Sunday, March 21, 2010

Easter Exultations...Yesterday & Today

Once upon a time, my Easter mornings were exactly what I invisioned them to be:

A house with Pine-Sol sponges, Mop-n-Glow mops, and spring-cleaned windows.

Sweet, sweet Easter dresses and hats for my girls. Clean blue or khaki slacks and nice shirts for my boys.

Jelly beans trails down that freshly mopped hardwood hallway.

Chocolate bunnies guarding festooned Easter baskets of sweets and goodies and Alleluia moments.

Plastic, candy-filled eggs lurking in the living room (a tradition carried over from my childhood).

Real eggs scattered over the backyard, the swingset, the clubhouse, the playhouse, and along the fence line.

My most famous creation of lollipop garden left by the fairies amidst newly planted flower bulbs and petals.

Spiraled ham dripping crystals of honey and brown sugar in the oven.

Squeaky egg cartons awaiting the annual Easter egg pacque (or egg knocking).

It was my favorite season of all! My Easter, and, in due season, my birthday as well.

Nowadays, my ideal Easter lives in my head and in memories and in pictures of past Easter mornings with my older children. Pictures that I would have to dig and find in boxes, scan and load in order to share them now on my blog.

Today's Easter is anything but normal. With the evolution of blogging, my family's Easter evolved as well.

These days we dye Easter eggs outside on campsite picnic tables.

And the Easter bunny hides them in the woods.

Easter baskets, moments, and memory-making are limited by space. One has to be creative and non-committal.

Our Easter meal is fixed in a 29-foot camper with limited counter space. Consider a four-foot table top and  three-foot countertop space. Sharpen your culinary skills on that bit of information.

On Easter Eve, after showers and toiletry in the shower houses, we make a late drive through wooded backroads to the nearest Catholic Church for the Easter vigil fire. Our church clothes, despite our best cleaning efforts, are often purged in campfire before we get there. It is just not possible to spend a week around the campfire and expect to smell like an Easter lilly after one trip to the shower house.

There is a smokey halo around our group as we drudge past the Easter fire into the full church and file, smog-like, into a pew.

The hollow pit of the tabernacle and voidness of the fonts remind us that we are hollow shells, seeking to be filled. We are empty: like the empty tomb and the empty egg shells. But what has come forth from those objects is the reason there is a flicker, a light of hope which brings us together to rejoice.

The new Paschal candle is blessed: "Christ yesterday and today, the Beginning and the end, Alpha and Omega, all time belongs to him and all the ages to him be glory and power through every age for ever. Amen"

God's time surpasses and repasses our time. It consumes and engulfs the clocks upon our walls and the watches upon our arms.

The Easter fire outside wraps us in its protection as the lights of the church go out. The dimming of the church reassures us that our appearances don't matter. Much. What matters is our presence.

The new Paschal candle is lit from the Easter fire: "May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds."

We are there. Smoken ashes all. The brother-in-law who wishes the Vigil Mass didn't last so long. The older son who still plays with the beads of dripping wax. The mother cautioning her youngest equipped with flaming sword. The prodigal son who has returned to the Father. The friend studying for the diaconate program. The single parents in our group who are welcomed into this fold called family. The little girls with smokey wisps of hair and pastel dyed-fingertips. The little boys thinking of chocolate rabbits and real. The Baptist turned Catholic. Fishermen turned slicked-up churchgoers.

We are a motley crew.  None better than the other. None holier. All wanting.

In the darkened church the faint glow of individual candlesticks reassure us that God's eyes are upon us. Only us. We are not to watch our neighbor. Certainly not glance at the sinners on our left, least we find ourselves on someone else's left. We are to watch the symbolic flame in our hand and sing the Easter song: The Exsultet

"Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing choirs of angels! Exult, all creation around God's throne! Jesus Christ, our King is risen! Sound the trumpet of salvation!

 "Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor, radiant in the brightness of your King! Christ has conquered! Glory fills you! Darkness vanishes for ever!

"Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory! The risen Savior shines upon you! Let this place resound with joy, echoing the mighty song of all God's people!

 "For Christ has ransomed us with his blood, and paid for us the price of Adam's sin to our eternal Father!

"This is night, when Christians everywhere, washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement, are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.

"This is the night, when Jesus broke the chains of death and rose triumphant from the grave.

"What good would life have been to us, had Christ not come as our Redeemer?

"Father, how wonderful your care for us! How boundless your merciful love! To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.

"The power of this holy night dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy; it casts out hatred, brings us peace, and humbles earthly pride.

"Accept this Easter candle, a flame divided but undimmed, a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.

"Let it mingle with the lights of heaven and continue bravely burning to dispel the darkness of this night!

"May the Morning Star which never sets find this flame still burning: Christ, that Morning Star, who came back from the dead, and shed his peaceful light on all mankind, your Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. R. Amen."

* * * * *

Easter is the time to arise from darkness and see a Great Light.

Since the death of my mother-in-law in 2003, I have given up my ideal of the "perfect" Easter. This will be the seventh year I have followed my husband's family to the piney woods of north Louisiana for our Easter feast. My family, much smaller than his, has since followed us up there as well. Friends join us. Grown, working children come in intervals all week long.

Through unity of family, the making of new traditions, and rejoicing in what is instead of what isn't, this wilderness Easter has become a true celebration.

For where families are gathered together, there is the risen body of Christ. In this way, we do well to dispel the darkness and bring God's light to a fallen world...especially into our very own.

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