Happy Easter! Christos Anesti!
With all the extra special liturgies during Holy Week, Jim and I have spent extra time at church striving to really enter into the meaning of what Jesus' suffering/death/resurrection means for us and not to take it for granted. Being that there were no 'Friday Quick Takes with Jen, I'll do a re-cap of what Easter Weekend looked like for our family.
Thursday evening we attended Mass at the church I work at it. Holy Thursday commemorates two really special things for Catholics: the institution of the Eucharist and the priesthood. It is also so beautiful because after the homily, the priest washes the feet of 12 men/women from the congregation to symbolize when Jesus washed the 12 apostles feet at the Last Supper; this serves as a vivid, tangible reminder to all of us that we are called to servants to each other. Pope Francis did something similar and unique this year too on Holy Thursday. After Mass, the Eucharist is carried to a separate chapel called the 'altar of repose.' It is decorated beautifully with flowers and here people come and pray till midnight to remember/be present with Jesus during his great agony in the garden of Gethsemane. There is a procession of the whole church to the altar of repose with singing and prayers. The liturgy ends in a very somber sense, because we all know what suffering Jesus is preparing to endure for us all. Jim and I stayed for a bit and helped 'keep watch and pray' with Jesus.
Good Friday was kind of a quiet morning for us. Jim watched the Passion of the Christ on Netflix. I came in during the scene of nailing Jesus to the cross. so. hard. to. watch. The scene that always makes me stop and think is when you see the solider put the nail into Jesus' hand and begins nailing him to the cross; that's what my sin did to Jesus.
Good Friday is the only day of the year there is no Mass. We arrived at church about 2:00pm. Everything is empty and barren. Holy pictures are covered and it is a very stark contrast to the usual beauty of the church on a given Sunday. At 2:30pm, the priest led us all in the Stations of the Cross which are prayerful reflections that help us focus and meditate on Jesus carrying the cross and his death: from his being condemned to death to being laid in the tomb. At 3pm the liturgy of Good Friday begins. We have readings from Scripture, a reading of the passion account from on of the four Gospel's, and a homily. The priest that gave the homily spoke about one the seven last words of Christ, but specifically on the first set, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" Luke 23:34). He spoke of the importance of Christians knowing what REAL forgiveness looks like, which we see in the example of Jesus...how its not right to hold grudges (yikes, I can be a 'grudge holder' at times). And this one sentence of the priest's words that really struck me: "If the cross is the cure of our sins, then what do our sins really look like??" wow.
After that is the veneration of the Cross; where people come up and kiss/bow/genuflect before a large crucifix. That is the most emotional thing of the whole liturgy for me. Seeing all of these people come up and show Jesus their love for him, for what he did for us. There was a little girl with her Dad sitting behind us who I overheard say to her Dad, "Daddy why are they doing that?" Her Dad responded "Because they want to kiss Jesus' boo-boo's and make him feel better." And that summed up what Good Friday is I thought quite well: we come to church to show our love for Jesus, kiss his boo-boo's from his suffering, and make him feel better.
Saturday was a quiet day, we both slept in which was thoroughly enjoyable. I went to town and did some major organizing/cleaning in our apartment. I went through my side of the closet and the dresser: tried on all my clothes, organized by the seasons/outfit pieces, and went through all my scarves and shoes. I have 2 bags of clothes/shoes to donate to Salvation Army. I was pleasantly surprised that most things fit pretty well still. There were a couple pairs of dress pants and summer dresses that were too tight, so I have some extra motivation to stick to my Weight Watcher points! Then I cleaned out the fridge. really. well. It was smelly and I figured since I couldn't tell what the yellow stain was in the meat drawer it was as good a time as any. After a load of dishes and laundry, I decided to sit down and watch the footage of the Easter Vigil with Pope Francis. We had been going back and forth all day Saturday whether to go to the Easter Vigil on Saturday night or wait to get up early for church on Sunday.
We ended up going to the Easter Vigil at 8:30pm and I'm so. glad. we. did! The Easter Vigil is the like the par-excellence of liturgies. It is the night the Catholic Church officially welcomes in new members into the community through Baptism, Confirmation, and First Eucharist. SUCH an exciting night for a Catholic nerd like myself...but it's also a very long night too, Mass didn't end till midnight (I mean when you have 56 people entering the Church, it's bound to be a long night)! We start in total darkness in the church. And then the priest comes in with a big candle symbolizing Jesus as the light of the world. We all have candles that are lit from that Easter candle. It's so beautiful just with the candlelight and music. There are extra readings during Mass that start from beginning in Genesis, through Exodus and the prophets, all to show us and remind us that throughout salvation history God has been calling us back to him and preparing us for the coming of Jesus.
It's so amazing watch people get baptized; to make public profession that they believe all the Catholic Church teaches and professes, that they want to more fully united with Jesus. Watching all these men, women, and children be baptized, receive the Holy Spirit more deeply through Confirmation, and receive the living Jesus in the Eucharist...at one point I leaned over and whispered, "I know we have been raised Catholic, but geez, this is so cool, I almost wish we could do this too!" He smiled and agreed with me. Honestly, it felt like a wee glimpse of what Heaven will be like. We were both on a Jesus high that night just so thankful to be Catholic and to help welcome and celebrate these new members of the Church.
As we were leaving Mass, I got this little book of awesomeness.
Yay church presents!
Easter Sunday we slept in. till noon. Don't judge us, we were up late the night before at church. We had lunch with my side of the family at a fancy seafood restaurant overlooking the Detroit River (not that the Detroit River is anything to write home about, but still fun nonetheless:). It was great seeing everybody, and Jim and I even had time to go blow some bubbles outside and have my sis snap a few shots of us.
Afterwards we headed over to spend dinner with Jim's side of the family. I was so stuffed from all the yumminess still from lunch but managed to have a bit of ham and 'somehow' made room for a few pecan clusters. We came tummies full, and hearts happy of all that we celebrated with family today and what we as our own little family have been preparing for during this Lent and Holy Week.
And don't forget Easter is NOT just a 1 day kind of celebration! Easter is 8 days long (an octave)...so go keep celebrating how awesomely cool our God is! :)