Friday, April 14, 2017

Five Things Good Friday


We've been planting on the terrace -- dreaming of it someday being festooned with fragrant honeysuckle so that we might be constantly pestered by hummingbirdds. . . . 
1. The first thing I would have to say about Good Friday is that I will never feel entirely comfortable "being secular" on it. My Catholic background was a positive one in so many ways, with a deep and nourishing faith that goes back generations and that yes, was marred by strict rules and arcane, unrealistic notions of human sexuality and gender, but also which offered an ecclestical calendar full of practices that reassured and reinforced and worked with memory and aesthetics in powerful ways. So that for me, having left most of that behind over the last two decades or so, Good Friday is still suffused with its odd mixture of a Fasting/Fish Friday and the once-a-year excitement of my Dad's hot cross buns, which he'd begin making that morning and we'd be gobbling greedily by midday, having had a few hours to savour their sweet, spicy, yeasty fragrance as they rose and baked.... And the afternoon's answering fragrance of incense at the Veneration of the Cross. The solemnity of answering the priest's chant, "This is the Wood of the Cross," the nervous silliness as we reverently kissed the wood the purple covering had been carefully folded back to expose. My father's beautiful tenor exalting and exulting,  "Tantum Ergo" . . .

2. My dad's birthday occasionally fell on Good Friday, his birthday being April 15th. That always seemed fitting to me, as he was clearly a Good man, but I was always sympathetic that he couldn't celebrate as he deserved. His faith was such that it would never have seemed a sacrifice to him. A privilege, rather.

3. All that being true, today I will spend in secular and also celebratory fashion. At least, we're beginning it with a session with our trainer, and then later today our son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter arrive for the Wedding Weekend, so all of ours will be in the same city for a change, all staying within two kilometres of each other. Tonight, we ten adults and five children will enliven a certain lucky restaurant for as long as the kids can stay relatively civilised. Before that, I hope we'll have some of the little ones running off steam at our place.

4. Tomorrow, on what would have been my dad's 90th birthday, we'll be together with my new son-in-law's family to witness and celebrate the formalising of a marriage that, in fact, has been doing well enough informally that we have a delightful granddaughter from it  (and some wonderful trips to Italy to boot). Can't wait to toast this family as they "pledge their troth" legally, and to wish them many happy years together.

5. On Sunday, my extended family gathers at my sister's where she hosts the annual Easter Egg Hunt and Brunch -- so much crazy fun with three generations of our sprawling crew. And then on Monday, we're hosting a Brunch/Open House here to let that same Big Extended Family greet and toast our newlyweds (and check out our new digs for the first time).  Wouldn't it be great if some sunshine might appear so that we could wander out on the terrace and admire some of our new plantings (I'll post about those later, for interested gardeners and potential gardeners and vicarious gardeners)? Rhetorical question, honestly, as there seems little chance of sunshine here in the land that Apollo and his chariot seem to have forgotten. . . .

So there you have it. A busy family weekend here, and I'm unlikely to post more before next Tuesday, so let me wish you all a Happy Easter! (and whisper how odd it feels to offer that on Good Friday, when my Catholic/Christian calendar bids me meditate on the sorrow and wonder of the cross). May you find some sunshine, some chocolate, perhaps a quiet moment for meditation, even solemnity. Goodness knows the world needs some of the latter as well. . . .

53 comments:

  1. Have a wonderful weekend celebrating so many blessings!

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  2. Sounds like it's going to be a wonderful weekend. Best wishes to you and your family. Enjoy :). B x

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  3. What a fabulous weekend ahead. Will enjoy the photos when they filter through. I'd start by having a nap straightaway.

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  4. It sounds as though you are going to be happy-busy.

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  5. A holiday weekend filled with family and love - perfect! Don't forget to show us what you wore!

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    1. Luckily took a selfie before leaving home. . . . and yes, I'll share....

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  6. I can so relate to your number 1 thing Friday. I myself had a strickt Lutheran upbringing and I have also left it behind now.
    When I grew up a custom many people followed was to put their flag up at halfmast on Good Friday, like it is custom to do for a funeral around here(People here have flagpoles in their gardens. I know they don't everywhere) That part is gone now, but you just don't put your flag up at all on Good Friday. Today I saw somebody having put their flag up and I thought "Ohh, on Good Friday?" Funny ain't it how things sticks with you?
    I wish you a very happy easter weekend.

