April 13, 2006

Holy Week is one of my favorite times of the year. For me, between the obvious religious aspect of it and childhood memories and cherished family traditions (which still continue today), it is for me poignant, sentimental, and powerful emotionally.

Sure, we did the whole Easter egg/basket thing when we were young like everyone else, but I don’t remember ever being that crazy about it. First of all, I never liked hard-boiled eggs – still don’t. Second of all, you used vinegar with the Easter egg coloring kit, and I’ve always detested the smell of vinegar. Finally, those awful-sweet yellow marshmallow chicks or multi-colored jelly beans never turned me on. Chocolate Easter bunnies – the only kind anyone should get for Easter, by the way – were always good, however: especially if they were the white chocolate kind. Yum.

Easter Sunday also meant a tradition my family still practices to this day – joining our cousins’ family for dinner at Frank Giuffrida’s Hilltop Steakhouse restaurant in Saugus, MA. Growing up, it was Easter at the Hilltop with the families where you brought your new girlfriends, wives, or significant others, showed off your new clothes or facial hair, talked about who you saw or didn’t see at church services, or caught up on all the family happenings since Christmas. Most times we’d have somewhere between 10-12 in attendance, but some years I recall as many as 16, maybe more, gathered around one noisy table covered with salads, steaks, and cocktails. While the numbers have declined in recent times as people have either come, gone, relocated, or simply gotten older and grayer, it’s still a family tradition. Perhaps some day we’ll stick a fork in it and leave the memories to the ages, but not this year: I’ll be seeing everyone there in just a few days…

Even while young, however, I remember always being entralled by the “real” Easter – you know, The. Religious. Thing. I still remember us being given our “might boxes” at the start of Lent and filling them with pennies (or was it quarters?) – then, on Holy Saturday afternoon, we would go to afternoon service and we’d all bring our boxes forward and fill the back of a hewn-out cross with them. As I got older and joined the church choir, I fondly remember practicing and singing specially-chosen Holy Week music and Easter anthems with my mom, dad, and aunt for my godfather Milt when he was music director at our church. Milt took the joyful aspect of Easter Sunday music VERY seriously. Whether it was the hideous “Hail Thee, Festival Day” or the marvelous “Come Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain”, or “Jesus Christ is Risen Today”, all Easter hymns would be played at a breakneck pace that would leave the more elderly members gasping for breath at the end – especially as we tried to complete our recess out before Milt would jam the brakes on at the end. Amazing, the things one remembers…

Of course, the music of Holy Week was just one aspect of how emotionally-charged the days leading up to Easter would be for me. The Easter Story of the Last Supper, the foot-washing, Jesus’ betrayal, the Crucifixion, and the Empty Tomb charged my imagination and touched my soul. The Thursday night vigil into Good Friday – where you signed up for blocks of time to make sure Jesus was never alone in your church between the end of Maundy Thursday and the Good Friday service – was always powerful for me: much better than Palm Sunday with its boring, repetive processional in and about the church property and amateurish attempts by parishioners to read aloud The Passion and bring it to life. Being a chalice bearer or lay reader during Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, or, better yet, at the glorious Easter Sunday service was always special, but nothing will ever come close to the magnificent high-church traditional Saturday night Easter Vigil at the Church of the Advent in Boston> Whooo-eee, it NEVER got better than that. Christ is Risen, indeed. Alleluia!

So, I guess you can put me down as a bonafide Holy Week fan.

I’m not the only one who cherishes their Holy Week memories, however. Rev-ed does too. And, The Anchoress shares her love of Holy Week from a Roman Catholic perspective.

She also has a link to Pope Benedict’s Easter message. Read it – it is very powerful indeed. The more I hear of this Pope, the more I like him.

Not to let such a (I hope) positive and uplifting post down, but contrast Benedict’s Easter message with this drivel by none other than the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Frank Tracy Griswold. “…his deathless, reckless reconciling love”? Sounds like a bad line from an even worse country & western tune. And they wonder why ECUSA is hemorrhaging membership? In the Episcopal Church, the fish is rotting from the head down. This message alone is almost enough to make you turn Roman Catholic. Pathetic.

Back to happier thoughts of Easter and springtime: on the mourning dove front, it’s Day Three, with still one egg showing – looks like an only child! – and a mom and dad doing their typical day/night shift thingy to maintain faithful vigil.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 14:55 | Comments (0)
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