EASTERTIDE 2018: Holy Saturday

...the Ramblings of a Tired Old Gruff Chick 

Easter.  It doesn't feel like it, what with all the snow and flooding recently.  Yet today the air is clean and clear, and we've thrown the upstairs windows open to drive out all the bad humors. 

I most likely won't attend Mass.  Last week, I offered to drive my mother.  My dad most likely wouldn't be able to sit through Mass without having an "accident", thus she would be stuck at home.  She insisted that her Ecumenical minister was stopping by with communion on Sunday. Um, alright. I sorta wanted to go. Then, out of the blue yesterday, she announced that dad would drive them. No offer for me to accompany them.  No explanation of how dad would suddenly be able to hold his "stuff" through the service. 

You know, that hurt. Seriously.  

Though I walked away from my faith a few years back, Better Half and I did attend Christmas and Easter Mass in Steubenville.  I absolutely loved how peaceful and joyous the people were around me.  When my faith was still strong, I sung in the choir each night during Eastertide, Wednesday through Sunday. 

Then we moved. I don't know what the mass schedule is here, nor where the church is.  And, selfishly, I really don't want to ask my mother.

I suppose it's because I kept these seasons in my own fashion. I still do.  If one is going to get up to go partake, they should do it gladly.  It's not just an hour of your time where you sit, wooden, in a pew and recite shit just because everyone else is.  Isn't Easter and Christmas about the Celebration?

I suppose I really don't want to tag along.  I don't want to play pretend, trying to enjoy the joy of the people around me while... well, let's say that part of the reason I lost faith in God is because of the example set by my own mother, and the pain caused by it. 

Every night, my parents gather to pray. My dad, in his quiet fashion, recites the daily NT and OT readings in a voice as calming as the summer wind.  Then they begin their "nightly" stuff: petitions followed by 'Jesus help us'.  Quite a few times my mother has prayed aloud without realizing we were within earshot. It's usually on bad days when she isn't feeling too hot.  These tearful pleadings twist to paint her as a martyr. "Jesus, help my ungrateful children realize how hard life is for me! Move their hearts to help me!"  

We are helping, mom.  That's why we're covering your mortgage. It's why we're living in a single room and suffering.  It's why, regardless of our fatigue, we rush to help you when dad is weak or moving too slowly for your liking.  It's why I dust mop the floor when you're not around, and sneak fresh eggs and apples into your fridge when you're not looking.  It's why you sometimes have extra packs of premium cigarettes. It's also why I hold my tongue when you behave in an unChristian manner towards us.

She doesn't pray this particular prayer out loud anymore. Not since Jeff, a bonafide Agnostic, tore her a new one.  She also doesn't pray for us anymore.  It's all about her and dad, and the family in other states. We're left off the list.

That said, not every day is bad. Today, she's in a positive mood.
I'm not going to judge all Christians by her example, either. In fact, her example was good when I was younger. I do know that there are wonderful Christians out there. Plus, I don't hate God.

"Do you believe in Me?" God pecks at my mind's distant corner today.

"Oh God, not this again.  Don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those atheists that harbors malice towards You and Your followers.  In fact, I tear off heads when people joke about 'Zombie Jesus' or say disparaging things about people of faith."

"That - that makes no sense. If you don't believe in Me, why are you talking to Me??"

"Honestly, God?  Let's make a deal.  I'll live my life as your Son instructed.  I'll show compassion to those in need.  I'll love them as He loved them.  I'll wipe the dust from my feet.  I'll turn the other cheek.  Okay, it's rather 道 as well, but hey.  Anyway, in return, you let me be me. You let me lick my wounds in peace, m'kay?  I won't ask anything from you but that."

"Except with ambulances."

 "What, God?"

"You pray to me when you hear them. You do it when you're in the emergency room and hear someone call a code. 'God, please help those people. Guide the healers' hands. Comfort the family.'"

"Force of habit, God."

"Seems heartfelt to me.  Again, why are you talking to Me?"

"It's Holy Saturday. The Day God goes Dark. Just wanted to say sorry, and thanks for the sacrifice, and - well, cheer up, God. Jesus comes back tomorrow. And, for the record, you started the conversation this time."

"You are an odd creature. You know, I do give a shit about you."

I shrug.  Does He? Sometimes I wonder if the Voice is just an indication that I'm stark raving mad.

It does get me thinking about times gone by, and how I approached holy days back then.  I dug around my old blog to get some insight into my thoughts just a few years ago.

Eastertide 2011: Holy Saturday

In the quietude of Holy Saturday, shortly before midnight, I find myself standing on my back deck and looking out into the twinkling lights of houses and roads. The celebrated agony of last week is over, both physical and mental. Soon the sun will crest the horizon, church bells will peal and the Good News will be spread.

My upbringing gave me an appreciation for solemn things. Raised Catholic, I kept the entirety of the Paschal season, including the full forty days of Lent. I was taught to reflect upon the events; I believe that I became a more emphatic (sympathetic) person for it.

