It wasn’t so long ago that I was crying (or, rather, whining) because I’d be spending Holy Week by myself. I’m so far from my parish. From my friends. I don’t know anyone in my area yet.
But God provides. Because this week, I was anything but alone.
Even in those services I attended solo, there was no possible way to feel lonely. At the Chrism Mass, and on Good Friday. I may have entered the church on my own, but there was no solitude. There was the resounding voice of the believers. There were friends in the pews, even if only for those couple hours. It was a collective song, raising our voices to God. (And to think, I used to hate singing in church.) There was camaraderie; there was love. In the pews, and from above. There’s a sense of loneliness on Good Friday, in the empty tabernacle and the concealed image of the crucifix. And that’s even with the knowledge of what—or who—arises in three days, which is more than his apostles had. But we mourn together. We honor Jesus together.
But the week didn’t start with my solo Mass attendance. Palm Sunday, a day that will always be filled with remembrance for me, because it was the first time I was told it’s not too late for someone like me. The first time I seriously considered joining the Church. And I attended with the one who first brought me there, who a mere year ago had to explain why I couldn’t receive the Eucharist as a non-Catholic. But this year I sat beside him crying, overwhelmed with the enormity of it, finally understanding why I couldn’t—and also realizing it was a mere two weeks away that I could. (And still feeling unprepared, a detail the “me” of the past would scoff at.)
And Holy Thursday, a night I intended to go solo, instead surrounded by friends. Sitting in the pew with my sponsor, who still has to whisper explanations to me, those whispers that I still welcome because there’s always more to learn. I was fixated on the washing of feet during Mass. Not because a priest would lower himself to our level, but because that is his entire being. In that moment, I loved the priests in my life—even those who don’t know me—even more, because they exemplify the teachings of Jesus. They love him more than I could ever know. I didn’t have to be told that it’s a somber evening because I felt it, in the quiet of the church and in the music. And somewhere deep within me, too, a promise from Jesus himself that his death is inevitable, but something more glorious approaches.
And after, we took the Seven Churches pilgrimage, driving around the area to visit those parishes open during the night. We prayed at each location; we read Scripture; later, en route to the next stop, we talked about Jesus. The sun had long since set, and a dense fog was descending on the night, but this ambiance only added to the solemnity. As the night progressed more and more of our friends joined us, creating a fellowship bound by Jesus, remembering his sacrifice for each and every one of us.
Tonight, I attend the Easter Vigil at my home parish. I’ll celebrate our risen Lord with those who have taken this journey with me; I’ll celebrate also those RCIA classmates who are receiving their Confirmation this evening. I hadn’t thought I could make the vigil there. I thought, again, that I’d have to attend by myself, in a parish where I didn’t know anyone. But God draws us together. Our relationship with Him may be personal, but He didn’t put us here to take this journey alone. We are brothers and sisters. We honor and strengthen our bonds with Him in this huge, glorious family.
I couldn’t have gotten this far without that fellowship. Without my companions, my sponsor, my teachers. I am beyond thankful to Him that this Holy Week, too, was a fellowship, with those I am close to and with those I simply sat beside silently during one service. It pains me to think of Jesus’s last hours, how he ultimately died alone. Rejected by those he’d dedicated his entire life to save. Separated even from God. But he suffered that death so that I—we—don’t have to experience that. We are never alone, not in him, and not in one another. Not in this life, or hereafter.
“Happy Easter” has a whole new meaning.