“Easter lasts for fifty days?”
“Yes. We fast for forty days and feast for fifty.”
“That means we can have soda and pop music for fifty days, right?”
“Um, no. Not at all.”
“It’s not much of a feast if everything just goes back to normal.”
In this conversation, my daughter reflected my yearly angst about spring, feasting, and the annual lag as we approach the end of the school year. Every year, Lent is hard. Winter is long, and everywhere we are surrounded by dead and dormant things. During Lent, we wait and we work. Lent unfolds in the grinding heart of the school year, when enthusiasm has long since faded into mundanity. We simply put our heads down and do the thing. During the long winter of the school year, mirrored in our Lenten fasts, we deny ourselves, do our duty, and surrender our desires. Every year I fear it will last forever; every year I am surprised by spring. As I respond to the fresh beauty of new life in spring, I feel my devotion to the workaday habits of education ebb.
Over the years, I have learned to look to the liturgies to remember that routines I resist are, in truth, sustenance I savor. Throughout Lent, we pray and we work, and slowly, we watch winter give way to spring. The crocuses unfurl early, followed by tender leaves on the tops of trees, expanding downward. As snow melts, grass shoots emerge while songbirds return to the feeders. Spring revives as Lent fades, and during this liminal time we awaken to the rhythm of the world. The great truth of that rhythm is that the cyclical liturgies of our lives are mirrors into the universal story of transformation: winter into spring, fasting into feasting, death into life, drudgery into reward, repentance into restoration, and back again.
Similarly, educators experience the ebb and flow of passing school years, which also follow patterns that shape us and our students.
I wonder if mundane habits that have been sanctified by Christ’s mercy are elements of proper feasting
Now we approach the end of the school year. Some of us are energized, some depleted, but all look to the finish line. The educational vocation is unique. Like the Christian year and the seasons themselves, teaching rises and falls in undulating rhythms. Easter will pass from Pentecost to Ordinary Time, spring yields to summer, and the school year will end. Until then, we return to routine.
The routine is the rub, but I wonder if mundane habits that have been sanctified by Christ’s mercy are elements of proper feasting. After forty days of fasting, the feasting has come. He is risen. Christos Anesti. Is it enough? “Its not much of a feast if everything just goes back to normal,” my daughter remarked. It is a valid query, but after years of doing it anyway I declare that, yes, it is enough. In our faithful habits, we feast through peaceful, ordered habits of education and discipleship that shape our souls and those of our students to God’s mercy, which is the whole point. We have just experienced Holy Week, when we remember that Christ reconciled the whole world to Himself, including ordinary days.
Every year, the denial and repentance of Lent correlate with the nadir of the school year for me, and adhere me to the passion of Christ. He suffered greatly, died, and rose again. I suffer lightly, deny myself, and come alive in small ways. I die little deaths and rise to little resurrections. On Ash Wednesday, I am weary of barren trees and empty fields. On Easter Sunday, I walk in woods carpeted by pink crocuses under budding Aspen trees. So it is that as I teach in late spring, I notice that this student has improved her handwriting, and that one can articulate how the myth of Icarus relates to Macbeth. What appears dead comes back to life. This is part of the universal rhythm of human experience, mirrored in the Christian year and the school year.
During Lent and barren winter months, we resist that the world is disordered. Everything is not as it should be. The proportion of death to life is unbalanced, or so we think. There are too many little deaths, and not enough little resurrections. We do not see the roots of latent trees soaking up the winter snow; we see only the deadening white blanket on desolate limbs. We do not feel the Holy Spirit shaping our students through their hard work; we hear only the murmurs when we assign something difficult. Lenten winter is blind. When the buds swell on the trees and the birds sing their springtime songs, we remember that life is a cycle that repeats itself.
So it is with Christ’s resurrection. Christ’s great work is “to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven,” (Colossians 1:20). In God’s great mercy, the reconciliation of all things includes the daily habits of a waning school year, thus we return to the humble routine of our vocation and participate in the reconciliation of the life of the world.
After Easter, something fundamental has fallen into place. Spring thrives, life flourishes, and the mundane shines with the reflected glory of the cross and the empty tomb. These things were already true, but Lent, Holy Week and Easter embody them. Just as my daughter does not need root beer and Taylor Swift every day for fifty days to “make up for” her Lenten fast, so educators do not require the end of the school year to bring our restless hearts peace. As we did in Lent, so we do after Easter, but animated by joy and hope. We stay the course. We work and we pray. Ore et labore. We continue in the habits that orient us to fulfill our vocation with faithfulness and excellence.
After Easter, we see it all in the light of reconciliation. The Great Resurrection leads to little ones, and we finish strong.