Since Ash Wednesday, nearly 40 days ago, we have been waiting, searching. We reflect that we came from dust, and to dust we will return. We do not mourn as though without Hope, but Hope is of little worth to those who have not contemplated why we need it in the first place. And so we fast, and pray.
In our family we typically begin each day snuggling together in bed (read: boys climbing the walls while parents try to remain horizontal), singing our morning song, reading from the Bible, praying together, then ringing bells to begin the day rejoicing. During this Lenten season we have fasted from the bells that ring in our mornings in all other seasons. Something is missing, something is off. This creates in us a yearning that seeks fulfillment.
What is missing, of course, are the bells from our morning routine. Yet it is a symbol training us to realize a deeper lack, a deeper yearning for a deeper fulfillment.
If Lent is the hard journey through the dry and dusty valley, is where we begin to climb. This arduous climb is what will lead us to the top of the mountain, with all the joy and beauty there is to be found. But it is also where the journey is the hardest, the most rigorous and painful. Because isn’t that truth? Isn’t it truly always darkest before the dawn? Nothing lovely is had without price or pain, as any new mother will attest.
On Palm Sunday we begin with a celebration, the poor reflection of the true celebration we think has come but is not yet. We celebrate the King and God we have created in our own minds, the one who has come to vindicate me and bring to me all the comforts and power I believe should be mine. When it turns out that our God is the sort to lay down his glory and power, taking on the very nature of a servant; the sort to lay down his life for his enemy and ask us to do the same; when we begin to realize all this, we turn.
Tonight I will gather with friends as we do every year during Holy Week, as Jesus did on this day of this week, for a Passover Seder. Our children will ask the questions and we will hear the stories and taste the bitter herbs, the salty tears, and the wine of rejoicing. We will hide the afikomen and find it again. It is missing and we will search for it. It will be found, and it will be redeemed, and our longing fulfilled.
And as we turn in this piece of bread to be redeemed for a prize, it points our hearts to the Bread that bought redemption for Life. As we rejoice and drink the wine of fulfillment we remember the Messiah who has come and brought us out of slavery and into Light; we strain towards the greater fulfillment and rejoicing that will come after the hard days before us, and the greater fulfillment laying ahead further still.
But for now the afikomen remains hidden and our bells are not ringing. We are out of the valley but the climbing of this upward path is hardest yet. It is not quite Easter – it is Easter, almost.