This one’s about Easter and the little things I find happy, moving and/or fascinating about my most favorite holiday.
Holy Week (the 8 days commemorating the resurrection of Christ and the events leading up to it) began on Maundy Thursday for me, as I had stayed up until 3:30 the morning of Palm Sunday (the actual start of Holy Week) playing Magic with my twin and a good friend of mine. So we skipped church that morning in favor of being functioning human beings at faire rehearsal (which started at noon). 🙂
Anyway, Maundy Thursday:
The word ‘maundy’ used in this instance is thought to be derived from a Latin word used in the phrase “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you”. This verse is the New Commandment that Christ gave the disciples at the Last Supper according to the gospel of John in verse 13:34a. The Latin word that ‘maundy’ is thought to be derived from is ‘mandatum’ and is the first word of the phrase should it be a Latin translation… Which I’m assuming would translate to something along the lines of ‘commandment’. Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ. This was also the first day of passover, meaning that Christ’s last meal was the Seder meal that begins Passover in Jewish tradition as Christ was Jewish. The really really fascinating part about this event in the life of Christ is that the matzah (unleavened bread) that Jesus broke saying “Take and eat; this is my body.” was the middle matzah at the leader’s seat (where Christ would have sat as we was seen as the Rabbi or Teacher) that was covered and symbolic of the coming Messiah. Also, the cup that Jesus passed around saying “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” was the third cup, or the cup of redemption of Passover. Traditionally this cup was left full at its own place setting awaiting the return of Elijah (who Christians believe came back as John the Baptist) who would announce the coming of the long-awaited Messiah who would free the Jewish people from oppression. The significance of this (especially to the disciples and the other people at the time who were Jewish) is amazingly huge. It’s one of those things that puts me in awe, more than already am, of the amazing way that my God works. Our church had a really moving service (at least for me) called a Tenebrae, I think. It was a silent service except for two people at the front (one who happens to be my awesome Sunday School teacher) who portrayed Judas (that was my SS teacher) and Peter. It was particularly moving because you start to see these two sinning disciples of Christ as human instead of just “the bad guys”. I think we’re inclined, and even taught, to see Judas and Peter as the bad guys because one betrayed Jesus and the other denied knowing Him. So we live thinking ‘Oh, at least I’m not as bad as Judas or Peter. I may sin, but nothing as bad as that. I’m a compassionate human being, after all’. But the thing is that we all have areas in our lives where we are Judas, where we are Peter. I’m not saying this as if I’ve just been told this and I believe it might be true so I’m passing it on, either. I’ve come to this conclusion inside my own heart. You don’t have to see it the same way; after all: “each must work out his own faith”. But, for me, I see Peter and his denial in myself when I tell myself that I can’t trust God, or that there’s things in this world I need to fear. I deny that He’s there for me, even when I see it plainly day after day. I see Judas and his betrayal in myself when I idolize material things over my faith; when I get ahead of myself and move too fast trusting entirely on my own strength, which never ceases to fail me. It was particularly moving for me because I helped serve Holy Communion in commemoration of this supper. I served communion with the Reverend of my church (I would say ‘pastor’ but he’s not exactly pastor-y) and my youth pastor’s 12 year old son (a young man who is very very quiet, but has a good head on his shoulders. Plus he’s pretty darn awesome). It was quite an amazing experience.
The next day is Good Friday, the day that we remember the Passion of Christ as He was crucified and killed in order to save all believers from all time from the sin of this world. The ultimate act of sacrifice and love. Some of my extended family came in this day, so we didn’t go to the church service and it was a very calm day. We made these Easter eggs called ‘Pysanky Eggs’. The tradition comes from the area that is now Ukraine. It’s a nice little wax resist and dye method with a ton of symbolism. You’d be much better off googling it than having it explained by me, though, so that’s all I’ll say about that. 😉 Something that I find quite interesting about the events of this day is the connection to Psalm 22 (a psalm that all Jewish people would have learned as children, just like we learn Psalm 23 today). As Christ Jesus was dying on the cross that day, he cried “Eli, Eli, lema sebachthani?” (which translates into “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”), the first sentence of Psalm 22. It’s another thing that links Judaism and the prophecies to Jesus being the Christ. If you read Psalm 22, there are many more things that would prophecy the death of Christ and connect the Divine to the Human; connecting the God to the people. I find it quite awesome.
Then you have Saturday, the day between. My youth group leads this really solemn service that day and we have always had people that come to us and say how they were effected by the service. It’s a reverse advent service, meaning we have the advent wreath with the candles all lit. As the service progresses and the litany and scripture is read, the candles are extinguished and taken out until there is no more light. It starts with a nativity procession of sorts (with the youth all in black) to the cross (another human/divine connection) with Mary being left at the cross with an empty blanket. Then there is scripture read, followed by the litany. I have been the one to lead the litany for the past two years and it’s a really solemn, moving reading and response that conveys the emotions of grief and sorrow that the disciples felt when Christ had been laid in the tomb. This is when the 4 candles on the outside of the advent wreath are extinguished. After a couple moments of silence, the crucifixion passage from the gospel of Luke (I do believe we use the gospel of Luke but I’m not 100% sure on that) is read and the middle candle, the Christ candle, is extinguished. We then have a series of skits portraying various people who knew Christ before he died and their feelings of confusion and sorrow, each person has an item symbolizing their person that they lay at the foot of the cross with the empty blanket from the procession at the beginning of the service. The service ends with music and the youth taking out the lights on the altar, leaving the congregation in total darkness. I find myself feeling very blessed to be a part of this service that means something for so many people. I don’t pretend to think I have anything to do with their awe, but I feel blessed to have God work through me to help people feel what the disciples felt on that Saturday.
THEN THERE’S EASTER!!! It is my most favorite holiday ever. I love it. We had an egg hunt and everything. It makes me happy. We also celebrate Passover on Easter Sunday with the wine (juice for me, as the taste of wine absolutely freaks me out) and matzah mentioned in my obnoxiously long paragraph about Maundy Thursday. I love Easter. My Daddy was even home for Easter this year (which was just strange, ’cause it’s been at least 3 years since he ate Easter dinner with us… Usually he’s at work).
Yep, that’s what it means to me. That’s how I celebrate and appreciate The Love.