Maybe it’s stepping out of line to head for Emmaus this early in the year. Most eyes are focused on Jerusalem with Easter still ahead. This should be a well-paced time of year, as we travel together through our continuing, life-giving story. We know this pattern: the fear and the hope, that evening meal, the kiss and the arrest, the trial, the sentence, the death, the waiting. Then joy and life again, that beautiful mystery we’ll spend our lives learning. Every year, this is where we find our strength and our hope.
But this year, I want to skip ahead. I’m longing for a different road and its happenstance companionship. I want that bread breaking, that wine blessed, and then that blessed face known. Present in the flesh.
I’m being impatient. Disruptive, probably. I’m longing to get to that table.
A messy year
It’s been a messy year for all of us, with all our days out of schedule and the whole cycle of the year upset, its habitual markers and anticipations scattered. We’ve had the disappointments of cancelled family times, stop-and-start school years and all those lockdown birthdays.
New patterns have emerged for us, too. I now walk to the park almost every day, usually with my seven-year-old to visit the ducks, but often all five of us, taking a break from home-schooling and work together. A café has opened there, and we buy coffee and sugared cardamom buns. We people-watch and wave to the neighbours, keeping our distance, but feeling together, too.
With regular routines disrupted, it feels as if we all have a little more time now for connections. This past year, my siblings and I have been in closer touch, sending notes back and forth. Usually, we’re all busy in the thick of our own family lives, but now we’re swapping recipes, sharing stories, worrying and celebrating together.
I’ve also been getting more notes from readers recently and I really want to thank you for that. It’s beautiful to hear from you and to know how these small thoughts and stories from my family’s life connect with your own stories.
Another treasure from this year has been the surprise of new Zoom groups. In September, I saw a tweet from a novelist in Leicester, England who was feeling lonely and asked if anyone else felt the same way. Usually, I’d scroll past a note like that, particularly when I didn’t know the writer or her work. The last thing I need is another distraction. Except this felt different and I responded, as did a diverse crowd of other writers all over Britain. We set up a virtual coffee morning, unsure what would happen, but it proved to be a surprisingly warm and open conversation. Now, we meet online every week, and we’ve developed a practice of each sharing one joy and one struggle from our week. It feels Ignatian, this practice of reflection, and I feel so grateful to have connected with this group of writers. Someday, we’ll all meet in person, though for now, our coffee table is virtual, and no less real for that.
This vaccinating year
Which brings me back to that Emmaus road. That post-Easter story fits my disrupted mood in the already-not-quite-yet feel of this vaccinating year. We know there is hope. We see the stretch of road ahead. We know there is sorrow and we feel its weight behind. We feel the mystery of Christ beside us, seen, unseen. And we know there is a table, readied and waiting for us, where we will all come face to face with those we love again. When we do, our stories will deepen. We’ll know in new ways what it means that, in Christ, God was incarnate. We’ll see again in each other’s faces how the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We’ll break bread all together and breathe deeply and freely again.