Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday Recollections



My feelings and thoughts about my relationship with my Catholic identity are far too complicated and personal to explore here, but suffice it to say that while reservations generally keep me out of church these days (although I often, perhaps oddly, will pop into a Catholic church when in a new city, and know an instant connection), profound ties persevere, stretching back generations.

Most significantly, sensory memories of a robustly nurtured childhood faith in a family whose daily, weekly, seasonal, and yearly rhythms were structured around beliefs and their supporting rituals. . .

So Good Friday, especially falling in April, the month that recalls my father's birthday, always tumbles a wealth of recollections onto my inner screen. . . . Dad kneading up his hot cross buns early in the morning, making it easy for us to accept the day's demands. Meat-free, of course, as all Fridays (fish Fridays) were for us through all my years in my parents' house, but who could mind that when the day started with the scent of cloves and cinnamon and yeast.

And the fussing to get ready for church (this fuss always seemed to involve shoe polishing!), the anticipation and dread of the ferociously long Holy Week services, kneeling and standing, little respite allowed in the shadow of Christ's long passion being told.

Then the richness of the incense, not just its exotic, thick perfume, but also the altar boys' clanging it on its way, swinging the censers to send puffs of scent through the congregation, the drama of the stripped-down altar looking so different from the year's other liturgies. The veneration of the Cross with its indelible chanting that pulled our voices into a rich-yet-spare chorus with centuries at its back, centuries I swear I could hear. I heard that again last Good Friday when Paul and I, out to visit the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, realized that services were taking place in Brompton Oratory. Glorious music, Latin liturgy. . . the same mix, in fact, of glory and deep sorrow, light and dark, that so intrigued me as a child. For us, Easter could never be celebrated without equal attention to Good Friday, and despite the distance I now maintain from the Church, I don't imagine I will ever get through this Friday of the liturgical year without pausing through the day to feel its ritual rhythms.

And to remember my Dad's hot cross buns . . . Oh, he was a lovely man!


21 comments:

  1. Some of the loveliest memories are the bittersweet ones, aren't they? We were raised without much in the way of religion (no church attendance, and Easter was the Chocolate Holiday) so have few associations other than looking forward to egg hunts and being allowed to eat candy in the morning. but oh, those hot cross buns sound good about now...

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    1. Good Friday Mater....
      Your words resonate with me more than you know! Church rituals were so important to me growing up, yet not a part of my life
      since college days. However, all it takes is a visit to a church, especially in France, and I become transformed.....very pious and always light candles!!! When I was 11 years old, my sister 8.... we vowed to attend Mass every day in Lent. However, living in the country, we required the services of our father to drive us at the crack of dawn. He did this for us for 40 mornings, even in blizzard
      conditions. Yes, he too was a lovely man.
      Happy Easter!

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    2. Yes, Sue, they're treasured and bittersweet indeed. . .

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    3. Pavlova, so funny, I was just thinking about you this morning, wondering how you are . . . I remember that spiritual intensity of 11. . . we always did daily Mass in Lent before school. . . never through blizzards though!

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  2. I have many of the same memories as my Dad's birthday was March 31. The interminable services (and 7:15 am. mass every day during lent!), the baking, the new Easter dress or outfit. Powerful old memories, but aside from buying chocolate bunnies for my sons, few of these rituals are practiced by us.

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    1. I've let the rituals go as well, although they still have huge resonance as when we stopped at Brompton Oratory last Good Friday. I miss the reassurance they offered, I must say, and still value some of the spiritual wisdom. Can't often tolerate a sermon, though. . .

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  3. Ah, I have a whole different place in this spectrum. Grew up with no observed religion at all, married to a violently lapsed Catholic, visiting his still highly Catholic family. Your memories sound lovely. Mine are not so much.

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    1. Hmmm, curious about violent lapsing (the words' energies go in different directions, no?). My sister's experience has led to her a vehement exit and, save my parents and a sibling or two, we've all either followed her or lost our own convictions. . . Still, I do have some very good memories and some strong draws to some of the rituals and theology. Too complicated for a simple post, for sure. . .

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  4. Raised by a religious Mother went to church and attended Bible studies, church camp and am in the Buddhist camp after years of questioning.

    We change as we mature....

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  5. My story is similar to yours. Good Friday is always underscored with a little depression/guilt/sadness left over from a Catholicism that was more about the death than the resurrection. Like you,perhaps, I've attended Easter mass in many distant places, but stay away from the local church where not much seems to have changed. In yesterday's paper was yet another article that pointed out to me that the leadership of the Catholic church is determined to keep it in the dark ages.

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    1. I saw that article as well. Just can't get back to it while they maintain stance on women, sexuality, etc., but so much I could still love. My father's approach was so based in love, not in fear. . . bit easier for a male to have that perspective.

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  6. I know on the handful of times I have visited a Catholic service, I have been intrigued by all the liturgy. Protestants have some ritual...but nothing that quite compares.

    I miss my father too--at the most unbidden times.

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    1. Yes, the liturgy and ritual are part of the appeal, and I believe I was lucky to have had that aesthetic richness combined with spirituality in my upbringing, despite the downsides. A good friend of mine became an Anglican minister, at least partly because of the appeal of the music and liturgy and ceremony (obviously as a single mom of 5, she wasn't a candidate for Catholic priesthood!!)
      As for missing our fathers, isn't it amazing how forceful those feelings are and how/when they arise? Mine's been gone 12 years this summer, and he's still so present . . .

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  7. What a beautiful post. Happy Easter to you.

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  8. Your words evoke joy and sadness, darkness and light.
    I was raised in the Protestant (Mennonite) tradition, without liturgy but with beautiful music. I continue to hold my beliefs close while recognizing the wonderful diversity of the practices of the Christian faith.
    At the same time, I know that so much damage has been done in the name of God throughout history and into the present. Ah, but we are fallible creatures!
    I made hot cross buns this year - delicious little things - and ate far too many of them!

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  9. Thanks, Melanie, and Happy Easter to you as well
    Lorrie, You manifest the deep, gentle wisdom of faith that I knew in my past and hope is still nurtured somewhere within. Thank you.

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  10. Wonderful post, that rings true with my own complicated feelings. Just can't bash everything about th Church..there is some goodness there.

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    1. It's complicated, isn't it? Like life . . . thanks for commenting. It's good to know that my thoughts resonate with others.

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  11. Such wonderful and engaging writing...I could smell the incense...thank you for the moving history filled with such strong sensory delights

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    1. Thanks so much for commenting, Tamera. So glad you enjoyed the post.

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