Monday, March 25, 2013

Traditions for Holy Week

A chilly wind kissed my cheek this morning as we met in the dark to run. Although it is Holy Week, there is still snow on the grass, puddles are covered with a thin layer of ice, and all the roots stirring beneath ground have yet to show their colored faces.

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Easter sneaked up on me this year. I feel behind, disorganized, like I am scrambling all the time. I taught a lesson to the women of our church yesterday. It went fine, but even there I couldn't connect the dots like I wanted to. I'd been reading and preparing for over a week, but the only time I could find to study was after 10:30 every night. And by then, most my energy was gone and I found myself nodding off, straining to compose anything intelligent.

We do the best we can. And it is never perfect. But we keep trying.

I guess that's why I love Easter so much. It addresses things we only come to understand as we get older: the weariness of life, the pain, the loneliness we feel even when we are not alone. 

Easter offers us hope. Bright, passionate hope. And the reassurance of knowing there is One who understands us perfectly, forgives readily, and asks us to come to him just as we are.

I have been looking for him. 

While running the canyon Saturday, I noticed how glorious the world was. New snow had fallen and all the trees were delicately clothed in white. As I breathed the sharp air and struggled up the hill, I thought, if he can make this kind of beauty, do this with the earth, what could he do with my life if I put him first?

"My soul looks for the Lord more than sentinels for daybreak. More than sentinels for daybreak let [us] look for the Lord." 
-Psalms 130:6

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Saturday we drove to my Mom's to cut branches for our Easter Tree. Just some trimmings. But we call it a tree, with its dozens of blossoms aching to burst open. Maybe by Easter they will have bloomed pink? We can hope.

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Ali gave her first talk in Church yesterday. She wanted to bring our Easter Tree for display and talk about three of her favorite pictures, one of which was the Triumphal Entry. 

I've mentioned before how I wish we Mormons gave more collective attention to Holy Week. While we try to celebrate Christ all year long, we don't have any special services during the Passion Week. So I was thrilled Ali wanted to talk about Palm Sunday. We typed up her talk, and practiced it five times. As she began her talk, she couldn't say the words without me whispering them into her ear, but bless her heart, by the end, she was reading them right off the page. 

She finished with her own thoughts - what she knows to be true: "I know Jesus is real. I know He died for us. I know I can live with Him some day. I love Him because He is my Savior."

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Holy Week is my favorite week of the year. I love every Holy Day. 

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Yesterday, Palm Sunday, we read about the Triumphal Entry and watched a few videos from If you haven't discovered this resource, now is the time. The LDS Church recently put together an amazing series of videos depicting the Savior's life. Each is 2-7 minutes long. Short and beautifully done. A real gift, I think, to the Christian world. This week we will watch a couple a day. I haven't always loved the actors that play the part of Jesus in various films, but this Jesus is excellent. His voice, his demeanor, his strength, his emotion. He plays the part wonderfully. 

This is one of my favorites.

I did a little research about Palm Sunday last week. Did you know the Sunday before Passover was the day Jewish families selected their paschal lamb? Isn't it significant and striking that Jesus came into the city on this day, when lambs without blemish were taken from their flock, and there in the midst of all this choosing came the Chosen? Jesus, riding kingly but innocently to his death. God's divine lamb of sacrifice.

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Tuesday I am hoping to attend the temple, in remembrance of Jesus' cleansing/healing in the temple before his death. I won't go into detail about Mormon temples here, but I will tell you we believe in temple worship, just as God's people did in ancient days. Temples are places of peace, light, and renewal. We make covenants there to love God above all else, and to care for His children with selflessness. I haven't been to the temple in months. Breaking away from children, leaving the duties of home, and finding childcare is not easy. I am still trying to figure out the how-to, but I am determined to make it happen this week. 

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Trying to take a group shot in front of the Temple two weekends ago. Trying was the key word. I call this Rowdy Reverence.

On Holy Thursday we will read about the Last Supper, Jesus washing the apostles' feet, and Gethsemane. We will eat pita and hummus for dinner, along with other Middle Eastern fare I plan to get as take out from a local restaurant. At some point I would like to pull together a real Passover meal, but I think we're a few years away from that.

