Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Holy Days

Last Monday I spoke with a good friend who is Catholic. She's dear as my own mother. She told me about Mass on Palm Sunday and how she knelt like she usually does during the service, but at some point felt so humbled by what Christ had done for her, she didn't want to get off her knees. Each day of the Holy Week is significant to her. She remembers each event.

While I love my Mormon roots, I long to celebrate the Holy Week with the greater Christian world. I would love an Easter vigil service, a special lesson on Palm Sunday, a way to remember the rest of the Holy Days. So I decided to make each day as significant as I could. In small ways, small remembrances, and by reading His words.


Holy Thursday

Thursday I read to the girls from John 13 about the Last Supper. How Jesus and his apostles shared a special meal for Passover - how they must have talked in hushed voices - cocked their ears and cracked their hearts when Jesus lay hold of the sop. I told them how he broke bread. The same way we eat bread and drink water on Sundays - in remembrance of Him.

I showed them this picture of Christ washing Peter's feet and explained that love means serving, helping, doing kind things. For Jesus taught, "If I, your Lord and Master have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet."

Hands that created the earth filled a basin, wrung a cloth, and wiped dusty feet clean. Grown men must have wept as he bent and bowed over them.

Later that night, I read and wondered. Do I serve enough? Usually, I sit in church with a little one on my lap, and I pass the sign-up sheet on down the row. I want to help. But I know my limits. Christ said to Peter, "If I wash not thy feet, thou hast no part with me." I read this and thought of the washings I am doing. The washing of laundry, of dishes, of tabletops and tiny hands. These are holy works too, I hear Him say. And I am filled as I remember, God wants me first to take care of my own, and when I am able, my circle will widen.


I told the girls about Gethsemane - how it looks there, on the western slopes of the Mount of Olives. I told them about the olive trees - knotted and twisted - how their branches flare and spiral upward into sprays of tiny green leaves. I tried to paint an image for them of those trees - how they caught blood and tears that Thursday night when the Son of God knelt below their boughs and changed the world.

I spoke simply to the girls. "He prayed to Heavenly Father. He felt every pain you have felt. He felt every pain every person in the world has felt." Like me, they do not understand, cannot understand, so we return to the phrase, "He did it because he loved us."

The English author Graham Greene wrote,

"You cannot conceive, my child, nor can I or anyone, the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God."

Appalling indeed. Everything he suffered from Gethsemane, to the cross, and the hours in between, was appalling. We cringe to think of it. And it is strange too. That somehow, his suffering makes it possible for us to forego suffering. If we will run to him, change, repent.

I love this piece of artwork (above). It was painted by my friend Leslie and is currently on display in Washington DC. It is called Allegory.)

Good Friday


We ate hot cross buns. I ordered them from the local bakery. Eliza kept calling them "hot boss crumbs" and by the end of the day I was so tangled up and tongue-tied I quit saying the words all together.


Later in the afternoon she drew this picture. It is Jesus on the cross with dark clouds above him and Mary at his feet. Even the smallest of hearts can feel the greatness of what Christ did for us.

While driving through a parking lot that evening on our way to dinner, I saw a fellow wearing a black t-shirt that read, "I Hate The World." The message was so affronting and so completely diametrical to John's words: "For God so loved the word... that he gave his only begotten son."


After showing the girls this picture, Eliza described Saturday as "a day of wondering."

A day of wondering it was.

We cannot understand how hard it must have been for Jesus' weary band of disciples to believe that he would rise in three days. No one had been resurrected before. All they knew appeared to crumble as Christ was nailed to the cross. It seemed the world had been right and he had been wrong.


We painted eggs that evening. It was the girls' favorite activity. Doug and I enjoyed it too.



Easter Sunday

Easter morning was all about Easter baskets for the first hour. We hid the baskets in all sorts of nooks around the house.


My favorite additions this year were the snow globes and the Lindt chocolate carrots. The carrots were a hit, and so were the globes. But after the first globe burst into smithereens on the bathroom tile I had second thoughts.



We had to help the boys find their baskets fast, before they emptied their sisters.



I love the sleepy eyes.




And the drip of chocolate on Spencer's chin.

Finally, when all the sugar was out of reach, breakfast was over and I finished getting the kids dressed, we sat for a few moments and talked about this holy place.

The Garden Tomb.

No statement is more glorious than the one carved into the tomb's wooden door. "He is not here. He is risen!"


