I remember the first time I attended services at my church for the entire Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. I was 10 years old, and my mother insisted that I go with her. I wasn’t happy with Mom at first, but I was asked to be part of the washing of feet at Mass on Thursday, and the experience blew me away. It seemed like such a beautiful, concrete, intimate act that Jesus shared with his disciples, and I felt so lucky that I got to be part of its depiction.
Then the next night, I was asked to be in a special procession on Good Friday. I carried a crown of thorns as the organ swelled and the choir sang, “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” Easter Mass on Sunday morning was the culmination of all of this for me. While singing along with “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today,” I felt that I had actually walked along with Jesus from the last moments with his friends on Thursday through the agony of his death on Friday back to the joy of new life on Sunday. In his book, “I Know This Much Is True,” Wally Lamb writes, “The evidence of God exists in the roundness of things.” I couldn’t agree more.
The cycle of seasons that moves from the lushness of spring and summer into the shriveled barrenness of fall and winter before erupting in the fresh, new buds of spring once again is another example. The roundness of our planet’s journey around the sun points to the divine origin of all life. In my own life, I’ve seen the same divine pattern at work.
When I finally landed on a major in college, I decided that I wanted to be a high school religion teacher. I became certified to teach English and got a minor in theology, which helped me get a job in a Catholic school. But I soon fell in love with teaching English and kept with that path. After several years of teaching, I became an assistant principal, and then a principal. Not enamored with the stress that went along with the principal role, I stepped down, left the school I had loved for 20 years and worked in different capacities for awhile.
Until I got a phone call. A friend from my school told me that the current campus minister was going to retire, and she thought I should apply. I had never considered the position before, so I thanked her for her kind words but said, “No, thanks.” However, the idea of it stuck with me. Several months and lots of prayerful reflection later, I became the campus minister at my school, a position I currently hold and find very fulfilling. I feel like I have come full circle. I’m not a religion teacher in the way I had originally intended, but I definitely teach religion in my current role.
As Catholics, we celebrate a “roundness” that we call the Paschal Mystery during Holy Week each year. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection demonstrate for us that death is not an ending; it’s not the last stop on a linear journey. Instead, Jesus shows us that with God, we can move from birth through death into new life. We call the week in which we celebrate the Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter a “holy” week. And rightly so. The word holy means sacred or blessed in our current usage, but it comes from a Germanic root that means something a little different – whole. In other words, the very roundness of the journey from life through death and back to life again is what makes it sacred.
Perhaps the biggest mistake we sometimes make with Holy Week is when we think of it as just one week out of the year. Certainly, there is just one week in which we celebrate the Triduum as a community in ritual and sacrament. But every week can be a holy week. Every week should be whole.
For that to happen, we simply need Easter eyes – eyes that see and honor the roundness in all of life as experiences of God. Every time we love, get hurt, but then forgive, we become whole. Every time we succeed, then fail, but then gain the courage and wisdom to start again, we understand that life is sacred. Every time we are home, then move away, then return home – literally or figuratively – we are blessed.
I see this at work in my own life. Both of my parents passed away over the last two years, each suffering from a lengthy battle with dementia. As hard as it was for me to care for them while working and caring for my own family, as hard as it was to visit them in a nursing home and watch them decline, something felt right about the process. I had come full circle. The people who had helped bring me into the world and cared for me as a child were the same people I cared for and comforted as they slipped back into God’s divine embrace.
Holy Week celebrates more than a historical event from more than 2,000 years ago. It’s also a powerful invitation for us to make every week of our lives a holy one. I truly believe that “the evidence of God exists in the roundness of things.” Going forward after Easter, we’re called to embrace this wholeness in all parts of our lives. May we be watchful and hopeful with Easter eyes.
Mary Ann Steutermann is currently the director of campus ministry at Assumption High School, an all-girls Catholic high school in Louisville, Kentucky.. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English and two master’s degrees in education. Mary Ann lives in Louisville with her husband and son.