The Day Between

I know today is Good Friday but what happens between tonight and Easter Sunday?

What happens to us on the days between tragedy and healing? What transpires when the crisis is over, but the end is not yet revealed? The days after the car accident, but before the broken leg has healed and the insurance has been paid. The days after diagnosis of cancer, but before treatment. The days after a funeral, but before we’ve adjusted to the loss.

These are the days between, when instead of darkness or light there is a lingering nervousness and knowledge that something is not quite settled, not quite right. The days between are often the most difficult and the most lonely, and they are undoubtedly the most common.So it is between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, where we are suspended between death and life. “It is Finished” has been spoken, “He is Risen” is yet to come. In the west the day is often filled with shopping for marshmallow chicks, chocolate bunnies, and fake grass to line plastic easter baskets.  In her book, The Irrational SeasonMadeleine L’Engle gives me a different view of the day between.

“In the Western Church, we jump directly from Good Friday to Easter Day, with Saturday a vague blank in between. But in the Eastern Church, Great and Holy Saturday is one of the most important days of the year.”

She goes on to say:

Where was Jesus on that extraordinary day between the darkness of Good Friday and the brilliance of Easter Sunday? He was down in hell. And what was he doing there? He was harrowing hell, or to put it in simpler words, he was ministering to the damned.

Christian graphic art has often tended to make my affirmation of Jesus Christ as Lord almost impossible, for far too often he is depicted as a tubercular goy, effeminate and self-pitying. The first “religious” picture I saw which excited me and stretched and enlarged my faith was a small black and white photograph of the fresco over the altar of the Church of the Chora in Istanbul; a few years ago it was my privilege to visit Istanbul and see this fresco for myself.

The Church of the Chora is now a museum, but when we were there on a chill morning with the smell of the first snow in the air, it was empty. As we stepped over the threshold we came face to face with a slightly more than life-size mosaic of the head of Christ, looking at us with a gaze of indescribable power. It was a fierce face, nothing weak about it, and I knew that if this man had turned such a look on me and told me to take up my bed and walk, I would not have dared not to obey. And whatever he told me to do, I would have been able to do.

The mosaic was preparation for the fresco over the altar. I stood there, trembling with joy, as I looked at this magnificent painting of the harrowing of hell. In the center is the figure of Jesus striding through hell, a figure of immense virility and power. With one strong hand he is grasping Adam, with the other, Eve, and wresting them out of the power of hell. The gates to hell, which he has trampled down and destroyed forever, are in cross-form, the same cross on which he died. . .”

And as I meditate on this reading, I can’t help but realize that what happens in the days between, between Good Friday & Easter Sunday, is crucial to the final outcome.

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The Holy Gift of Laughter

One of the holiest women I have ever known did little with her life in terms of worldly success; her gift was that of bringing laughter with her wherever she went, no matter how dark or how grievous the occasion. Wherever she went, holy laughter was present to heal and redeem”. ~Madeleine L’Engle

Tahrir Square 2.1.11 courtesy of Christina Rizk

In a post that I wrote last week, when the uprising in Egypt had not yet gained the momentum or attention on the world stage that it now has, I spoke about the indomitable spirit of the Egyptian people voiced in the phrase “Tomorrow, God Willing!” Along with this I am always amazed at the good-spirited humor and laughter present in my interactions with Egyptians. Whether they are correcting my Arabic, telling a story, or describing daily life there is a lightness and humor that is ever-present.  Perhaps this humor has been present since the Ancient Egyptians lived royal lives and left a legacy of mummies and tombs or perhaps it’s more recent. Regardless, it is a gift.

One doesn’t have to look far to find things to complain about in Egypt, which is one of the reasons we are seeing a revolt. Dust is thick in the air, masses of people and noise are ever-present, the infrastructure could never be called either efficient or organized, and the country has been in a type of recession for years – but in the midst of this there is a remarkable spirit. That is why this humor and ability to laugh is so remarkable and makes Egypt a country that gets under your skin so you want to go back, and back, and back…

Reports from the ground confirmed this good will and humor that had been present in the anti-government protesters until Wednesday.  With the infiltration of pro-government counter protests bringing with them a violence and a questionable authenticity that spirit was severely challenged.  Hundreds wounded and we don’t know how many dead. A frantic call for medical supplies and people to Tahrir Square went out over social networks and gave a picture of the desperation of the wounded.  Friends and family(daughter) on the ground continue to express the need for Egypt to get a‘long overdue, more accountable, more democratic, and more socially conscious’ government.

The ability to laugh at life and laugh at and with each other is both holy and a healer. The ability to talk about experiences whether shared or otherwise  is restorative.  Unni Wikan ,who I have mentioned in the past, penned these words over 10 years ago but as I read them it feels like she wrote them recently:

“For the people I know in Cairo, life implies suffering and problems to a degree we can hardly fathom.  And yet they do not have enough with their own.  With them there are practically no limits to people’s willingness and ability to engage with one another.  Is it because they are mentally more resourceful than we are? have more time than they do? or more compassion of their fellow beings? The answer lies elsewhere, I believe. What they do have that makes a real difference is a conviction, a tried and true belief, in the frailty and fallibility of human beings. Whereas in my society, we stick to the pretension that being perfect is possible…”

As I think about these protests and the future for Egypt I know it  will take all the resources and resilience available

Tahrir Square 2.1.11 courtesy of

to Egyptians to continue hope in these next days.  I am looking and longing for the day when Egyptians can once again express these gifts and experience the holy and healing power of humor, laughter, and talk.

Authors note: The book “Walking on Water: Reflections on faith and art” by Madeleine L’Engle is where I first heard laughter described as a gift. I have a couple of people in my life who have this gift – the first being my husband, he is quick to see the humorous side of a situation and challenges me on my tendency towards over analyzing. The second is my friend Marty,  making cakes and playing games with people in Cairo  simultaneously keeping track of a revolution in her back yard and tanks going down her street.  A posting on her Facebook page says that Day 1 she made ‘Revolution Cake’;Day 2, ‘Curfew Cake’ and so on bringing a lightness in the midst of chaos. The third – my sister-in-law Carol.  I’d go do flood relief in Pakistan anytime with her by my side!