I had to speak in our Sacrament meeting Easter Sunday, so honestly, all morning I felt like I was going to throw up - trying to do baskets, feed the crew breakfast, get everyone ready, get myself ready, trim down my talk and make it to church early enough to sit in a pew. (Thank goodness Doug was home.) I didn't have time to take pictures of the girls in their dresses. I didn't even buy the boys something new. Poor things were still wearing their Christmas corduroy.

But when we finally settled onto the bench, with my children and husband spread around me, I felt calm and grateful. We sang the opening hymn and I sang loud. "Christ the Lord is Ris'n Today!"

It was a good week. Good to think deeply on all of these things - to give Easter the attention it deserves. All the goodies and bunnies were shuffled into the backseat most of the time. And I liked that.

Tonight, however, I surveyed the stash of leftover candy and thought, Wow. There is nothing holy about this.

And then I ate a chocolate marshmallow rabbit.


The rest is hiding in our bedroom so the kids won't eat it.

The problem is, I will.

How was your Easter? What did you do to make it meaningful?


  1. One thing I love about Good Friday in our (Catholic) Church is that we follow the Stations of the Cross with the children -- we think of various ways to explain them what happened on that day. I love the part, where all the kids help to carry the cross -- there is such a powerful symbolism in it. (Last year my youngest one, she was 3 at the time, said: "I was Jesus, too, I helped to carry the cross.")

    Easter is a powerful holiday, and it's my favorite one. So I like the thought of making it a special one, like you did.

    So long,

  2. You are an inspiration, Catherine. I am in awe of everything you accomplish, and the way you write about it is so lovely. What a wonderful idea to put more focus on the days leading up to Easter. I'm going to do that next year.

    Much love.

  3. I love your posts, Catherine. They inspire and strengthen me. I love to feel the true spirit of Easter. This year I felt it, too.

  4. i love your thoughts and inspiration on Easter and making it meaningful. Have you heard of the book: "A Christ Centered Easter"?? I picked it up last year on sale at Deseret Book. I love the book and the way it lays out the week. I feel like I am learning new things right along with my kids.

    Thanks for all your insights and ideas. Hope you are well.

  5. Corinna - Is that a service you attend? The Stations of the Cross? What a tender sentiment from your daughter. I'm feeling like you lately, Easter is becoming my favorite holiday.

    Bonnie - Not accomplishing a lot really (as you know), but trying to choose the right things. (And writing simply keeps me sane.) Looking forward to seeing you guys in the next couple weeks!

    Heather - your avatar pic is so precious. Thanks for commenting. I LOVE your goal: raise five children without regrets and enjoy the journey. I'm right there with you!

    Alison - Yes. My Aunt told me about the book just last week. I haven't picked up a copy, but I'm planning to. It sounds like it has wonderful ideas. So glad you mentioned it. Love you Al!

  6. Catherine, such a sweet post. It brought back the holiness of this Easter for me and reminded me of the love I felt so powerfully that day from the Savior. I may steal some of your ideas for next year.

    Some of my friends have the Easter bunny come on Saturday so that Sunday is Christ-centered. I like the idea, but we've always stuck with Easter baskets on Sunday. We watched a short video from Mormon.org and talked about the joy we feel when we contemplate the resurrection, especially now that we've suffered the loss of my brother who we all loved so much. Then the egg hunt ensued and it was (I will say) super fun and super sweet. I think we didn't lose the spirit of the day in the joy of the chocolate. Or I hope we didn't.

  7. yes, this was a powerful Easter. xox

  8. I'll get this up on my blog soon enough but this year I decided to separate Easter from the eggs. When Ella started thinking "Easter" was the bunny's name, I knew the message wasn't getting across. So on Easter morning we did hot cross buns (thank you breadmaker for the timed dough setting) and she got to wear a nice dress to church. Then we talked more about the purpose of Easter.

    The next day for Family Home Evening we decortted eggs, cookies, and did a little egg hunt in the living room with the plastic eggs filled with M&Ms she got from Primary.

    I think next year I want to do more of what you did--celebrate the Holy Week and then have things culminate on Sunday. I just couldn't get it together to get a basket together on Sunday morning.

  9. Thanks for reminding me that I can always do more to help my kids learn of their Savior. I do a little and then I read your blog and realize I can and should take it a step further. You are an amazing mother....I really do look up to you :) So glad I found your blog. Thank you for writing.

