the rhythm of the liturgy,
I sway to the reading of the passion of the Christ;
It’s a long and solemn reading today.
Ezra is easily lulled to sleep by both the swaying and the reading.
At long last, the retelling of the story is finished,
“By the words of the gospel, may our sins be blotted out,”
And the ornate blue and gold book from which the gospel was read, the fragrant incense wafting heavenward, the priest, the deacon, the acolyte and the cross… they all process back to the altar and we are seated.

I sit and Ezra wraps both legs and arms around me, and turns his head slightly upward,
One cheek pressed to my chest, mouth open, breathing evenly, deep in slumber;
I gaze at his sleeping face as the homily and then the liturgy continue.
We spend the next hour this way.
An endless hour participating in a heavenly dance while gazing on my sleeping grandson, as he snuggles against me;
I contemplate his face with a long and loving look,
I breathe in the scent of him as I give soft kisses to the top of his head,
When my daughter looks at me and at him and we exchange knowing smiles, I mouth to her “I love him so much.”

He sleeps on, even when the liturgy has finished, and we go forward to receive the Holy Eucharist;
I kneel there with his sweet, baby breath in my ear, softly snoring on my shoulder,
I eat and I drink and I turn him sideways so that even sleeping, he can receive a blessing along with the sign of the cross on his little forehead.
I remain kneeling while the priest who is also my husband, asks my daughter kneeling beside me, who is also Ezra’s mother, if he can also bless the unborn child in her womb.

He places his hand on her growing belly and says “the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, be with you and remain with always” and he proceeds to make the sign of the cross, and I watch his eyes grow big as he whispers to our daughter “Did the baby just kick?”
Her eyes grow even bigger because she has not yet felt this baby move and she says “I think it did!”
She looks at me, smiling, as he walks on down the line and she whispers in amazement, “It’s still moving!”
We stand and walk back to our seats where I settle in again and Ezra nestles deeper, eyes still closed, breathing still rhythmic;
I take it all in, still tasting, still swallowing, still digesting.

Still breathing,
Still gazing,
Still loving,

Amazed that I am here, that I am loved, that I am loving.

Thankful for this hour

… and for the hours yet to come.