It is hard to rejoice with a broken heart. Perhaps the gripping images coming out of Ukraine have seared your soul to its core. Perhaps the continued disintegration of social, political, and environmental stability has created an emotional earthquake in the ground of your being. Perhaps an unexpected loss of a loved one or a shocking diagnosis of terminal illness has seemed like a tsunami forcing its way through your life. Regardless of the cause of our broken heart, the life-gripping pain is the same. Our whole being wants to break down in endless tears, yet the liturgies of these Easter days call us to endless rejoicing. Our dualistic, Western-thinking minds tell us that we can’t do both; however, a greater truth reveals to us that rejoicing through the pain is not only possible but necessary.
As a cancer survivor, it is difficult to explain the feelings of guilt that arise when someone else’s cancer diagnosis is less favorable, even terminal. While being grateful for having been spared the worst in my own case, my mind, heart, and soul are filled with nearly intolerable aching for the seeming misfortune of the other. And this ache has intensified all the more in the last six weeks since someone I love quite deeply has received a terminal cancer diagnosis. There are no answers for the “Why” questions, only silence and impenetrable mystery that bring me further into the darkness where pure faith alone must be relied upon. As we have moved through Lent and Holy Week into Easter, I have found myself choking back tears in the midst of trying to sing repetitious Alleluias at our beautiful liturgies. It is hard to rejoice with a broken heart.
The gift of our Christian faith is that the way of Christian redemption is not an “either/or” reality. On the contrary, it is a “both/and” reality, which is what makes it such a mystery. Jesus was both God AND human. It’s a mystery. Jesus died on the cross AND was raised from the dead. It’s a mystery. Our faith tells us that suffering and sadness are inseparably bound up with joy and gladness. True love opens up the way to pure and unbridled joy, yet it also makes us vulnerable to deep pain and woundedness. We cannot have one without the other. It’s a mystery.
It is the depth of our sorrow that reveals to us the depth of our love. And where there is love, there is God, for God is Love. The Paschal Mystery reveals to us that the trajectory of true love is through pain to everlasting life. We are more than our mortal bodies that are subject to death and decay. Our capacity for life and love is much greater than our mortal bodies can ever contain. This is our faith. This is the reason for our abundant Alleluias. Day in and day out, whether we are weeping or celebrating, we are an Easter people, and Alleluia is our song!
This Easter season, may our Alleluias be louder and longer than ever before. May the conviction of our faith in Jesus Christ as Risen Lord resound to all the corners of the earth and into the innermost recesses of our hearts so that the power of true love may cast out all fear and comfort all our sorrows, whatever they may be.
By Sister Therese Haydel, OSB