I have a deep love and reverence for the Sacred Paschal Triduum. I was always moved to tears during the beautiful liturgies of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil. The Paschal Triduum is the highest liturgical season of the Church year (and my personal favorite season), so attending the liturgies in-person and being able to venerate our Lord alongside a community is something I miss greatly.

As much as we may not want to, we all remember the lockdowns and quarantines of 2020. Most laypeople could not attend the Holy Week liturgies that year. Unfortunately, my husband and I have been “living in 2020” for the past few years. As an immunocompromised person with chronic illness, I am unable to safely attend Mass regularly. We are often told to “stop being so scared” and that we’re “committing mortal sin,” by not attending Mass on Sundays; however, it is impractical for me to attend Mass or to be in most public spaces. I very rarely step into any indoor public space because something as trivial as the common cold affects me significantly, inciting unpredictable flares, causing me to become bedridden for weeks, and costing hundreds of dollars in medications and doctor or hospital visits. Since we do not have family or friends nearby, it can be extremely burdensome to become acutely ill on top of my chronic illness. Furthermore, my disability often makes it difficult for me to attend Mass without experiencing symptoms that are difficult to manage in public. We are sometimes able to receive the Holy Eucharist at home if an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion is available, and my husband and I feel immense gratitude when we are able to receive the Sacraments.

And so, my heart hurts when another Holy Week and Easter season goes by, and we are still physically distanced from the Church. My heart longs to attend the sacred liturgies of Holy Week. My heart longs to have family and friends or a church community with whom we can share the Paschal triumph and Paschal joy! My heart longs to be around children with whom we can share the Gospel and witness the joy of Easter through their youthful eyes, as we cannot have children of our own. Yet, God, in His infinite and perfect wisdom, has withheld these blessings from us, and though we do not know why, we can trust that this great cross is for the greater good of our souls. The crosses we are given are meant to be redemptive, as Jesus exemplified through His Passion and Resurrection. We pray that our trials will refine our faith, humble our souls, and glorify God (1 Peter 1:6-7). God knows the weight of our cross because He Himself has allowed it to enter our lives. He knows the sorrow we feel in this prolonged season of isolation, our perpetual Lent. Because of this, I trust that this suffering is not in vain and that there is a deeper, redemptive purpose to it.

This Lent was especially difficult due to my husband also having some frightening health concerns. We feel like we are in a never-ending Holy Saturday as we await answers, but we are grateful for the opportunity to unite our sufferings with the Lord’s as we wait and practice obedience to the Father. We felt particularly close to the Lord as we reflected on His agony on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Jesus suffered. He cried out to the Father in anguish. Jesus also experienced fear, though He was not overcome by it. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus told his apostles that His soul was “very sorrowful, even to death” and asked them to keep watch with Him (Matthew 26:38). Retreating further into the garden, Jesus prostrated Himself and asked the Father if it be possible, to “let this cup pass” from Him, but only if it is the Father’s will (Matthew 26:39). The physical, emotional, and spiritual experience of our Lord in these vulnerable moments shows us that He is no stranger to the sorrow and heaviness we feel in the midst of our own sufferings. Jesus, in His deep, deep love for us, remained obedient to the Father to fulfill the great plan of salvation for us. His purpose-filled suffering gives purpose to our suffering, and His Resurrection has opened the gates of Heaven to us so that we may find eternal rest once we have fought the good fight and run our race (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

The Easter story is about hope. Though complete physical healing may be unattainable here on earth, there is hope of a perfect life with God in Heaven. Our hopes for family life (even through adoptive children) may not be attainable on earth either, but in Heaven we will be living among a big and beautiful family – our Lord and all His saints! Because of the Passion and Resurrection, Heaven does not need to seem out of our grasp, if only we are genuine in our faith, and if we repent and strive to lead a holy life every day. Despite our trials, we rejoice in Jesus’s Resurrection and a renewed hope of a new life! “I will hope continually and will praise You yet more and more!” (Psalm 71:14).

I am not completely shut in. On good days when my health is cooperating, I go outside and seek God in the nature that surrounds me. We currently live in the beautiful countryside where we witness the presence of God through the lush grasses, gentle breezes, and quiet scenery. In this way, we are given a foretaste of the calm, peace, and rest we crave daily. It is God’s action in the small things of life that speak the loudest to us. When our desires are stripped away and we are laid bare before God, He shows us what can be possible if we willingly, prayerfully, and humbly embrace our crosses. He has given us the perfect model of this act in Jesus and, by His goodness, has given us the opportunity to emulate Jesus in the way we carry our crosses on this earth.

So as another liturgical season passes, and we are still physically separated from the Church and living a lifestyle that is unlike most others, we still rejoice knowing that these trials will one day be redeemed. In this, we can see Lent as God’s acknowledgement of the trials and sufferings we experience on earth, and Easter as God’s promise that our suffering is purposeful and directed toward our salvation and His glory.

A.M. Rossi and her husband are 20-somethings entering their fourth year of marriage. They love spending time together, reading, writing, crafting, and advocating for those with chronic illness and rare diseases.