Easter is a 50-day-long season of celebration. As Christians, we often undertake Lenten practices but often do not undertake Easter practices past the first day of Easter. One reason may be that joy, peace, and other consolations are gifts from God. They mostly do not depend on an act of our own will. I often think of joy as the flower that blossoms when the plant of love has been well-tended. How, then, can we celebrate Easter if joy does not depend on us? We can take up practices that prepare us to receive the gift. Here are some concrete suggestions for ways to receive joy.
1. Feast, and share the feast.
Most of us enjoy an Easter feast, but every day we are invited to feast on love. Jesus enjoyed the feasting at the wedding at Cana, and he celebrated the feast of the Eucharist with his friends. We can celebrate with food and liturgy and with many small acts of love too. Spring may be slow to come in some northern climates, but so is Easter joy. Pay attention to emerging flower buds, leaves, and new colors in nature. Witness the many expressions of love by others around us: a father walking his daughter to school or the bus driver assisting the elderly woman boarding the bus.
2. Trust in God, and love where you are.
While our free will and choices are essential in cooperating with the Lord, many of the circumstances of our lives are beyond our own control. I do not believe that God wills our suffering. However, I am assured by the words of Scripture: “In paths they do not know I will guide them. I will make darkness into light before them” (Isaiah 42:16). God desires to create new life in us. Our part is simply to love where we are, who we are with, and to let God do the rest.
3. Plant some “new seeds.”
This spring, we removed some old overgrown trees from the garden, and my husband built some new raised beds in their place. Taking out old growth and planting new seeds is cathartic! When we plant seeds in the warm soil of spring, we cannot see the action beneath the surface but know that life is at work and eventually will emerge. If gardening is not your thing, plant other kinds of seeds. Perhaps parents of young children might begin a new bedtime ritual of simple prayer to plant the seeds of a relationship with God in their lives.
4. Be kind and patient with yourself.
Perhaps Easter is especially difficult this year due to the death of a loved one, illness, relationship challenges, or other losses. A former spiritual director wisely reminded me to be gentle and patient with myself. It took time for the friends of Jesus who encountered him in the Resurrection to recognize him, and it takes time for us to discover the Risen Lord in our midst—in fact, all of our lives. Meanwhile, be kind.