30 March 2013

Week Thirteen: The Three Great Days


The Three Great Days.

I am currently in the midst of one of the busiest, most intense, brightest and most meaningful days in the life of my faith. If you profess the same beliefs, you will understand. My daughter told me that she loves each of these days for different reasons. The ritual, the symbols, the stories. Each day has something important to teach us and I marvel at the wonder of it each time as if I am experiencing it anew.

As I write this, we have just come home from the Holy Thursday mass. We have a community pot luck meal before heading over to the church for the Mass. This one always makes me feel so humble.

"Jesus took a towel and he girded himself
and he washed my feet,
yes, he washed my feet.
Jesus took a basin and he knelt himself down,
and he washed,
yes, he washed my feet."

We sing those words while we watch as members from all over the community, all ages, all types of people come together to wash each others' feet. Such a powerful model of service to others from Jesus' actions. He did something so simple, but something that would have been the domain of a servant for each of his disciples.

I watched as my husband knelt down and lovingly poured warm water over the feet of our daughter and gently bathed her feet. Then he took them carefully, one at a time, and dried them. This cycle is repeated until every person that seeks this symbolic blessing has received it. This is such a powerful extension of not only community, and banquet but of service to all. It is a good reminder to me that I need to throw off the cloak of power I may think that I have and get down to the work of serving those around me more fully without any reciprocity or expectation.

"Will you let me be your servant?
Let me be as Christ to you.
Pray that I may have the strength to
let you be my servant, too."

I wept during the singing of this song. The tears flowed so quickly and completely that I couldn't hold it back. Those around me were wondering what was wrong, offering me tissue, a hand of support. I am not sure if it was the monument of that moment with the people coming forward to participate in the washing ritual, or if it was that words to verse four that did it, but I couldn't keep the tears from coming.

We are pilgrims on the journey.
We are travelers on the road
We are here to help each other,
Walk the mile and bear the load.

I will hold the Christ light for you
In the night time of your fear.
I will hold my hand out to you
Speak the the peace you long to hear.

I will weep when you are weeping
When you laugh, I’ll laugh with you
I will share your joy and sorrow
Till we’ve seen this journey through.

When we sing to God in heaven
We shall find such harmony
Born of all we’ve known together
Of Christ’s love and agony

This song holds deep personal meaning for me. It was sung at a crucial part of our wedding ceremony 20+ years ago. But on this night, I felt a bigger, more powerful meaning. I feel it speaking to my own relationships yes, but more to that of my parents who are going through some rather tough changes and challenges ahead. I had just had a meeting with my father about the fact that things are moving on to a new phase in their life of 45 years... the Alzheimer's that my mother has, that we have been watching creep up on us these past seven years or so, is claiming her at far too young an age. She will be turning 67 next month. This should be a golden time for them, but it is turning to twilight far too fast. So these words were even more poignant to me this year.

Good Friday will be the most somber of days. I usually struggle to get through the penetrating depth of these readings. There are no Hollywood sound effects, no close up of the blood, sweat and tears, and there doesn't need to be. What always strikes me most is that there is no holy water to bless myself with when I arrive there. It is such an automatic to reach for that little dab of water to splash on my forehead and on my shoulders in the form of a cross. I always forget that it will be missing and that touch of dryness shakes me every time.

"Behold, behold the wood of the cross
on which is hung our Salvation.
O come, let us adore."
We have this immense wooden cross that is carried into the church at a certain point. It usually takes about 15 people to hoist it above their heads and make the long trek down the aisle while we sing those words. Outside of singing that several times, this ritual is done in silence. It is laid at the foot of the altar and we are invited to come forward - no lines, no order, just to come - and venerate the cross. I usually cannot contain my emotions at this point and when I kneel there to touch the cross, or bow to kiss it. Everyone has their own way. Just pausing to own what I am bearing, I sometimes find that I am weeping. But it is a cathartic action and just knowing that we are all baring our souls to the moment is very powerful.

Saturday is the Easter Vigil. Starting at sundown with a bonfire behind the church, we get the first of the symbols - fire and light. This year there are piles of snow on the ground so I doubt that this will be done. The church is in total darkness and the community lights their candles from one flame to the next filling the room with a glow that is spectacular.

This year will be extra special. Our church is Newman University Parish. We exist to support the Catholic students on the campus of the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point. I am honored to be the sponsor for a UWSP student who is getting her First Communion and Confirmation at this mass. As her sponsor I have been attending religious education classes with her since last fall. She is a lovely young lady and I feel that I have gained a deeper appreciation for the faith that I was born into by supporting this young lady in her call to conversion. Which leads me {finally} to my picture for this week.

