Winnie-the-Pooh once realized, “Although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better.” (A.A. Milne)
The anticipation of a happy event is in itself exciting, and for Easter, we Catholics sure do a lot of preparing. During Lent, we mindfully curtail bad habits and make sacrifices. We pray the Stations of the Cross and have solemn services during Holy Week. At home, we set our tables with plentiful food: dyed eggs, home-baked bread and babkas and, if you’re Polish like me, kielbasa.
What happens, though, when the day we so anxiously awaited finally arrives and passes? Many of us, myself included, focus so much on getting ready that after Easter Sunday, we simply return to business as usual. We don’t feel that same buzz of anticipation anymore. But consider this: In the Church calendar, Easter lasts for 50 days, called “Eastertide.” These days mark a period of discernment, struggle and courage for the 11 Apostles in the early Church. Eastertide is also a time of great hope: We celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, ascension and gift of the Holy Spirit in Pentecost. As such, this season is when we can truly focus on cultivating joy in the Good News of eternal life.
To nourish joy, we must do so with prayerful intention. This means noticing how God dwells in the everyday moments of our lives. From a simple cup of coffee to walking your dog, helping your child with homework to holding your spouse’s hand, God is there. God resides in the big moments of our lives and all the gray, unmemorable moments in between. It’s like breathing. We forget that we do it, but it keeps us alive. We may forget that God is with us, but he is. During Eastertide, we can try to see how God reveals himself to us. Realizing his ongoing presence – no matter how quiet or loud – will bring us joy.
Spiritual joy does not mean feeling happy all the time. That is unsustainable, and we are biologically built to feel a wide range of emotions. Rather, spiritual joy is a joy that remains in our hearts no matter how we feel. It’s the faith and peace we find when we realize that God’s love is real, healing, unconditional and everlasting. It is an Easter kind of love.