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    1. 30 years ago, when some stores started to be open on Good Fridays, I rolled my eyes and wondered when we'd see a "Crucifixion Sale" -- doesn't seem so unlikely these days! ;-)

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  7. I'll join you in solemnity - it is something we should not lose as a civilization. <3

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  8. I think that life is a mixture of sacred and secular and never more holy than when they blend seamlessly, as it appears your weekend plans entail.

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    1. Thanks Lorrie -- there is a grace that comes in the mixture, I do think so...

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  9. I was at the three hour service today. An Anglican who so enjoys the music, and the thoughtful texts.

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    1. I wonder if you spend as much time on the kneelers as we used to ;-) But yes, I do miss the music.

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  10. Sounds like a wonderful family weekend! Happy Easter to you.

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    1. It was a grand weekend -- hope yours was as well.

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  11. Sounds like you'll have some lovely family time this weekend...
    enjoy!

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  12. Happy Easter and best wishes to you and your family!
    After a couple of warm,sunny days,it rains here this Saturday morning,so I hope that sun decided to visit you after all
    I hope for some peace and quiet for myself and
    I wish you all here a lovely weekend and A Happy Easter if you celebrate
    Dottoressa

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    1. Hope you found that peace more abundant than the sunshine was here. We did, though, have a wonderful weekend despite the weather.

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  13. What a wonderful weekend you have ahead of you. Memories in the making to mingle with memories already inscribed. Have a lovely, lovely time.

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    1. Exactly so, new memories folded into the old....

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  14. You've packed into a weekend what most people would squeeze into a month! My overriding thought on reading your post - it must be lovely to have siblings. I'm an only child, and we see my sister in law once a year for a very brief handover of Christmas presents. Enjoy your whirlwind of family - lovely!
    Quieter over here - today a hill to be climbed, very restrained Church of Scotland service on Easter Sunday.

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    1. We have been blessed with family -- three of our grandchildren are Onlies, though, and I hope they'll be able to feel and maintain a sense of kinship with their cousins.
      Somehow, hill-climbing to church on Easter seems quite fitting. And running back home, restraint all gone, even better! ;-)

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  15. This was a great read. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and plans for this weekend. Elizabeth

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    1. You're very welcome -- thanks for taking time to comment Elizabeth!

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  16. Hope you enjoy the family time
    Wendy in York

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  17. Thank you for this lovely post. Your Good Friday memories capture so well my own of Holy Week observances for most of my life. I, too, miss them, and I feel robbed of my connection by the misogyny, abuse of children, and obsession with pelvic issues that drove me away. After nearly twenty years, the liturgical calendar is still in my heart and soul, linking me to my best self, family, childhood friends, and community.

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    1. Yes, that's the trifecta that drove me away as well, fundamentally. My sister, a powerful and inspiring survivor, does some really important work with SNAP (a Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests et al). Yet I yearn sometimes for the faith of my parents, my grandparents....

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  18. What s special, heartfelt weekend, with both old memories and new coming your way. Look forward to hearing about it and photos, if you are willing. (And maybe even a peek at a certain little girl for whom I have always had a soft spot.)

    Enjoy every second! (PS My Dad's birthday was March 31 so that sometimes fell on Good Friday too, and he was the same way about it.)

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    1. You might get a peek on FB--I posted one collage that includes her --, but she's queried more public posting recently, and she has every right to nix it, of course....

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  19. As I said on IG - congrats to all! I really like to hear about your feelings on Catholicism and Easter. It is generally my most hated holiday, though in recent years (mainly by ignoring it), I'm not too bothered. I mean, my kid celebrates Easter, only occasionally, and it was a big deal in my house growing up. How lovely that you associate it with tradition and family and comfort.

