Easter has always been a big deal for me. When I was a kid, my parents bought each of their seven children a new outfit, including hats, bags and gloves for the girls. I still have a soft spot for patent leather shoes and mauve hats.
When I was five or six, I was astounded when my Sunday school teacher announced that Jesus died for us. Jesus’s father told him that he had to die for everyone else’s sins. Now my father would not have killed me for someone else’s sins, I’m sure of it. Human sacrifice was never discussed in my family.
When I asked why God would kill his son, I was told to just listen to the story. This from the same woman who only four months before told us about the little baby Jesus who was so precious that kings came from far away to meet him, and baby lambs kept him warm. It made no sense.
By the time I was 11, I was getting very impatient with this United Church of Canada stuff. I decided to shop around. The Lutherans were too serious and the Presbyterians were too Scottish, but the Catholics had beautiful stuff! This was the place for me.
My best friend at the time was taking catechism classes in preparation for her confirmation. I couldn’t believe she got to dress like a mini-bride, so free of sin and guile. I wanted this for myself.
Dutifully, my dad starting driving past the United Church on Sundays, muttering about papists, to drop me off at the Catholic Church.
When Easter Sunday came around, I sat with my best friend’s family and waited with anticipation. The priest puffed out his chest and stood to his full height, imploring us to worship no idols. That confused me, as it was the golden Jesus and the golden haloed Virgin Mary that had initially attracted me. We didn’t have these in Protestant churches. Weren’t these idols? Or at least idolizing the holy ones, which would still be wrong, right?
Next, we rose and shuffled to the front for communion. My friend’s mom – Mrs. H. – whispered that I couldn’t receive communion as I wasn’t a baptized Catholic but I could receive a piece of the cross.
When my turn came, the priest blessed me as his assistant placed a tiny sliver of wood in my hand. Riveted, I peered at this minute splinter in disbelief. I may have only been 11, but I did know my math. How could this have survived all these years? And how many people received pieces of the cross? A sharp elbow from Mrs. H startled me to reality and back to our pew.
Still distracted by the cross fragment thing, I was only half listening. I came to just in time to hear the priest intone, “And he said, ‘Father, why hast thou forsaken me?’” I knew the rest of the story: kings, cross, death, resurrection. I just wanted to go home.
I was very quiet when my mom found me in my room, still clutching that little piece of wood. Old enough to hear contradictions, too young to understand metaphor: my mind was reeling.
On Easter Sunday 1968, I not only quit my Catholic experiment, I quit church shopping all together. And yet, Easter is still very important to me. It’s what I do in place of Spring Equinox, I suppose.
Easter is soft baby lambs, cherry blossoms and love struck frogs croaking below my bedroom window. It’s welcoming a new year of fresh food crops and pale green buds weighing down the maples, threatening to coat my deck with its sticky, yellow pollen.
This year I’m ditching the ham and going for a walk in the forest. I’ll drink in the fresh smells of loam and moss, stepping lightly to protect the fresh growth. One might say I’m living the resurrection metaphor of new spring life from the death of winter. I say I’m just trying to avoid the human sacrifice.
“Easter lily macro: aresauburn™ @ flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.
“Halifax church © Maggie Kerr-Southin
“Easter Parade Finalist” Sister72 @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.
“Cherry blossoms” © Adrian Southin