I’m going Holy on my readers’ butts today. Don’t change that website. Not to worry, there will be no preaching. That’s not my style.
As many of you know, this week is considered Holy Week for those believing in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Looking back upon my Catholic upbringing, believe it or not, I enjoyed this week, concluding with Easter Sunday, more than Christmas. Palm Sunday is where it all begins. Unlike Christmas when it is traditional for some to unwrap one gift on Christmas Eve, you receive a gift on Sunday, a full week before Easter proper. The congregation meets outside for a prayer and all parishioners are given a palm representing the greeting Jews provided Jesus when he arrived in Jerusalem. According to the bible, they waved them like banners at a ballgame, then respectfully laid them on the ground before him like a green carpet while he began his journey to crucification. Don’t worry, I’ll try not to provide anymore misinformation regarding the bible and I’m certainly not becoming a Catholic Missionary. These are just fond memories when I actually learned and appreciated the finer points of attending mass.
Faithfully, I showed up and participated for over thirty years without missing a Sunday, even while we were on vacation, and even more miraculous, when I attended college at Washington State University. This was especially miraculous because my father and mother weren’t there to force me to go. Prayer and tithing, even if tithing consisted of a two for one Whopper discount coupon, were the only two reasons I graduated from a University annually placed in the top ten list of the nation’s leading party schools. (Quite a dubious honor.) One of my roommates was Catholic, so we would attend Saturday evening mass and then proceed to defile ourselves until two or three in the morning. I digress. Let’s get back to this Holy Week.
Once you receive your palm, you enter the church and proceed to follow along with the same readings you have heard the last ten years of your life. However, it was simple to avoid the Sunday Snooze because you held this palm in your hand. Traditionally, you and your brothers and sisters would spend the next hour in the pew fashioning a cross from the palm’s strips. It was a fun competition to see who could create the finest cross someone could die upon. Mine would commonly turn out looking like the letter X draped with seaweed. Even Jesus would have taken exception to carrying this thing around. “Uhh, yeah, I don’t mean to complain, that’s really not in my nature to do so, but is it possible I die on something a little more…..well, cross like instead of cross eyed? Great. Thanks.” Those crosses, mangled or not would adorn our mantle for the year. They would then be burned and used as ashes for Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, the same day one is asked to give up something significant, like beer, for forty days. This made Easter Sunday, the day Lent ends, especially sacred for the adults who tackled this forty day sacrifice. After Palm Sunday Mass, you then began thinking about Easter Sunday and the hunt.
Before Easter Sunday, there is slight speed bump referred to as Good Friday. This is the day Christians commemorate the passion, or suffering, of His death on the cross. Didn’t seem so good to me. As a youngster, I didn’t understand the Holy Day’s name, and I am still a bit confused. After Good Friday has passed, you picture Easter Eggs so big they’d make ostrich eggs look like gall stones. One more day of planning your strategic backyard hunting scheme. This was basically how I could outwit my two older brothers. Stay as far away from them as possible. That was my only hope. They were bonafide egg thieves.
I loved the hunt almost as much as the deviled eggs mom would fabricate shortly after. As for the Easter Bunny, I never believed in that crap. I didn’t want to. Since we were coloring the eggs, I figured it out pretty quickly. Mom and Dad would never let some creepy rabbit in our house to gather our eggs and hide them in our backyard. If a large bipedal rabbit did enter our house, one of my brothers, having a midnight snack, would grab a shotgun and go Elmer Fudd on that rabbit’s ass. The only rabbits in our house were made out of chocolate. For my brother, Tom, those chocolate rabbits had to be solid. As our resident chocoholic, Tom refused to eat the ones which were hollowed out of bounds. That was too chocolate ghetto for him. This is also followed by a feast which would include ham, turkey and all the necessary fixings. We had mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, hot rolls, fruit salad, stuffing, and I need to stop, because I am now feeling Catholic guilt and shame remembering so many other families in our humble neighborhood who didn’t have the means for this. Crap. Thanks Catholicism.
Now, if you think about it, to solidify my point, I felt like this was the trinity of holidays. It wasn’t just the Father, Son, and The Holy Spirit, Amen. It was Easter, Christmas and Thanksgiving all rolled into one. There were gifts, there was a phony character called the Easter Bunny, there was an enormous feast, there was family, and there was Sunday Mass where Deviled Eggs were dancing in your skull. Can you want or wish for anything more? Yes, you can. Once you grow old enough to be the one hiding the eggs, rather than hunting for them (always a proud moment for the youngest in the family), you realize how fun and satisfying it is to hold the hand of the youngest niece or nephew helping them find enough eggs to rival their elders. We always tried to keep the competition fairly equal to avoid any tears. There will be NO crying on Easter! You know why? BECAUSE THERE’S NO CRYING ON EASTER! (Thanks, Tom Hanks.) All these children were so wildly happy…..and all just to find a few eggs.
Ultimately, when you grow to investigate the true meaning, or story if you wish, it is as inspirational of a story one can read and disbelieve, read and question, or read and believe. I choose to believe. It gives you hope when you are down. It gives you faith when you have fallen. It gives you the genuine will necessary when your life seems to have spiraled out of control and you feel lost and thus beaten. But, then, you ponder this story and think, “For crying out loud, this dude rose from the dead! I think I can get off this dirty floor before the count of ten and keep fighting for a better life for myself and others.” Or, you may just find that your head is up your ass for an unusually large amount of time. If that occurs, think about the Resurrection of Jesus, grab a great big wad of your hair, if you still have some, and pull your head out. Maybe, just maybe, that’s what Easter is all about.