The Triduum in your 20s: What Holy Week taught me about change

I know, theoretically, that one’s late 20s are ripe with change and transition. I just didn’t realize that everything would happen all at once.

All in the same year, I left my job at a global media company to work for a five-person Catholic nonprofit. I began seriously dating someone. I watched several close friends become mothers. And I moved out of the charming and affordable Queens apartment I had shared with two best friends for six years, as they both prepared for their upcoming weddings.

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The night before we turned in our keys, I sat alone crying in the middle of the dusty floor in my now empty bedroom. As I attempted to say goodbye to the home we all shared, memories floated around me like strings on balloons that were just out of reach. I could see the room filled with friends in costume during one of our legendary Halloween parties, hear my landlord arguing that a duct-tape fix was indeed “sufficient,” feel the cracked kitchen tile where we had repeatedly dropped kitchen appliances. I did not want to leave.

I was struck by the Lenten metaphor of it: clearing out my room, donating the clothes I no longer wore and Ikea furniture I had outgrown.

I was struck by the Lenten metaphor of it: clearing out my room, donating the clothes I no longer wore and Ikea furniture I had outgrown. In the time leading up to my move, I spent weeks considering what to discard, what to give away and what I would take with me. I had created an empty space, which would now allow someone else to adorn the walls, make their own memories and begin anew. And I guess if I was ever going to allow myself to do the same, I had to be emptied, too.

“Endings and beginnings are very hard for you,” is something my therapist says in her signature theraputic way. I force a smile at her gentleness as I consider the reality of how I actually face change: a white-knuckled grasp of resistance on a door frame I am being pushed into. I know that all of these changes were positive things or perhaps signs of a semi-successful entrance into real adulthood. But even happy changes are complicated.

***

Longing for the past weighed heavily on my heart as I thought back to a homily given at my church just before Holy Week. Our priest reflected on the Paschal mystery and the range of emotions and experiences we go through as a Catholic community—mourning the death of Jesus on Good Friday, waiting in anticipation on Holy Saturday and rejoicing in the new life and hope of the resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Leading up to the Triduum, my priest posed the simple, profound question: “What do you need to die to?”

Leading up to the Triduum, he posed the simple, profound question: “What do you need to die to?” In order to experience new life, in order to enter fully into the hope and renewal, what is it that you need to let go of? Maybe it’s jealousy, maybe it’s bitterness over a broken relationship, or maybe it is a part of yourself that you have been holding on to.

“Let it go,” he said. “Let it die, and acknowledge your loss in preparation for coming into the light.”

I had never really thought about the transitions happening in my life in light of the Jesus story. After all, I was not dealing with the death of a loved one or extreme suffering. But praying alongside Christ’s ultimate surrender and emergence into new life sparked my thinking about the parts of my past that I needed to surrender.

I had never really thought about the transitions happening in my life in light of the Jesus story.

The more I let go of my old self, however slowly, the more I was able to appreciate those small beautiful moments of my new life. Witnessing my former roommates vow their lives to their now-husbands reminded me of the hope of love. Holding my best friend’s newborn daughter for the first time lifted the sadness I felt about not being able to spend time together the way that we used to. My current job lets me see the many ways God works in the lives of others. And letting go of who I was as a single person allowed me to live more fully as someone’s partner, recognizing the importance of growing with each other.

Shortly after my year of transition, I stumbled across an article called “For Lent, Give Up That Worn-Out Story About Yourself,” by Barbara Falconer Newhall. As someone who usually gives up soda or chocolate during this season of repentance, this sort of a challenge seemed monumental.

Our lives are a series of little Good Fridays, Holy Saturdays and Easter Sundays.

The author explains that we speak and think and feel in the language of stories, and because of this, we sometimes get trapped by the certain ones that we keep on telling ourselves. She considers this in light of a majestic old oak tree that had fallen near her house in a violent storm. Surveying the scene, she notices that a flowering fruit tree, once hidden by the oak, was now sprawling in the sunny space. “It had filled the sky with a delicate criss-crossing of branches, which were covered with buds, thousands and thousands of them, waiting to become blossoms, waiting to change.”

In moving through the celebration of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus in the Triduum, we are prompted to acknowledge the loss and change in our own lives that leave us anticipating new life—to prune back those branches that keep our own flowering fruit trees at bay.

The frustrating and beautiful thing about transitions is that they are always ongoing. There will never be a time when we are totally complete, when we are done growing or done changing. Our lives are a series of little Good Fridays, Holy Saturdays and Easter Sundays. We are lovingly invited to fully experience each part of the cycle. We are lovingly invited to edit our own stories.

When I find myself frustrated with the cyclical nature of transitions, unable to let go of the the things I cling to or flushed with anxiety and panic about what is to come, I pause and try to think of myself as that flowering tree peeking out behind the fallen oak after the storm, covered with thousands of buds, waiting to blossom, waiting to change.

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