{Faith as small as a Mustard Seed}

I created a special necklace for her (and for my young niece Evelyn who will be making her First Communion in May) that is a tiny 1/2" pendant with a mustard seed encased in resin. On the back is her initial. I have made mustard seed necklaces before, but this one with its diminutive size, really speaks to me. I think I will have to make more and perhaps start offering them in my Etsy shop.

"You don't have enough faith," Jesus told them. "I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it would move.
Nothing would be impossible."
~Matthew 17:20

I plan to gift this to her on Saturday to let her know that this faith that she is affirming will have a great power to transform her life. I hope she will keep this as a touchstone, a talisman, a reminder that I will be praying for her and keep this time with her in my heart as a critical time in my faith formation as well. That little mustard seed is a good reminder that nothing is impossible. Even the word says, "I'm possible."

Sunday, I will be the cantor at the morning mass. There will be a baptism of a baby there and I love singing on that morning. The church will be so transformed from a bleak and stark simplicity on Friday to overflowing with light and lilies and the brightness of a new day. And then I will be celebrating by hosting the Hintz family at my house for a party in the afternoon (thank heavens for Arby's roast beef and ham and the deli at Copps Market for supplying the entire meal ;-). 

Wherever you are, whatever you might believe and however you might celebrate it, I wish you all the glory of the season and the realization that the simple truth of faith has a great mystery and power.

"Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!"



Lori P said...

This is a beautiful post, Erin.

Alicia said...

Oh, God, Erin, this is so beautiful! I love your descriptions - we do similar things, just very late this year (I am Orthodox, we celebrate Easter in May this year!) and I cannot wait for the 3 days and sermons (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday midnight)!
Have a blessed Easter along with your family and loved ones!
The necklace you made for your sponsor is simply amazing - love its symbolism!

Anonymous said...

The song you share here is very touching and deep. The words moved me. Your necklaces are so pretty and the photography is amazing! Thanks for sharing.

koko said...

Erin what beautiful post (this is not a surprise from you!! You never fail to inspire!!). I have a different faith and am always interested to learn about others. I would have said I could tell you the stories of these days you celebrate, but I never understood or felt them as I do reading your words. Thank you, for always sharing your heart so generously.

Monique (A Half-Baked Notion) said...

How I love to read these posts where you share your heart, Erin... especially meaningful to me, this year, as I have been unable to attend Triduum Masses due to my health. The Servant Song is a new one for me (which I love to discover, as a fellow music minister).

A wonderful priest once put in his own words how I feel about liturgical song: "If it were not for music, I could not have the Faith I do!" Thank you, Father Peter, for your forthrightness... we are many who acknowledge the intense fervour of praise that is sung. I wish you the most blessed Easter season, Erin!

Honey from the Bee said...

Wonderful post! Your necklace is so perfect and yes, I think you better start offering, as I bet you get requests. : )

steufel said...

Oh Erin, you are right. And isn't it so great that the holy spirit send us Pope Francis? He is such a blessing. Hopefully there are many easter with him as our shepard to come.

brokenteepee said...

I'm sure she will love such a personal gift from someone who loves her so much

Annette said...

What a heartfelt post. Your faith is evident in every word! The necklace is a perfect gift for the young woman and for anyone who believes! Have a wonderful Easter!

Anonymous said...

Such a lovely and touching post - I admire your eloquence and enjoyed your descriptions of the beautiful rituals at your church.
Faith such as yours is something that seems to be sorely lacking in our world these days - Wishing you a blessed Easter!

Shel said...

So touching - just lovely!!

Laura Twiford said...

Erin your words of faith and dedication have truly touched me. I have also experienced the spirit moving through me and bringing me to tears and humbling me on many occassions. I am so sorry to hear of your mother's battle and I will pray for you and your family. Have a Blessed Day! Love the necklace too!

Anonymous said...

He has risen indeed! Touched by your very personal post tonight. You have created some very meaningful necklaces for these young ladies. Just lovely.

Perl - Eni said...

Dear Erin!
What an awesome job on all the designs!
Have a wonderful Easter!

Pearl and Pebble said...

Here it is almost time for the next post and I am still plugging along! This was a beautiful post Erin! I love that your faith is so strong. I love this verse. And I love these necklaces because I love this verse. Put my name down for one of them if you are serious about making them!!!

erin said...

Thank you for sharing your faith. Thank you for all you share. May God bless you and your family always.

Dawn Doucette said...

I know I'm delayed in my response and blog reading. I'm so, so sorry to hear that your mom is struggling to fight Alzheimers. I know you will cherish her as long as she's on this earth with us. I wrap my virtual arms around you in a hug to last eternity. ♥

Your necklace speaks volumes to me. Tiny in size, but powerful in message. For the girl you are sponsoring, she's so lucky to have you to help guide her in her journey of faith. And to take this small token and wear it forever will give her faith strength to get through anything. Erin, your soul shines through this piece and it's absolutely magnificent! Hope the service was amazing! {Hugs!}


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