Updated: Apr 2
By Maureen Kalbus
Sheltering at home during Holy Week, I am reflecting on Easter over decades and in different locations. As an adult, I always sought out churches that offered a Communion Service on Maundy Thursday, as that was when Jesus first instituted the sacrament with the disciples in the Upper Room. A few years ago at F.P.C.S.A., following Jesus’ example of washing the disciples’ feet, washing of the feet was offered to church members in the Memorial Garden. It was a truly meaningful experience. Joanne washed feet, and I dried them. That was humbling.
An unforgettable hymn by Tom Colvin, set to a Ghanian folk melody, paints the picture:
“Kneels at the feet of His friends, silently washes their feet.
Master who acts as a slave to them…
Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love, show us how to serve the neighbors we have from you
Neighbors are wealthy and poor, varied in color and race;
neighbors are near us and far away…
These are the ones we should serve, these are the ones we should love;
all these are neighbors to us and you…
Loving puts us on our knees, willing to wash others’ feet;
this is the way we should live like you…”
On Good Friday, I also looked for churches that held services. In Northern Ireland and Australia, everything was closed on the sacred day: schools, shops, businesses and banks...giving people the opportunity to attend church, and reflect. In both countries a bakery speciality was hot cross buns. During Holy week, the aroma around bakeries was scrumptious!
The wife of the Bishop of Londonderry and Raphoe, penned a hymn I grew up with:
“There is a green hill far away, without a city wall.
Where the dear Lord was crucified , who died to save us all…
He died that we might be forgiven, he died to make us good, that we might go at last to heaven, saved by His precious blood…”
The walled city of Londonderry provoked her to think of Jerusalem, another walled city.
Other favorites were George Bennard’s “The Old Rugged Cross”:
“On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross
The emblem of suffering and shame,
And I love that old cross, where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down.
I will cling to the old rugged cross
And exchange it one day for a crown.”
and Elizabeth Cecilia Douglas Clephane’s
“Beneath the cross of Jesus, I fain would take my stand,
the shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land;
a home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way,
from the burning of the noontime heat, and the burden of the day.”
Our church has caringly created Zoom services at 7 pm on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Additionally, the church itself will be open on Good Friday, 12 noon - 3 pm, for those wanting to come in and silently reflect. Hosts will ensure safety protocols are followed. I look forward to all.
The Easter Bunny and Easter baskets didn’t exist in either country. Instead, relatives and friends gave chocolate Easter eggs to children. The eggs were large [up to six - nine inches], and were artistically boxed, with chocolates nestling inside. The eggs and bunnies signal new beginnings, and the former also reflect the stone in front of Jesus’ tomb. Easter Sunday saw everyone decked out in new outfits. Back in the day, we had new hats, gloves, shoes, handbags to accessorize the suit. Roasted turkey was a popular main dish for Easter dinner in many homes. In Northern Ireland, Easter weekend was a long, long one, as we also holidayed on Easter Monday and Tuesday. This gave folks the opportunity of leaving town and staying in a holiday home or hotel.
One year, I found myself in Germany, just before Easter, and was tickled to see trees and branches decorated with small eggs and ornaments. I bought some miniature eggs, and now decorate pussy willow branches in our home. Since living in America, I have latched onto Easter baskets, and happily fill them for family and friends, and appreciate treasures left for me!
What are your Easter recollections from when you were growing up? Have they changed over the years? What is traditional for you now?
Jesus’ death and resurrection are central to Christianity, and all the salient elements are read, reread and discussed over Easter. However, since being introduced to G.K. Chesterton’s “The Donkey”, I have been fascinated by the choice of that animal to transport Jesus at the end of His life, as it had at the beginning. Any majestic, revered animal could have been used, but it was a humble donkey that carried Mary, bearing Jesus, into Bethlehem, and Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
“When fishes flew and forests walked And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood, Then surely I was born.
With monstrous head and sickening cry And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody On all four footed things.
The tattered outlaw of the earth, Of ancient, crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb, I keep my secret still.
Fools! For I also had my hour; One far fierce hour and sweet;
There was a shout about my ears, And palms before my feet!”
In human terms, we realize we have imperfections, and perhaps haven’t been the first choice for teams, schools, colleges, partnerships, jobs, committees...yet each of us is equally important in God’s eyes. He sees the beauty, talents and blessings we possess, and calls us to use them for the good of others. I believe the choice of the donkey, belittled by many over centuries, is a reminder that each creature is vital, and we should look beyond the surface, and discover the inherent beauty and value in each. Regardless of how an individual looks, sounds or acts, there is a unique, precious individual inside.
What treasures have you discovered in others, after taking time to look beyond the surface?
What gifts and abilities do you have that have yet to be discovered?
“Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia
Our triumphant, holy day, Alleluia
Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia
Suffer to redeem our loss, Alleluia...
Sing we to our God above, Alleluia
Praise eternal as God’s love, Alleluia
Praise our God, ye heavenly host, Alleluia
Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Alleluia.”
As we approach Easter, we ask
Give us a heart for the simple things:
love, laughter, bread and wine and dreams.
Give us a green growing hope,
and make us a people
whose song is alleluia,
whose name is love,
whose sign is peace.”
Every good wish for this reflective, glorious Easter time,