Thursday, April 05, 2007

Holy Week and Easter around here

About two years before I became an Episcopalian at age 30, Holy Week was a wonderful discovery. In Holy Week, the week from Palm Sunday to Easter Day, the various Episcopal churches we have attended in different states have all held special services on each day of the Triduum -- Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. I don't usually go to most of the services, but rather take time during those days to remember the events. One year I attended all of the services as a temporary (Holy Week and Easter) member of our church choir; that was incredibly wonderful but unusual for me. Instead, I have looked for ways to observe and honor and focus on the multi-layered meanings in Holy Week... at home.

By Maundy Thursday I try to have the house pretty much ready for Easter; groceries, laundry, and other errands and chores done, and simple meals planned. I intend each year to make hot cross buns for Good Friday morning, but never quite manage it.

On Good Friday usually I participate in one of the afternoon services at our church with other Daughters of the King; our parish does something different each hour from 12 to 3 (ending at 4). The boys will go with me this year. When we're at home instead, sometimes I light a candle to burn from 12 to 3 (the hours Christ hung on the cross) and remember. We eat very simple, meatless meals on this day of all days (though sometimes I just do what I can!).

On Holy Saturday we make quiet preparations for Easter. We dye eggs. I make a rich bread like brioche, or overnight cinnamon rolls or a sausage breakfast casserole. I forget what else we do; it seems to take up the day, anyway!

At dusk on Holy Saturday, sometimes I've taken my oldest to the Great Vigil of Easter, which I LOVE, but it has so much talk -- many readings, prayers, and a sermon -- that it was really hard for him, at least the years he was 7 and 9. Well, the year they scattered burning coals from the incense onto the carpet during the procession was silently exciting and quite memorable!

When we stay home I read the Bible readings and liturgy of the Easter Vigil for myself. They are so wonderful; the vigil is the true focus of the Easter celebration! This year the kids and I are working our way through the readings and liturgy over the last few days of Holy Week. The readings and prayers tell the entire salvation story, and quite beautifully include powerful symbols of our faith: fire, water, light. Now that we have a piano, I am playing through all of the Holy Week and Easter hymns as well -- a window into the hearts of Christians in different times and places.

After the kids are asleep on Holy Saturday, I decorate the table for Easter morning, with little "alleluia" paper banners we made one year, another pair I made that say "Alleluia, Christ is risen! / The Lord is risen indeed!", our collection of wooden and ceramic eggs painted at church in various Lents, a flowered cross made by our oldest one year in Sunday School, small Easter baskets with candy eggs, jellybean eggs, etc., and a little paper banner that says, "Happy Easter! Daddy & Mommy say you can eat five candies before church." Hahaha! I try, anyway!

On Easter morning, after candy and some attempt to get protein into the boys and some yummy Easter breakfast treat into all of us, we will dress WARMLY (today through Saturday in the mid 40s feels arctic after last week's 80s!) and head to church. Son1 will acolyte at the mid-morning service we will attend. Then both boys will hunt for eggs in the parish egg hunt while dear husband and I drink coffee, eat a treat or two, snap photos of the kids and of friends, and enjoy the morning. Er, perhaps really bundled up. An Arctic Easter?!? Other than the weather and the acolyting, this is our normal Easter morning. We have a relaxed afternoon; the kids eat candy and we have some phone calls to and from far-flung family. Then we have some sort of Easter dinner that reflects spring (strawberries, asparagus, green salad, ham, rolls). Last year we spent Easter afternoon and dinner at the home of some good friends, and will do so again this year. In last year's balmy weather we grilled burgers and hot dogs while all of the kids played, and had strawberry shortcake for dessert; this year we may be drawing on our late-winter menus for oven-centered ideas! It is very good to spend time on Easter with friends (all of our family is in the category of far away).

So, that's what our Holy Week is like around here.

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