Sunday, April 23, 2017

Holy Week Reflections

Hello there! Oh my poor neglected blog...there has just been such fullness. I always like that word better than "busy"...fullness.

Our parish sent a beautiful reminder pamphlet in the mail at the beginning of Holy Week with the times of the various liturgical celebrations. As large and intimidated as I first was by my parish when we moved here almost two years ago, I now have an appreciation for the great care and reverence that is given to the Mass and to the observance of the Liturgical year. There is so much beauty.

I wanted to use this post to sum up what it looked like, mostly for me as these times fly by, so I have the collective memory thing going in this bit of cyberspace.

So this year's Holy Week involved a third trimester preggo mama and a two and a half year old. My heart longed very much to make the morning prayers, the blessing of the Easter baskets, the evening Mass for Holy Thursday...or any evening Mass for that matter...but my body and my mental stamina won this year. I know mothers who do these things so well, but I have to be very careful...because as I saw all the times spaced out on the Holy Week pamphlet I felt this welling up of a challenge to be in the sanctuary as much as possible this Triduum. But I checked that welling up, and I decided to do the whole see where we are at each day plan.

Much of how I have come to approach liturgical feasts is thinking about essential themes from what we as Christians are remembering about a particular day. Catechesis of the Good Shepherd has really made me think about the prepared the home...and key symbols and signs that can be created for the the home.

So Holy Thursday became a big day of preparation...

And celebrating in the evening...

When I was first thinking about Holy Thursday traditions in my home I did a full on seder meal, but now we simply set the table beautifully and have bread and sparkling grape juice (I made a casserole). We read from the Gospel about the Last Supper. I do not read anything about Judas, for the little ones we focus on gift.

The littles associate Holy Thursday with our family foot washing. I think as they grow older, when we can make the later Mass times together, we will have to keep foot washing. We also make sure to read the Gospel before this is done. I do not explain or ask the children questions, we read and do. I think the simpler the better.

The evening didn't feel quite done, so we decided to be outside together after our foot washing

Then we have Good Friday. In Alaska we would always attend the Stations of the Cross that were outside surrounding the stone chapel at the Shrine of St Therese. My children would sometimes be in snow gear as we did this, but it was a beautiful gathering on such a holy day.

St Therese is the patroness of Alaska..she loved the outdoors and snow.

Yes a holy day and a solemn day too. I think His death is what is hardest for me as a mom when it comes to Good Friday or any of the evenings of the Station of the Cross during Lent. When my eldest was very young she was very stressed out after watching the teens of our parish "do" the stations of the cross. I think children can HANDLE the crucifixion, but at a certain age.

The sticks bloom on Easter Sunday! I had more than one vase this year
And do we show the contrast that is life and death. This was something I do leave to the Church so I decided to take my seven year old and five year old to the Good Friday service. We JUST made it as the priests were walking toward the altar and my five year old watched as they laid prostrate on the floor.

He asked me, "What are they doing mama?"

And I simply said, "They are making their bodies very very small before the very very big gift of Jesus who died for us."

And I ALWAYS follow up with, "But what do we know that happens?"

To which my son says, "He rose!"

The sensory contrast was perfect and our Church really did help my small children understand the difference of Good Friday. No cool holy water to dip our fingers into. The tabernacle is open and empty and there are no candles. The large crucifix behind the altar, the big statues of the Blessed Mother and St Joseph are completely covered. At one point the priest and men of the parish carry a large wooden cross on their shoulders and we here it boom into place in it's stand. Yes...this feels very barren and different.

As we left I said, "I wonder how Easter Sunday will feel?"

My Good Friday fail was in my hot cross buns this year, I always make them...they don't always rise.

I am thankful for icing.

The Good Friday service was at three, so my husband missed it and we both felt that our evening would be best spent saying evening prayer together. Isn't it wonderful? The Church has these things in place....for hundreds of years...I do not have to make things up.

On to Holy Saturday in which we finally dye our eggs.