Good Friday, the Veneration of the Cross, marked the intense end of a whirlwind Jerusalem Tour. “They are killing him today,” I would think when I was smaller, and I would spend the day in quiet bereavement.

Holy Saturday. This was the one day of the year that brought me the greatest wretchedness as a child. Reared in a theatre family, I always thought of Holy Saturday as the day God went Dark. It was the one day of the year that God wasn’t turning His face to look at man, according to my child’s mind. It saddened me, especially if it rained on that day.

I can distinctly recollect crawling into bed after a very long Easter vigil. I was still at St. Rose, and probably no older than seven. The moon shone through my bedroom window and I turned my eyes toward the heavens (because everyone knows that is where God lives) and I felt a profound sense of loss. If I was this sad, then surely God was “upstairs” crying over the death, too. So, in true innocent form, I offered God my best sympathies for the death of Jesus.

“It’s okay, God. You come back again tomorrow. Don’t cry.”

I began attending sunrise services in my late teens. It seemed fitting. Mary headed down the darkened roads on her way to tend to Christ’s body. In the early morning light, while all the world was just starting to get busy, Mary came upon what she thought to be a gardener near the tomb. The story is well known. I needn’t repeat it here.

Easter Sunday is bitter-sweet to me. Yes, “Jesus rose”, and all of Christendom rejoices… for a day, perhaps even two. Then it seems as if everyone goes back to their lives. Disaster averted. Panic over. Been there, done that. Christ walked the earth forty days after the resurrection. The New Testament records chronicle a few key events and end with his Ascension into Heaven. And then that’s that.

Eastertide, like Christmastide, becomes a memory shortly after it is celebrated. The children and grandchildren have binged through their sugary hoards. The adults have put away their Easter outfits and put on their grindstone mantle. People tuck away all the “Easter bible stories” much as they stash the plastic decorations and gaily-colored baskets in the attic. They may glance upon them during the rest of the year, if they happen to be in that part of the attic.

Christians seem to have lost sight of the Passion of Christ (and I don’t mean the movie, although I do get a chuckle when I recall how horror-struck many Protestants were over the “gruesomeness” depicted therein. Goodness, did they honestly believe that the death was no harsher than an Easter parade on a balmy afternoon?)

I was in a debate recently and my (apparently unarmed) opponent was a self-declared “OSASBABBTC” (translated: Once Saved, Always Saved Born Again, Bible-Believing True Christian). We were discussing the importance of the Last Supper and the symbolic act of communion.

He used the advantage to rant about “pagan papal Catholic demonists speaking demonic Latin” and his ire grew to epic proportions when I softly pointed out that Jesus Himself stated, “As often as you do these things, do them in memory of me”. His response to me was, “YOU don’t know Jesus!”

I wonder if he knows Jesus. I don’t mean the “made in our image God suit” that many people use to form God in their minds. I certainly don’t mean the parroted words typed in red font found in every bible. Nor do I mean Paul’s teachings to the early churches.

Does this man really know Christ and all that He endured? Has he ever taken time out of his hectic “born again” life to contemplate Jesus? Does he feel the pregnant and heavy weight of Holy Saturday bearing down upon him tonight?

I certainly do not place myself as being higher in the Salvation Station than my debate opponent. I’m not. I don’t spout bible verses. I don’t wear a cross or crucifix. I avoid labels such as “born again” and “true”, and refuse to identify with any single denomination. I seldom attend church services. I’m quiet in what I believe and in how I believe, and there are days where I wonder if what I believe is actually to be believed or not.

God will probably take one look at my sorry carcass and punt me straight into hell. Still, I’m the one standing on my deck and reassuring God (and myself) that he’ll be back tomorrow. It’s a weird relationship between Father and prodigal child.

I keep Eastertide in my heart, and heed every dreadful and every miraculous moment of it. And so I find myself once again contemplating Holy Saturday, and the promise of Easter Sunday. May each of my friends and their families experience the peace and hope of the season.

The photographs are from a meandering road in West Virginia. I took them Saturday afternoon as we were coming back from our friends' home.
- Reprinted from my former blog, The Bemused Muse, 24 Apr 2011.

Man, I really miss those pensive moments on our old deck. And yeah, I was sour towards poor behavior even then.

I'll still keep Eastertide in my heart, in my own fashion.  There's a certain beauty to it.

There's also a beauty found in my friends with faith in God. I wish I could understand that faith. That aside, it doesn't matter if I believe God is real or not. God is real to them. The lessons about His Grace are often manifested through them, in their words and in the way they show their love. I wish we had more people like them. This world would be magnificent if everyone tried their best to be good to each other. 

For those of you who do celebrate Christian holidays, may your day be filled with blessings, love, laughter, and reflection. Thank you for living as He instructed, and for loving as He loved. Happy Easter to you.