  10. Thank you, thank you for your thoughts on Christ and the beautiful artwork you included with the post. How I would have loved to sit in the congregation to hear your talk and your thoughts on Easter (so sorry about that sick feeling on Easter morning....when I have a talk to give, it's several days of waking up with my heart pounding). Eliza's picture was just as touching as any artwork of the crucifixion I could imagine. What a gift.

    Serving enough? Friend, you have such full hands right now. And, yes, a time and season for all things. Those little ones of yours are so blessed because of your loving, giving heart. As my twinners prepare to head to school in a few months, I am realizing that all things really do end...my heart is turning to other ways that the Lord wants me to serve next school year. And, while I feel lighter in some ways to have boys who have become self-sufficient, part of my heart has needed time to grieve and heal as I have let go of my boys' littleness.

    Thank you, thank you for the focus on Christ here. I am uplifted by all your words.

  11. Catherine, I'm so honored to have met you through Erin. I love the rich layers of imagery in your postings--one of the few blogs I read besides those of my own family members.
    When I was a child, I loved Easter for the new dresses I got and for the Easter baskets that I got to find before church.
    I believed in the Easter Bunny for at least 2 years after I stopped believing in Santa.
    I was a teenager when I began to understand the need for Christ's atonement and to really begin to understand the significance of Easter.
    (And, mind you, my parents were very faithful, devoted followers of Christ.)
    So when our children were little, I determined that there would be no new clothes on Easter Sunday itself--maybe before, maybe after, but not specifically on that day--and no bunny bringing eggs. Our Easter focus would be Christ.
    We sometimes went to community egg hunts, because they were fun. And we'd decorate eggs some years, and some years we wouldn't, but the years we did I tried to do the egg hunting on any day but Easter Sunday. And then I discovered that if I bought the candy on the Monday after, it was often half price. So we started having Easter egg hunts for Family Home Evening the Monday after.
    And we'd read the scriptures and have hot cross buns on Easter morning (even though they are really more of a Good Friday thing, but symbols are what you make them), and we'd talk about the significance of the cross, and about the spices that the women brought to the tomb, only to discover that it was empty because, as the angel announced, "He is risen." And we'd discuss how it was a different kind of risen than what the roll dough did.
    My favorite Easter memory was the year that we read each morning during that week before Easter Sunday the scripture account of the events that corresponded to that day of the week. And on Sunday morning, just before dawn, we went around to each child's bedroom and excitedly whispered, "He is risen! Come and see!" And, bleary-eyed, they climbed out of bed and we sat on our back deck and read as we watched the sky lighten, just as it must have done nearly 2000 years ago when the sorrowing women rose "before it was yet light" to make their trek to the tomb to anoint with spices the bruised and broken body they expected to see there.
    It was not a week-long tradition we did every year. In fact, the next time I tried to wake the kids before light on Easter, they just rolled over and mumbled, "Go away."
    And one year when we lived in Colorado, we went to a lovely sunrise service at the Red Rocks Ampitheater. But we decided we liked our simple family observance the best--even when we did not get up before dawn to read.
    Now those children are grown. And as some of them begin their own families, it is interesting to see the traditions that they incorporate into their children's lives, as they, too, strive to make the Savior a central focus.
    How delightful to know of the lovely children's books, and other tools, that help make that task easier for parents.

  12. Kerri, Erin, Clynn'sKathy - I love your thoughts about Easter Bunny, egg hunts separate from the celebration of Christ. I'm processing all your ideas. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Kerri - What mormon.org video did you watch? And tender thoughts re: your brother. Yes, Easter has profound meaning when we have great reason to hope for the resurrection - and a reunion with our closest loved ones. Love you.

    Clynn'sKathy - thank you for reading. I loved this: "bleary-eyed, they climbed out of bed and we sat on our back deck and read as we watched the sky lighten, just as it must have done nearly 2000 years ago when the sorrowing women rose "before it was yet light" to make their trek to the tomb to anoint with spices the bruised and broken body they expected to see there." What a wonderful idea!

  13. a m a z i n g. you are an inspiration and i love you.

    do you have any idea how i can get my hands on a copy of the print 'allegory' done by your friend leslie? it speaks to me.

  14. Kara - I'll email Leslie and find out. Then I'll get back to you. If she's selling copies I'll be sure to let you know. I would love to buy the original. (I don't think its spoken for yet.) It moved me too. xo


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