Things have been a little quiet here the past few weeks… starting up classes [luckily I’m only taking one seminar and one lecture this semester], working hard on my second chapter, and now observing Holy Week.
This Holy Week has been full of little blessings for me.
I was able to go to Confession for the first time since I’ve been in Germany. I’d been scared away by the language aspect of the thing, but it had been a while and with extra Confession times at the Cathedral this week, I figured I’d better go for it. And, as with many “firsts” in German, I walked away surprised at my language ability (and, this time, with a clean soul, in addition!).
I went to Holy Thursday Mass with my friend Anna. Holy Thursday is one of my favorite liturgies of the year and I have to say, I think this one was the most beautiful I’ve ever been to. The bishop presided, and the homilist gave a wonderful reflection about how Jesus longs for us, and especially that he longed to give us the Eucharist, which was the last thing he did before he was arrested.
(This thought was completed the next day, when I realized that the last thing Jesus did in his earthly life was give us his mother. Mary and the Eucharist, two of the greatest sources of life in the Church!)
Of course there was incense, and the joy of the last bells before Easter was especially present because of how often the German church uses bells! It was a shock to hear the clanging of wood at the Consecration instead. [Unfortunately, the church outside my window is Lutheran and the 7 AM wakeup calls are still in effect.]
Good Friday came with perfect gloomy, rainy weather for the occasion. I tried to make Hot Cross Buns in following Good Friday tradition but something went wrong and the dough didn’t rise, so I settled for a slightly misshapen but still tasty cranberry loaf that, for future reference, would do well as scones. The Good Friday liturgy was also beautiful; honestly, it’s encouraging to see a completely packed church, especially with the knowledge that Dresden is a very unreligious city.
The biggest blessing of Holy Week for me came in the form of an e-mail shortly before I went to bed on Friday: news that I had received a fellowship for the 2014-2015 year that will cover all of my graduate school expenses, plus a stipend for travel!
Last year, I found out about my DAAD scholarship on Holy Thursday. Clearly, God sees that I am beyond subtlety, and he knows he has to hammer home the point: “This is a blessing. This is from me. Believe and don’t worry.”
Two weeks ago, the Gospel reading at Mass was the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. That story jumped right out at me, not because of the main narrative but because of Martha, Lazarus’ sister who was so angry and upset that Jesus arrived too late to save her sick brother.
I identify with Martha every time she’s mentioned in the Bible because I am a planner, a doer, a Type A personality in almost every way. In every situation, I analyze all the possible outcomes, figure out how things could work better, try to micromanage every detail to work in my favor. So, naturally, that’s how I’ve approached many of my big decisions in the past: my college choice, summer jobs, relationships, graduate school… It’s definitely good that I’m detail-minded, but it means that often, I lose sight of the big picture and especially of the fact that ultimately I’m not in control.
The past few weeks, even as I’ve been following my Lenten practice of reading Scripture every day and making little sacrifices here and there, my mind had been racing with this plan and that plan: Where will I live in Wisconsin? [ultimately, that one’s been resolved, too.] What to do after my Master’s? Did I even pick the right program? Should I have applied again this year? Why am I going so far north, so far away from home? What kind of job do I even want? How do I know that I’ve made the right choice about any of this?
I got an e-mail from the graduate advisor at Wisconsin asking whether I’d found funding. But I hadn’t, despite my best efforts. Well, despite a few efforts… were they my best? I’d applied for one award and come away with $1000… good, but definitely not as much as I needed. I’d applied for a TA position, but one that would interfere with an important class. Other than that, I hadn’t given funding much of a thought. So naturally, that led to a whole other chain of worries and questions.
But then, I learned the real reason for my advisor’s inquiry… I had been awarded a fellowship! For the amount of my full tuition and expenses! I hadn’t applied for this; hadn’t submitted the optional interest letter for it. It is simply being awarded to me.
And then, I realized. I’d spent the past two days re-living our Lord’s passion and thinking about what wonderful blessings he’s bestowed on our world, and here he was blessing me in exactly the way I needed. By providing me with a plan, and one that is clearly superior to any that I could have imagined for myself. In my life, that’s how He’s spoken to me most clearly: in the midst of my confusion and doubt about the future, He has illuminated the right path for me, if only I have the courage to wait for it to become visible.
This fellowship is no “raising my brother from the dead,” but it will do for now.
St. Martha, pray for me (and my future Hot Cross Buns)