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    1. There was considerable intellectualism involved in my Catholic school education, especially the part that happened during the whole Vatican II, eceumenical thing in the late 60s. (The nun who taught us Religion in Grade 8 or 9 directed us to Teilhard de Chardin, for example). So I've always had respect for the way the liturgical cycle acknowledges death, darkness, pain, etc., as part of life, and the confrontation of/with the ashes of Ash Wednesday, etc., that leads logically through to Good Friday -- and insists that you can't get to Easter without a good death. ... But I can't with all the other stuff that happened when Power took its free ride. . . In my family, once upon a time, I saw a side of it that felt rich. And that is all ;-)

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  20. Isn't it fascinating how religious, cultural and family traditions mingle when it comes to celebrating certain feast days (Christmas/Easter)? As in your description of Good Friday as the combination of religious practice, delicious food, and music. I grew up in a not-very-religious, vaguely Lutheran family. Today I would describe myself as an a-religious person, but the language of the Luther Bible and the music (J.B. Bach, certain hymns) still stick in my mind.
    As for Easter traditions, when I was small it was the searching for eggs that the Easter bunny was supposed to have hidden for us. I remeber one time when we met up with my grandmother (I cannot have been older than ten) and went for a walk through a forest near her house. And there, next to the path, were chocolate eggs waiting to be picked up by my sister and myself. At the time I had stopped believing in Easter bunnies, but I simply could not explain how those eggs had got there.

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    1. That sounds absolutely magical, that walk with your grandmother, and it's thus an interesting reminder that the magical is there in both sacred and the secular (much though theologists might prefer to discourage any confusion between the magic and the sacred....

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    2. There is a rational explanation, of course. My father slipped out very early in the morning to hide those eggs for us. But love is just as good as magic, don't you think? (And I am not entering any theological discussion here...)

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  21. Sorry, I forgot. Congratulations to the young couple and to you for your wonderful children.

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  22. Thank you for this lovely mixture of five things, Frances. It brings up many memories for me. We share a Catholic upbringing. My mother was an intellectual Catholic, whose college education at St. Benedict's women's college in Minnesota was one of the happiest times of her life, and made her a rich source of varied knowledge. Catholicism gave me many wonderful things, from an early reverence for language in the mystery (particularly to a small child) of the Latin mass, to a love for the meditative beauty of sacred spaces, to the fragrances of wax, incense, paper, dust, communion wafer, and wine, to the music, to the community. I was in my church choir from a young age, and an alto soloist when I was a bit older. It was an uplifting release to sing in the choir loft out to the churchgoers in the pews below and to the altar beyond. The beliefs of the church made it impossible for me to stay Catholic, as did my mixed feelings about the way my dad and his ancestors were made Catholic, since he was the PNW and Midwest Indigenous child of parents removed from their respective tribes and made Catholic in a Federal boarding school. My Good Friday memories are different than yours. From the time I was a very small child, I found the Stations of the Cross of Good Friday traumatic. The priest read to us about the cruel death of a man as we, in my childhood church, moved from stained glass window to stained glass window depicting the events. It was a difficult transition for me to go from the events of that day to two days later to a day of joyful resurrection. (I know in etymological terms Good Friday means Holy Friday, but I would have been more comfortable with the German, Romance, and Russian naming as respectively Sorrowful, Sacred, or Passion Friday.) For years after I became a lapsed Catholic, Good Friday cast a shadow, gone now. What remains is the beauty and consistency of a community of faith. I've been considering joining the non-denominational services at Stanford Memorial Church, and possibly joining their choir as well if they will have me. The ritual, community, and music would be a balm. Congratulations on the wedding. Enjoy your weekend of extended celebration with your family. Happy 90th to the memory of your dad. He is smiling on what you have wrought.

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    1. As always, Katherine, your response is wonderfully fulsome, thoughtful, and instructive. Yes, aesthetics, language, story, community, family history, all are held in my early memories of church and family. At some point, on my maternal side, this religion would have been imposed, given my Métis background, submerged these past few generations, but being recognised and reclaimed recently. On my dad's side, given the bloodiness of religious wars in England, it was linked to a sense of freedom earned through martyrdom and still under a certain social threat that made its practice doubly precious. For me, now, it's sadly untenable, but I think your idea of joining the right choir might be a pleasing balm in the place of that absence.

