Ambivalence in Holy Week

Back when all phones had cords, I played trumpet for about fifteen minutes. That was enough to get me in on a few Easter sunrise services, and I loved the opportunity (once I was awake) for making enough noise/music to raise the dead (or celebrate that raising). Easter was a grand event for me, full of bright colors and good food. When Sue and I got engaged over Easter break, that gave it even more (if that’s possible) oomph.

During college I worshiped with the Plymouth Brethren, a habit which had started in high school, and when Easter would roll around, it was not uncommon for someone from the group to stand during a worship service and remind those gathered that we celebrated Easter every week via the Lord’s Supper. A good point, even if it was made with a slight air of condescension at times, and I took this to heart. The ‘specialness’ of Easter on a particular Sunday began to fade as that notion sank in.

After grad school, I re-discovered Anglicans, and ‘the Church calendar’. This seemed like a splendid way for teaching some important ideas in the congregation I was part of by then, and we embraced Advent, ordinary time and Lent for many years, with real benefit. To reach back into the history of the Church and be aligned with people around the world added power and depth to our experience as Christ-followers.

More lately, I’m back and forth: part of me wants to highlight ‘special days’, like Easter, or Christmas; another part of me is less interested with singling out particular periods for such reflection. And part of me is wondering if I need to choose.

Last night some friends gathered to talk about Holy Week, and it became plain that among us, there was a shared uncertainty on this matter. All of us cherish the glorious truth of Christ’s death and resurrection; at the same time, most of us had questions about the intensity with which we celebrate this reality. My word for the feeling at this stage is ambivalent–which may be a questionable choice, since the primary usage of this adjective suggests a neutral or even negative stance toward what’s under consideration.

But the dictionary also allows that ‘ambivalence’ (from ambi-, for ‘both’ and valent [from the Latin root for ‘strong’]) can have a positive sense as well (a little like ‘ambidextrous’ describes a person who can use both hands equally well–a skill/ability that most admire). As such, it can cover that place where there are two (or maybe more) ideas/positions/possibilities that are all commendable, and where a choice between or among them is both difficult and unnecessary.

I’m thinking that if I can use the word with this sense, then it’s OK to be ambivalent about Easter: there’s room to enjoy the hoopla of a special event, and also space to let the season pass as a few days among many in which the wonderful reality of our Lord’s love and grace can make a deep impression.

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