I wrote a rather deep thought-provoking blog on Holy Week yesterday on my Sounds of Hope blog. You can read it here. I thought about continuing on that theme. I have a lot of those thoughts right now. Seems Holy Week brings them out of me. As we remember Christ’s passion I think it should bring a lot of deep, reflective thoughts. However, I think I’d rather take a little bit lighter approach today.
I was not raised in a liturgical church. Back then, we called them “mainline” churches with a bit of a distain in our voices. We spurned all things ritualistic as it did not allow the spirit to move. While I fully understood the message of Holy Week and Easter, our “holy week” was spent focusing on what to wear on Easter. My mother usually made my clothes for such momentous occasions. New white gloves were bought and ruffled white socks were bleached to perfection. This would be the first time I wore my "spring coat." I remember clearly some of my Easter dresses, and of course the necessary Easter bonnet.
There would also be talk of Easter baskets but never a lot of talk about the bunny that is supposed to bring them. Perhaps that was too secular. My mother was a flurry of activity during Holy Week for in addition to my clothes, she needed a dress for herself, and a meal to plan and prepare. Usually a ham would grace our Easter table complete with brown sugar, pineapple rings, and those little black studs, cloves.
One element of liturgy always crept into to Holy Week. It was the only time I heard the term Holy Week, as to us it was the “week before Easter.” My mother was in charge of “released time.” New York City schools allowed for a weekly one hour release from school for religious instruction at the church or synagogue of your choice. Each year as Easter approached, she would be notified by the Pastors of the 4th Avenue churches that it was time to plan the joint Holy Week released time services.
I think my mother was intimidated by these “mainline” pastors. Most were Lutheran and seminary trained and here she was this woman with a 10th grade education. Her only qualification was she loved Jesus and she loved children. I remember the year she came home upset because they made jokes about hymns and ruined the song “In the Garden” for her. She said they called it the Andy song – Andy walks with me Andy talks with me.
But it was part of her duties to share in this one ecumenical event. The Norwegian children of Salem had never been exposed to the “state church.” We were dissenters. We were purer. We were holier. But we went. Into those mysterious Lutheran churches we would see our friends from school and celebrate Holy Week. One year, my mother volunteered me for a long narration of the Passion scriptures. I remember saying with all seriousness: “My betrayer draweth near” and foolishly wondered if Lutheran's could be "saved."
Soon it would be Good Friday, or Long Friday as my father would insist it should be called. He would say every year, why do you call it Good? Somehow long suited his translation from Norwegian to English much better than good. Our hustle to get ready for the big day stopped for a few hours on Friday. Every shop was closed for the hours that Jesus hung on the cross. The neighborhood became somber for those hours.
My childhood thoughts turned from my new dress and patent leather shiny Mary Jane shoes to a cross. Sometimes a cloud would come during that time and I’d remember my Sunday School lesson. I’d remember that the sky turned dark and the veil was torn in the Temple as He hung there for me.
I won’t get new clothes this Easter. I haven’t played dress up for a long time. I’d like to. I will think of the cross. I will think of Christ’s Passion. I will think of those days before His Passion as He spent His last moments with His disciples, including Judas who would betray Him. I wonder if He prayed for Judas? I will remember those hours in the Garden as He sweat drops of blood in agony.
I will be participating in some of that liturgy my parent’s distained. I know the Spirit moves in ritual as well as freedom. It will help me with my remembrance.
How will you remember?