On Good Friday  we will read about Peter's Denial, Christ's suffering, and the Crucifixion. We will have hot cross buns and do our Easter Walk

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Saturday we will decorate eggs, then hang Easter Lanterns in our tree - to burn brightly into the night, in anticipation and waiting for the Lord's resurrection. Our own Easter Vigil.

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Easter Sunday we will read about the Resurrection, do traditional baskets and chocolate, and attend church service.

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The girls have been making Easter books. They took up this charge on their own. Sami's story is pictured in the first photo above. And this is Eliza's story, The Lion and the LambIt's a darling story about a mother bird who loses two of her baby chicks and... a teapot. The Lion and Lamb, who are best friends, set out to help her. Lion finds the baby chicks sidled up to a sleeping bear. Carefully, he brings them back to their Mommy, who is "so releafed to have them back in her arms." Lamb finds the teapot, which was stolen by a sly old fox. The story is delightful. I love her sweet artwork and the way she pieced together a plot and resolution.

Mostly I love that it is about lost things being restored to us, and how incomplete we feel without them. 

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Almost daily I have to remind myself to look past the mess, the disasters. (Like the fact that my boys just sprayed all our Easer decorations on the mantle with Windex.) I have to stop myself, get off my weary feet, sit for a minute and watch. There is so much beauty to see, so many faces to love, so much to feel grateful for.

And it is all possible because of Christ.

Now an excerpt for you from John Masefield's poem, The Everlasting Mercy. It spoke to me this morning.

...I kneeled there in the muddy fallow
I knew that Christ was there with Callow,
That Christ was standing there with me,
That Christ had taught me how to be,
That I should plough, and as I ploughed
My Savior Christ would sing aloud,
And as I drove the clods apart
Christ would be ploughing in my heart,
Through rest-harrow and bitter roots,
Through all my bad life's rotten fruits.
O Christ who holds the open gate,
O Christ who drives the furrow straight,
O Christ, the plough, O Christ, the laughter
Of holy white birds flying after...

Easter love,


  1. i have been feeling very much like you- my daughter gave a talk yesterday as well and we focused on Palm Sunday and I have been wanting to make this whole week holier than we have in the past, I feel a strength in doing so. I really really enjoyed and appreciated your insights. Your last paragraph particularly hits home. thank you.

  2. I'm so inspired! Thanks for sharing. I love the idea of celebrating the week of Easter, rather than the chocolate filled Sunday.

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  4. Hi Cath,

    thank you for your words about the Holy Week -- it is my favorite religious holiday, too, despite the crucification there is so much gratitude and -- hope...

    Off topic, because I just want to share it: here in Austria (and other European countries, too, but the initiative started in Austria) people are very discontent with the Catholic Church and the way things are run -- so there is an initiative of priests and laymen and -women to bring about some changes. Many disagree with the celibacy being mandatory for priests, many want to see women being able to become priests, we want the Church to open up, we want the Church to regain its credibility, which has suffered a lot, many question, if the provisions of the Church (as an institution) really are truely based on Christian convictions anymore (or what we perceive as truely Christian convictions -- social engagement, tolerance, action being more valuable than words, etc.), to name just a few issues.

    I'm not sure that these changes will ever happen, *ggg*, but I'm really enjoying finding other people (and making new friends) by trying to get people together to start talking about the changes we want to see and our expectations of what we want the Church to be...

    I guess that's my personal "crusade" why I am becoming active -- to show that it really is up to us, that we are responsible and do want to take the responsibility for what we want our congreation to be.

    So anyway, I rambled.

    I hope you are going to have a good Holy Week and I keep my fingers crossed for you to make time for the temple possible!!

