By Jill Mraz
This Easter marks the five year anniversary of my return to the Catholic Church. Recently I came across this piece which I wrote shortly before that transformative Vigil Mass. Reading it brought back memories of how busy and studied the months leading up to my confirmation were. This outside flurry belied the interior, however, for while I scurried about learning all I could and attending RCIA meetings, within me the landscape was largely quiet and contemplative. A slow dance was in progress as my poor soul unfolded into newness; a newness in which I was periodically inundated by waves of light, grace and peace hurtling forth from the incomparable Christ; waves of love, silently crashing against the walls of my heart.
The fated eve arrived. People told me I was radiant with joy that night. I remember well the cool tears which surprised and flowed steadily down my face as the priest laid his hands on my bowed head. I was so blessed in that moment. Claimed. I knew then, as I know now, that my life was changed forever. Reflecting on all that has come to pass since that beatific night when my heart was pierced and shattered as the Holy Spirit rushed upon me, I pray that I will continue to surrender my will to the one who so beautifully broke it with his fierce and tender love.
I love the dark: dark mysteries, listening to the darkening twilight, riding a bike down dark streets on hot summer nights. Even my own dark past, with all its wretched failings, bad decisions and lost opportunities, has served its purpose. How I love, too, the silence which accompanies the dark middle of the night. As I read in bed, I imagine I am keeping watch as my neighbors sleep. Hours tick quietly by. When the deep blue light of early morning streams in through the curtains I turn to watch as this light silently transforms the blackness, slowly filling in all the spaces around all the shapes, waking the world. Pretty soon the days will grow warmer and the birds will be singing their hearts out at this time, welcoming another day. Minutes later, the golden sun will come roaring over the horizon, full and immense in its brightness. We begin again.
Among those gathered full circle around our bonfire this Easter Vigil I will be still and silent in the dark. With my trembling candle, I will walk alongside many others into the church as the call rings out for the light of Christ and we respond, with hope, as one. I will sit, kneel and stand in anticipation. Bowing my head, I will ask again for patience and humility, my double cross to bear. When the priest finally lays his hands on my head in blessing and welcome, I will not be surprised if my heart sings, or maybe “roars” is a better word, with joy. And in the years to come, I will work hard to surrender my will. Again and again. And again.
As I enter fully into the Catholic Church this Easter, I am filled with immense gratitude. For this most singular of all faiths, for my dear friends walking beside me, and even for all the dark days of my past in which, I can now see, I was never alone. Having been led through my sins to ineffable goodness, how apt is the exultant cry “O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!” My God, how I love thee. Most of my days now lie clearly outstretched before me as I am mindful first, last and always of the light of Jesus shining in me, and strive to look for Him in everyone. I find myself singing “this little light of mine” often, and not just to my five year old daughter. As we move toward longer, brighter days, let us all rise this Easter and begin again, in our truly good and most beautiful Catholic faith, ever ancient, ever new, to sing (no, let’s roar!) “Welcome happy morning, age to age shall say!”
About the Author:
Jill Mraz is a Catholic mother to one wonderful daughter. Residing in Minnesota they enjoy summer road trips to either coast, marveling at the stunning beauty of God’s natural world. Jill writes poems and essays which reflect upon motherhood and her beloved Catholic faith. She is a contributor for WINE: Women in the New Evangelization.