I can remember the excitement of Easter from my early childhood. We always had to wear our absolute best for this Sunday Mass. Many times that meant a new dress, new hat, new shoes and maybe even a new spring coat. I felt on top of the world. This was not always an easy feat for my parents — I was the oldest of nine. And yet, this day seemed to defy budgets and we all looked and felt on top of the world. After Mass, we would visit both sets of grandparents for big, sumptuous Easter meals. We saw cousins, aunts and uncles also dressed to their best. By bedtime, our tummies were full and we had memories of the annual Easter egg hunt and a feeling of hope and joy.
Interestingly, I only vaguely remember the flowers or decorations, or even the music of the Mass. While I did have some theological awareness of the day, it was the significance of our personal preparations for Easter that has made a lasting impression. It wasn’t until I was able to join the adult choir when I was in eighth grade that I started to realize a modicum of appreciation. The seeds had been planted and were being nurtured.
As an adult, I am now intimately involved in the preparations for Easter and the significance of my childhood memories definitely come into play. This past week’s journey of Holy Week with the immense celebration of the Palm Sunday procession; awe and mystery on Holy Thursday with the presentation of the holy oils, the washing of feet and the commemoration of the institution of the Eucharist; somber memories of the veneration of the cross on Good Friday, soon juxtaposed against the baptisms at the Easter Vigil had led us to this day of Resurrection. Talk about an emotional roller coaster — this week had it all!
But it doesn’t stop there. Somehow Easter Sunday seems to give people a new attitude. The greetings in the parking lot and as we enter church are somehow different. Many people will abandon their jeans and sweatshirts for dress pants and shirts and dresses. Easter lilies, chrysanthemums, hibiscus, hydrangeas and all the flowers of spring that now grace our sanctuaries, gathering areas and vestibules, all add to the depth of our emotional and spiritual gladness for this day. There are white cloths and drapings, glorious banners, light filtering through the stained glass; the resurrection cross replaces the crucifixion cross and we are again reminded of the great gift of salvation that we so many times take for granted.
The joy of being able to stand and sing “Alleluia” and “Glory to God” after their absence during these last six weeks is welcomed and uplifting. So, take it all in, wear those new clothes of faith, forgiveness, thankfulness and glorious praise to our God.
Wettstein is director of music and liturgy at Good Shepherd Parish, Chilton.