    So long,

  5. Chanel - "i feel a strength in doing so" - yes, that is the truth. There is strength in focusing, reading, and caring about these events of the Savior's last mortal week. Thank you. xo

    Mika - Me too. So much to celebrate and understand. So much to give thanks for. Including chocolate. But like you, I'm happy to keep that part simple. :)

    Corinna - I know you love this week. Happy Easter friend! I was so interested in your comments about the Catholic Church. I have several good friends who are Catholic who have expressed a similar dissatisfaction. One described it as a splintering of the church. They fear the church will not be able to remain one cohesive group, and that such a splintering will lead to a slow erosion of the church. I absolutely respect the dialogue you are trying to have and the issues you value, like actions being greater than words, a change in celibacy, a focus on true christian principles. While your church has suffered persecution, your people have also brought so much good to the world. A search for true Christian principles is wise. That is one reason I embrace the LDS Church so devotedly. I believe it is the true Church of Christ, as he established it in his day, but restored in modern times - with all the facets, leadership, and principles that existed in the primitive church. This is no attempt to convert or convince you in any direction. I love my Catholic friends. I respect them and all that they stand for. But, if you are interested in knowing more about our belief re: the apostasy of Christ's church in ancient times and how we believe his church was restored in our day, you can read an explanation here:

    And I so appreciate your understanding of my desire to make it to the temple. I found a sitter that can come today and if the stars align, I will make it! Miracle! :) Love to you Corinna. I am so grateful for your noble and good heart.

  6. you are an inspired mama. just look at how much your family is blessed by your vision and goodness. xox

  7. I love the way you really celebrate Easter, and I'm stealing your ideas right and left. Thank you! Love you.

  8. I love everything about this post! You are such a good Mom and your kids are so blessed to have you and your insight into Christ's life and love.

  9. Oh, darlin', thank you, thank you. I cannot tell you how much it inspires me to see what you think about and what you create. Easter blessings to you. xo

  10. Oh how I LOVE this post. I have all the same feelings and thoughts. I love that we got to be together at the Garden Tomb on Easter morning all those years ago. Thank you for sharing. Love, Jen

  11. I read this and had to smile just now. We did the exact same thing last Sunday: read about the Triumphal Entry and watched the new bible video (and a few others) too.

    I love you, friend.

  12. you inspire me...can i copy this every action for next easter?!?! or maybe just one and i would feel better about Easter. it's funny because last year and this year I have felt a bit empty and a disconnect during this season...hoping for something more but not sure what I can do or say to fulfill it. I got on last night because it had been too long since I had some "cath" time. Thank you so much for posting reminds me of my advent during the month of december which my whole family enjoys and appreciates more each year. This just makes sense! xo

  13. Cath, you are such a precious, inspirational mother. And your children are GROWING UP! Wow, your babies aren't babies anymore. I love how you teach so beautifully and deliberately. Love you!

  14. Cristie - sure love you.

    Saydi - I was thinking one reason Holy Week works for us is because we never travel over Spring Break (d/t Doug's work schedule), and I am looking for things to do with the kids. The slow pace provides for these activities. Other families it might be less convenient. But I loved your insight on consulting with the Lord as to know what traditions your family needs and wants. I ought to pursue that path too. Love you so much!

    Deb - I love you. Thanks for reading. xo

    Anne Marie - been meaning to get over to Segullah and comment on your words about the Savior. They were so very touching: How you took your burden to him and felt his peace. "He would rescue me. He would cover me. He would fight for me. If I could keep looking to Him and just ask Him to be with me. His strength and power are more than enough, no matter the outcome in the short run." Every word was so powerful. Thank you for sharing there. I'm sorry that week was crazy enough I didn't get the chance to return and comment. I am hoping your health is good and you are well. I would love to hear more of how you are accessing His Atonement. I am speaking to young mothers about grace in a few weeks at BYU. Trying to compose the right thoughts. Your words were helpful. Sending you lots of love. With gratitude for your faith. xoxo

    Jen - How can we ever forget that morning? xo

    Elizabeth - I love your traditions as well. Thanks for getting back to me about Bach's St. Matthew Passion.

    Cami - I just love you. Need to see you. Let's figure out a date in May if that's not too crazy for you. xo

    April - You are the dearest soul. Thanks for your encouragement. And I can't stand that my kids are growing up! This is a holy time and it will be gone too soon. Love you.


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