I usually decorate the house for Easter once the kids go to bed...because I need that "transformed...He is risen...look at how different THIS Sunday is" feeling...but knowing my pregnant self and the fact that God has blessed me with daughters, I enlisted their help in quite a few of the things I would have saved for bedtime.

I found these unopened carrot baggies for 50 cents at the thrift store. Go me!

I like to spend Holy Saturday as a family making it pretty uneventful as I try to make last minute preparations. I do make a point to keep us home as we wait together. There were many temptations for out of the home events this Holy Saturday in the form of Easter egg hunts, there was even one put on right around the corner in the commons by the pool in our neighborhood. I did go to these when the children were very young...and I had two.. but....if you've read enough of my know that it takes a lot of convincing for me to be pulled to these events now. I think as your family gets larger, you just do those kind of "community" events in your home...because you have your own mini community. It is perfectly fine to join in on these now and then, especially because so many of them DO go to a good cause or raise awareness about something and really promote getting to know your neighbor...but I pray we are being thoughtful with our own family culture. Traditions happen when you are IN your home...just your people.

So...I longed very much to go the Easter Vigil, I love love love this Night...but not this year. This is as it should be for this season.

And so we prepare...

My husband and I watched The Ten Commandments, because it was on, while we stuffed is very important to make sure the candy is safe for the should eat a piece about every five that you stuff.

The jar of black beans that they have been earning for good deeds throughout LENT turns into jellybeans!

We do not do Easter bunny, the kids know we hide the eggs and put out the baskets.

And then....



And this Sunday morning feels different from all other Sunday mornings!

I cut the flowers from my yard for the sticks that bloom magically on Easter Sunday! It was 1130 at night and I was freaking out as I fumbled through lengths I go to make liturgical things happen.

Keep Easter morning a make ahead bake. Sip your coffee and enjoy your kiddos on this BEST morning.

Also keep breakfast simple because you have to get everyone to Mass...

And you need to make sure the eldest girls get to choir...

I was so PROUD of myself for getting the kids decent shoes and clothes  well before Easter Sunday..I mean I boiled eggs early too, like four dozen, but even better...GASP..they all had nice shoes. God knows I have this vanity about looking "put together" ESPECIALLY for Easter Sunday he made sure my five year old son snuck out of the house with flip flops on. Yep.

When I got to Church I could have died...I panicked and I definitely scolded him..I was desperate...Can I put a sign on him that says, "My mama had nice boat shoes for me but I am five and wore my flip flops and went undetected in the morning chaos to our van like this."

And God said to me,

"I said let the children come to they are. I didn't say...let the children with clean clothes and brushed hair and wiped faces and nice shoes...come to me."

And Easter Sunday Mass was glorious! Yes. And it FELT different, beautiful...ALIVE. Alive like our Savior! be honest, because we are honest in this space, I was nearly wiped out after Easter Sunday Mass. I had foreseen this coming and luckily my parents were visiting for the afternoon and they are very easy going when it comes to gathering and the reality of things. I had envisioned getting out some beautiful German china with little flowers that I had inherited, but when I was browsing pinterest I settled on baked sliders. I KNOW. For Easter dinner.

It was a very very warm spring day...and so we spent the rest of the day on our patio...the kids were in bathing suits and we were very much at peace.

Big grandma points as this is John's first squirt gun he got in his Easter gift from her, he LOVED it.
So friends, this was so fun! To share...and think...and know it is a week but also a season. And know that next year will be different and yet still so beautifully the same.

As we celebrate with our people, we are gentle with ourselves and with everyone else's humanity. We can have goals for what we want it to all look and feel like, much of this can be achieved in careful background work so all the TRADITION magic happens. Hot Cross buns did not rise...but Who did? Your son wears flip flops to Mass just as his Savior probably did walking around Nazareth.

It is not about what we is about what HE did. What He did once and for all...for always...for you and me. Yes, that Easter peace...that He took care of it. He did it.