Opinion Column

Where in your world is the risen Jesus Christ?

By Patricia Anne Elford

I'm not a spring Grinch. I love cuddly bunnies as much as the next person. I love flowers and pastel colours, and chocolate, definitely chocolate, BUT...BUT...that isn't what Easter is all about!

I remember the childhood excitement of fluffy, brightly-dyed chicks cheeping in incubators in the five-and-dime (the colouring practice since stopped, I believe, for humane reasons). I recall decorating boiled eggs which later became bluish egg-salad sandwiches.

I remember my bowl of Easter candy, the eating of which I spread out in small amounts over a month or two, munching jelly beans and perfume-flavoured mallow eggs or breaking off small pieces of a large, hollow, increasingly dusty chocolate egg.

I remember my mother's preparation of my Easter Sunday outfit, and the excitement of polishing my shoes on which my dad had put new cleats that I could click-clack satisfyingly on my way to church.

I've eaten warm hot cross buns, dyed eggs and fingers with children and grandchildren, bought fuzzy cards and the occasional cuddly toy creature, shared candy egg hunts and prepared candy baskets, usually centred by a year-long-awaited Laura Secord egg.

The Church's historical tendency to paste the sacred over the secular, to draw on secular dates and symbols to give religious celebrations more impact, particularly among illiterate persons, appears to have backfired. Now, it seems, the secular rules.

How many people know, remember, or care that the egg symbolizes new life in Christ or the empty tomb, the lily-- Jesus' purity or new life, the empty cross--the resurrected Christ, the lamb--both Jesus and new life? How many have learned that because fat, eggs and milk were forbidden during Lent, a special bread was made with dough consisting of flour, salt and water, or that these little breads, shaped in the form of arms crossed in prayer, were called "bracellae", Latin for "little arms", or that among Germans the word became "bretzel". Who remembers that these praying-arms pretzels were a common Lenten food through the Middle Ages in Europe, before changing to a year-round snack in the 19th Century? Do we think of Lent when we pass the pretzels?

What is Holy Friday--just another day off, on which to sleep in, or travel? Online and in stores, side by side with leftover St. Valentine's red and St. Patrick's Day green, the pastels of "Easter" fight for our attention and money. Jesus is buried in a tomb of cellophane, shredded paper, candy and "Easter special" Power and Frozen Princesses and Lego. In that commercial world, there is no Easter Sunday. Jesus never arises!

Many church attenders don't like Holy/Good Friday; would rather just sleep it away, as if it hadn't happened.

"There's enough misery in my world. Don't remind me of the pain, of how Jesus died. It's too depressing and gruesome!"

That's the point! It is a horror. It's worse than any catastrophe we ourselves can experience. During that long, tortuous time, Jesus was nailed to the cross by all that is evil.

If we can't remember, cannot accept, at least once a year, the sacrifice that was made by the loneliest Person of all, cannot bear to identify with the disciples' regrets and fears, the hollow emptiness, after Jesus, with a loud cry, had breathed his last (Mark 15:37)...

if we are too cowardly to face our own betrayals of Christ in our daily lives--if we cannot think about this through Friday and Saturday, experience the darkness of Jesus' absence, until the overwhelming wonder of Easter morning, then we can't possibly share in the deepest joy of Easter celebrations. We may be there, but it will be automatic, routine, artificial, unsatisfying. If we have been too numbed or disengaged to think about it at all, we may wonder why, despite dynamic music, inspired preaching and prayers, we feel no great heart-swelling elation. There can be no overwhelming excitement experienced over Jesus Christ's resurrection from death, if his death itself has not first been experienced as real!

We can celebrate Spring, the Equinox, the joys of the earth washing away its grimy winter coat, of birds returning, sap rising, and flowers breaking through softening ground, but we cannot truly experience Easter.

Being neither a sadist nor masochist, I don't look forward to Good Friday. ("Good" Friday is good for us in that Jesus' sacrifice, which only he could make, gives us hope achieved in no other way; good for Jesus only in that he was able to be totally obedient to his Father's will on our behalf.)

I, personally, do not always take part in a Good/Holy Friday service with other people. Sometimes, as a visually oriented person, I prefer to watch a section of a good-quality (though not audience-assaulting) film which covers Christ's passion. I do this alone, on Good Friday and/or Saturday, away from other distractions, letting the experience become real to me once more. Sometimes, I read through the Gospel account in an authoritative translation (not a folksy paraphrase) stopping my reading before the resurrection. Sometimes, I once again work my way through the same accounts in the Nestle- Aland Greek version.

Then, as Jesus' followers, male and female did, I wait. Unlike those suffering souls, I do know how it turns out, but it is as close as I can come to being there.

My husband and I look forward to joining others in rejoicing on Easter Sunday at a "Son-rise" service or later service in an area church. We celebrate --not the coming of spring, not the pussy-willows and crocuses bursting through, not the ham dinner and glut of candy and unrelated toys, or even the time together with our families and friends--we celebrate the bursting through of Jesus Christ from death to life, his disciple-energizing resurrection.


Next week: Jodie Watson

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