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  23. Happy Easter and Congratulations to Rhiannon and your new Son-in-love! It sounds as though you'll have the most wonderful weekend with your close and extended family! Fingers crossed for subshine. Relax and enjoy!
    Rosie

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    1. Thanks so much, Rosie. And those crossed fingers brought us a moment or two -- lived up to your typo of "subshine" which is absolutely perfect! ;-)

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  24. What a lovely weekend you have planned, and I'm looking forward to your plant post.
    Your beautiful remberance of Good Friday struck a chord with me, as did some of the thoughtful comments, for I, too, raised Catholic and loving a lot of the ritual of it, the liturgical seasons. I have long since left any faith, but I loved the Veneration of the Cross.
    There is some gift of mystery, language, and maybe community here.
    My own father's birthday was August 15, that Day of Obligation in the end of the summer.

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    1. Ah yes, Holy Days of Obligation -- that one would be the Assumption, I believe. We weren't let off the hook for those days any more than for Sundays, as long as I still lived at home. Although I suppose your grandmother would have been excused, at least once . . . ;-)

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  25. Best wishes on all your wonderful family events!

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  26. First, Frances, many congratulations to the newlyweds. It says so much that they wanted to be home in Canada with you all to formalize what appears to be working so well for them in their new life in Italy. Your daughter that married has great flair in her choices for clothes from what I have seen, so anxious to see what she wore. Your children seem such lovely people-valuing many things you seem to, even if they are conducting their lives in their own individual ways. They still value home which says so much.

    Your words about Easter and Good Friday brought tears of recognition and affirmation of my fond appreciation and experiences of the Easter season. While I have long described myself as a lapsed Catholic, ( or my new favorite term: (co)lapsed Catholic,as the great wit/Irish writer, Marian Keyes calls it), my heart still craves the familiar feelings and meaning of Easter. In fact, along with Thanksgiving,my favorite holiday.

    Tulips,daffodils, elaborately painted eggs and plenty of chocolate features, too. Those are part of the Easter of my childhood. Have even taught my sweetheart the importance of a properly turned out Easter basket for me (and me for him) each year.

    Yes, yes and yes I say to Katherine's comments of the mystery,the fragrant wax being so lovely...yes, yes, and yes to the Stations of the Cross trauma.

    Meg took the words appreciation of the *ritual* right out of my mouth. Not clouded by all that the church has handled so, so badly, regarding children, the memories of the ritual are enriching ones.

    To all thoughtful words of others here, I would add the word pageantry and the deep attraction I had for its place in every mass, especially Easter. The pageantry, the mystery, the scents, just all of it, formed a good deal of my childhood emotional soundtrack.

    Added to that, the ultra- pageantry of the Greek Orthodox services I attended until my teens ,as well as the Catholic masses. Such wonder and beauty. Actually would be a bit peeved when "American Easter and Greek Easter", as we called them as children, fell, as they sometimes do, on the same Sunday.I would feel somehow robbed of the comfort in celebrating them separately.
    Don't even get me started on the unfairness I felt about my boy cousins being allowed to be altar boys!

    Can't wait to see the photos of the wedding celebration and your adorable g-kids dressed in their finery.

    Thanks for this post. Have been thinking of your words and all the beautiful comments all weekend.
    x A. in London

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    1. Thanks A! I'm so pleased as well that they chose to get married back here, although a destination wedding was certainly a possibility. It was a very casual setting with the two immediate families only and it was as perfect as it could have been. I hope to share a few photos over the week.
      And I do hope/wish that Rhiannon would revive her blog or at least post more regularly on Instagram -- I'll pass along your kind words about her style as encouragement.
      Sounds as if there are a few of us (col)lapsed Catholics around, and also Lutherans and Christians of other denominations -- probably the same for Jews and Muslims as well, and probably Hindus, Sikhs, etc. -- those of us who can no longer countenance practices of institutionalised religion nor share the required belief, shibboleths, but who grieve the loss of familiar rhythms and reassuring aesthetics associated with our childhoods. Interestingly, I went to Catholic school with several girls from either Ukrainian or Greek Orthodox and in those not very multicultural days, they represented a certain exoticism that now seems very amusing.

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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