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!